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Gifts for the garden


&‘If you want to attract the western bluebird to your garden," said Nina Gerety, of the Potter Green & Co. shop in Sonoma, "you must have a house with an entry hole that is exactly 1⁹⁄₁₆ -inches in diameter."

"It is best to hang the house in January, so that birds have time to investigate it before nesting begins," she continued, "and that makes it a perfect holiday gift." The houses, which Gerety commissions, are made in the United States of recycled cedar.

Is the gardener on your holiday shopping list a special friend? Add "The Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds" by Donald and Lillian Stokes (Stokes Backyard Nature Books, 1991) to one of the birdhouses.

Potter Green is a trove of gifts for gardeners, with both practical items that make work more pleasant and large and small fripperies that adorn both the gardener and the outdoor environment.

"These are the best gardening gloves in the world," Gerety said, holding up a pair in periwinkle blue, "and the only gloves ever to make the cover of the New York Times Magazine."

The gloves, made by Foxglove Inc., fit like well-aged kid leather, come in a range of vibrant colors with and without grips. and are washable. No longer does your favorite gardener have to choose between clumsy gloves and scarred hands.

Other practical treasures you'll find here are collapsible canvas buckets that don't leak; kneepads that are actually comfortable; broad, sturdy soil scoops; beautiful sun hats from the San Francisco Hat Company that are made of ribbon and offer UV protection; and something called the Gardener's Hollow Leg, a canvas sack developed by a gardener in Berkeley that attaches to a belt loop, thus freeing both hands to prune and pick. There are two sizes of the "leg," a large one that will hold about 33 pounds of clippings and up to 60 oranges, and a small one, ideal for picking cherry tomatoes, holding small garden tools and cellphones and coaxing a child to join you in the garden. A leg also can serve as a gift bag; simply fill a small one with a selection of heirloom seeds, gloves, hand tools and such.

When it comes to more ephemeral gifts, adornments instead of tools, Gerety suggested wind chimes, fire pits, fountains and bird baths, especially for the passionate gardener who spends a lot of time outside, and hummingbird feeders that resemble giant crystals.

"Hummingbird feeders do not need to be red," she added.

Potter Green also offers metal flower sculptures, unusually shaped cement planters, decorative tiles and iron hangings to delight any gardener's eye, along with hundreds of other items.

At The Gardener in Healdsburg, ceramic ollas — round, porous jugs made by Red Hot Ceramics, a Sonoma County company — have been flying out the door. These jugs are beautiful, practical and, at just $26 each, inexpensive. They can be set here and there in the garden to please the eye or they can be filled with water or compost tea and buried up to their short necks. The liquid will seep slowly into the ground, providing nourishment to nearby plants.

Larry Hoffman, who has worked at The Gardener for nearly a decade, also recommends a line of Japanese garden tools the store keeps in stock. Sturdy and well-designed, these tools fit the hand in a pleasing and practical way.

The Gardener offers books for gardeners, too, many of them specifically focused. For someone who has mastered vegetables and flowers, consider "Fruit Trees in Small Spaces" by Colby Eierman (Timber Press, 2012) or "Grow Your Own Fruit" by Carol Klein (Mitchell Beazley, 2009). A struggling gardener will appreciate "What's Wrong With My Vegetable Garden?" by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth (Timber Press, 2011)

"I notice more and more people keeping chickens," Hoffman said as he held up "Free Range Chicken Gardens: How To Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard" by Jesse Bloom (Timber Press, 2012).

Mack Blankenship of California Coops echoed the rising popularity of keeping a small flock of laying hens. For five years he has been making chicken coops from reclaimed wood and selling them at farmers markets and at a number of local stores, including Frizelle Enos in Sebastopol, Western Farms in Santa Rosa and Swede's Feeds in Kenwood.

"I sell a lot of chicken coops as Christmas gifts," he said.

Blankenship also makes functional bat houses; bats in a garden will help keep it free of mosquitoes.

Tom Ecklund of Sonoma Garden Designs sells his potting tables, garden totes, outdoor tables and the occasional bird feeder at area farmers markets. He works almost exclusively with recycled materials — redwood, vintage tiles, bed frames and windows — to create his beautifully rustic tables.

Although each of his potting tables is unique, nearly all have one thing in common: a removable basin, which can be filled with water, dirt or, should you want to use it as a bar for an outdoor party, ice.

"I sell several each Christmas," he said, "and always to men who are buying one for their wives. Several have been eyeing them this fall."

Last-minute shoppers will find plenty of gardening treasures at farmers markets, especially as the winter holidays approach. From compost tea, plant stakes — some labeled with plant names, others adorned with shimmering glass from recycled wine bottles — and wooden planters to birdhouses, wind chimes and whimsical sculptures, a farmers market is one of the best places to shop for a beloved gardener. You might even consider filling one of Ecklund's garden totes with plant starts, perfect for the busy gardener who wants to put in winter vegetables but hasn't had a chance yet.