If you are a gardener, you’ll know the feeling. Come Christmas, the immense pressure to act delighted as you unwrap a boot brush in the shape of a hedgehog, a fibreglass solar light or (yet another) pair of novelty gardening gloves. So, in an effort to break the cycle, here’s a list of my all-time favourite independent suppliers of quirky, fun and interesting gifts for gardeners, all of which are online.
With a name like plants4presents.co.uk, you might be forgiven for thinking that this nursery would just stock the typical supermarket gift options, like poinsettia and hyacinths in festive pots. But think again. I discovered the friendly owners of this small East Sussex supplier about five years ago at the Hampton Court Flower Show and have been hooked ever since. They have a stunning array of weird and wonderful edible indoor plants, some of which are impossible to track down anywhere else. From kaffir limes, right down to the wonderfully fragrant (and surprisingly cold tolerant) Japanese yuzu, their range of unusual citrus is pretty unbeatable.
If it’s stocking-fillers you are after, lovetillys.co.uk sell perhaps the best quality airplants around. When I say “quality”, I mean the plants I bought from them have arrived in perfect condition and with such rich colouration I was almost suspicious they had been painted.
For tillandsia connoisseurs, amateur botanist and obsessive air plant grower Andrew Gavin has recently started selling rare specimens on his website andysairplants.co.uk.
Not into houseplants? Realseeds.co.uk are my favourite indie vegetable seed merchant, growing and harvesting their own seed in Wales. Doing so means they stock truly rare varieties in extremely limited batches that none of the big boys could ever dream of doing. This includes loads that you simply can’t get anywhere else. To put your mind at ease, they offer a full guarantee on all their seeds, up to and including if you are unhappy with the flavour of the resulting crop.
Staying on edibles, perhaps no one in the UK knows more about chillies than Joy and Michael Michaud at seaspringseeds.co.uk. Their mind- boggling choice of seed is matched only by their generosity with chilli-growing tips and tricks.
You’ll notice all the gifts here are plants. That’s simply because while it is possible to have more than enough tools, gloves or gardening books, I have yet to meet a gardener who thinks it is possible to have too many plants. And when it comes to plants, there really isn’t a nursery I can think of in the UK that is more innovative and exciting than crug-farm.co.uk. Run by the irrepressible Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, they travel to the far corners of the globe on plant-hunting expeditions to bring back species that are frequently new to science to enrich British gardens. Their catalogue is like a behind-the-scenes tour of Kew Gardens, but despite their exotic origins most of their offerings will be perfectly happy outdoors in the UK.
Now, if you’ll forgive me, I have shopping to do…
Email James at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter@Botanygeek