Photos |  Photos by Brenda Bolton

Snips, totes, weed pullers and more make great stocking stuffers for those looking to improve their landscapes.

BY Brenda Bolton


If you have a gardener on your holiday list this year, try one of these Master Gardener must-haves.

Gardening can be pretty tough on the human body in the sunny South, so gardeners, when they’re not gardening, are searching for the perfect products to make the experience comfortable and less damaging. Enter SPF (sun protective factor) and cool-tech clothing. Gone is the day when the only gardening garb was a floppy hat and gloves. Today’s gardener loves a whole range of protective apparel for coastal zone gardening.

Keeping a cool head is just as important in the garden as in the boardroom, so today’s SPF fabric hats, cool-tech neck wraps and sweatbands are all perfect gardening accessories to go with your favorite gardener’s SPF-fabric shirt to shield the sun’s harmful rays.

Gloves, gloves, gloves: Of the multitude of shapes and styles for different gardening chores, most Master Gardeners prefer a lightweight, flexible and snug fit that allows gardening dexterity with coolness and fingertip latex protection.

The signature glove sold by Master Gardeners, in a variety of cheery colors, is a great standard gardening glove. We’ll have them at our Annual Greenery Sale at the Mobile Botanical Gardens on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The gloves’ latex palm and fingers protect while the stretch fabric gives a snug fit for dexterity. For tougher jobs and gardening around sticker bushes like roses, a pair of sturdy leather, long rose gloves will serve your gardener well.

Mosquito woes: Cutter’s Deep Woods Dry spray is a great stocking stuffer. For stationary and long-term control, ThermaCell products create mosquito-free zones of about 15 feet. One at each end of a garden bed can protect you all morning as you work — or on the patio as you play.

Favorite pruners: Never try to separate Master Gardeners from their red-handled Felcos! I have a couple of sizes of this quality tool for different tasks, and if I get careless and damage the cutters, the blades can be replaced — voila! New pruners for the cost of new blades. One of the few tools for which there seems to be no good substitute. Leave it to the Swiss.

Different sizes allow a good fit to a range of hands and tasks. I have a No. 2 hand pruner, a No. 23 long-handle nipper and the ergonomic No. 7. Another indispensable pruner is a pocket-size or palm-size bypass pruner for quick snips in the garden. I keep one in the kitchen utensil drawer, too, for herbs and other kitchen snipping.

Favorite shovel for little old ladies: This was a tip from one of my Master Gardener friends, and it changed my life. Instead of using a standard shovel for the types of small digging chores a retiree faces, use instead a specialty “trenching shovel.” They are lightweight, easy for an older person to handle and have a sharp, pointed blade that reduces the amount of leg strength needed to get the job done. Not for big jobs, they are perfect for a small planting hole, for loosening compacted soil, digging weed clumps, slicing out squares of turf, edging and their intended role, trenching.

Whatchamacallit (sapling puller): This one is in the running for overall favorite. After years of wrapping small saplings around my arm to pull them out of the ground, often resulting in a ruby-red blood blister, or worse, I discovered … hey, there’s a tool for that! The Weed Wench puller has strong ridged jaws that grab the sapling’s lowest base point, at the soil line; then the long handle, when pulled away from the sapling toward the ground, easily draws the roots of even a large sapling from the earth’s grasp.

Favorite gardening tote: Good to have at your side for pulling weeds, hauling a small amount of mulch, soil or water to a planting hole or potted plant, or carrying your tools around the yard, the brightly colored TubTrug can’t be beat. This original lightweight rubber garden carryall has only one drawback — its lack of compartmentalization, so a great companion to a TubTrug is a heavy-duty tote with six to eight pockets. Canvas is traditional, but a strong “denier” soft suitcase material is tougher. Invest in durable, heavy material, strong stitching and sturdy, preferably rigid, side and bottom construction.

Collapsible large-volume can: When I bought my 40-gallon “collapsible can,” my husband laughed that it was a gimmick we would never use. Ten years later, when we empty it of leaves and trash and recollapse it for easy storage hanging on the storeroom wall, he has stopped laughing. Made of a strong but lightweight vinyl that collapses on a coiled wire, then pops back open when the clasp is released, this handy thing can multitask when not hanging quietly out of your way on the tool shed wall.

Every gardener needs … a gardening apron with pockets, and in those pockets, a great pair of rust-proof scissors for small gardening chores like clipping stems, and lots of hand- and nail-cleaning products and tools, sun blockers and moisturizers (for men as well as women). A fine gift is a thick foam kneeling pad, more convenient than large devices, and when thrown into the TubTrug tote, always there with tools when needed. Waterproof gardening shoes and boots make good additions to the gardener’s wardrobe. A strong wire-mesh wagon with durable tires for small hauling makes a gardener swoon, and for peaceful sounds in the garden on crisp fall mornings or soft spring afternoons, a great set of wind chimes.

Happy shopping, ya’ll!

An annual event not to miss:

What: Mobile Master Gardener Greenery Sale and Mobile Botanical Gardens Holiday Market and Art Bazaar
When: Nov. 30/Dec. 1 (Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Where: Mobile Botanical Gardens, 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile