A is for apple trees, a specialty of Clare-based Irish Seed Savers, whose range of potted heritage Irish varieties is available from its shop in Scariff, while bare-root trees are available to order via its website (irishseedsavers.ie , from €27). A is also for art including the work of the Wicklow-based couple Michael Calnan and Gunvor Anhoj, whose contemporary garden sculptures will add a magical element to any outdoor space (calnan-anhoj.ie)
B is for Cork-based Brown Envelope Seeds, whose range of organically-produced, Irish-grown seeds make a gorgeous Christmas gift, especially its wittily-themed gift boxes (from €5, brownenvelopeseeds.com) and its handsome wooden planter which is perfect for window-box gardening (€25)
C is for calendars. The Wicklow-based botanical artist Yanne Petters always produces a gorgeous one; her 2023 offering is illustrated by her Verre Eglomisé paintings of Irish wildflower and includes notes on their traditional medicinal use (available from themuddle.ie (€20 plus p&p). Botanical artist Sonia Caldwell of west-Cork based Kilcoe Studios has also produced another beautiful calendar for 2023 that features her delicate watercolour illustrations of native Irish ferns ((€16 from kilcoestudios.com); C is for also courses, a wonderful way to acquire new gardening skills. Some of the best are by gardener and author Jimi Blake of Hunting Brook Gardens in Co Wicklow (huntingbrookgardens.com); Sligo-based organic gardener and author Klaus Laitenberger (greenvegetableseeds.com) and Laois-based organic gardener Tanguy de Toulgoet of Dunmore Country School near Durrow, Co Laois (dunmorecountryschool.ie). GIY Ireland has also just launched its new 10-part Grow-Your-Own course, which is free to subscribers (giy.ie)
D is for daphne, the genus of deeply scented, long-blooming shrubs whose flowers and perfume light up our gardens for much of the year. Examples include the compact evergreen Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ which flowers non-stop from April to October (a staggering six-seven months). Available from many good Irish garden centres including Kildare-based Johnstown Garden Centre (€18.00)
E is for entertainment, which the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show is guaranteed to provide. Next year’s show runs from May 23rd-27th and includes exhibits by the Kerry-based fern specialist and owner of Kells Bay Gardens, Billy Alexander, as well as a show garden by the Cork-based garden designer Anne Hamilton. Tickets are from £37.85 (€43.65) (rhs.org.uk). Or if you really want to treat the special gardener in your life, the Travel Department is offering a guided tour of next year’s show along with a tour of Kew and Wisley gardens (24th-26th May, from €819 per person, including flights and accommodation, traveldepartment.com)
F is for food, the cost of which continues to rise which is why a gift voucher from any of the following Irish online suppliers will be welcomed with open arms by the kitchen gardener in your life: See Sligo-based quickcrop.ie ; Cork-based fruithillfarm.com ; Leitrim-based greenvegetableseeds.ie ; and Dublin-based mrmiddleton.com
G is for Genus (genus.gs) , the range of high-performance garden clothing designed by Sue O’Neil, a passionate gardener who “hates wet knees, damp bottoms and a cold back”. G is also for galanthophiles, whose passion for snowdrops is such that they will happily spend a small fortune acquiring the bulbs of rare varieties. Get them a ticket to next year’s Snowdrop Gala on Saturday 4th February at Ballykealey House, Co Carlow, where they can enjoy lectures by Troy Scott Smith of Sissinghurst Castle and the German garden designer Iris Ney, plus specialist plant sales (€100, tickets available from Robert Miller at email@example.com / 087 9822135).
H is for hands, which in the case of most gardeners typically need lots of TLC. Dublin Herbalists do a fantastic range of nature-friendly, 100 per cent vegan hand-creams designed to soothe, moisturise, protect and restore the most careworn of mitts. Scented with essential oils, they contain shea butter, Vitamin E, white poppy seed, flaxseed, calendula and rice bran oils (dublinherbalists.ie, from €7.96)
I is for Ilex aquifolium, or holly, the quintessential Christmas evergreen and a resilient, nature-friendly native plant that can be grown as either a stand-alone specimen or as part of a mixed native hedge. Future Forests (futureforests.ie) stock a good selection as do most good garden centres. Gussy it up with a red ribbon to add a truly seasonal touch.
J is for jigsaws, a great way to while away those damp, dark evening until spring arrives. Wicklow-based Epoch Green stock the Cavallini range of botanically-themed vintage jigsaws (€27), along with a growing selection of great gifts for gardeners from pots and plant care kits to pretty outdoor lamps and hanging chairs (epochgreen.ie)
K is for Killruddery in Co Wicklow, one of the great historic Irish gardens open to the public via its annual membership scheme (killruddery.com €60-€100) . Others include Blarney Castle in County Cork ( from €70, blarneycastle.ie); Mount Usher in County Wicklow (from €35, mountushergardens.ie); and Mount Congreve in County Waterford (from €70, mountcongreve.com)
L is for Lowa (lowa.ie), the Bavarian range of lightweight but robust, weatherproof work-boots that are the stuff of gardeners’ dreams (callofthewild.ie, lowa.ie)
M is for macramé, the hipster way to display your indoor plant collection. Check out Cork-based creator Pacie Grews’ DIY Macramé Plant Hanger Kit, which contains all the materials and instructions you need to knot up your very own plant hanger plus a plant hanger poster to hang on your wall. Or just buy a ready-made one. (from €25, paciegrews.com) .
N is for Niwaki, whose garden secateurs are things of beauty that will be appreciated by any gardener (€55, howbertandmays.ie).
O is for garden-based organisations such as the RHSI (Royal Horticultural Society) and IGPS (Irish Garden Plant Society), annual membership of which will always makes a welcome gift. See rhsi.ie (€15-€60 which includes access to its regular Zoom talks, events, news bulletins and free/reduced entre fees to affiliated Irish gardens plus a copy of its journal) and irishgardenplantsociety.com
P is for Randal Plunkett, the 21st Baron of Dunsany, film director, writer, producer and founder of Dunsany Nature Reserve at Dunsany Castle in Meath, who along with the artist and landscape designer Topher Delaney, the author and landscape designer Mary Reynolds, and the garden designer and lecturer Barry Kavanagh is one of the key speakers at the 2023 GLDA ‘Letting Nature In’ seminar. Tickets from glda.ie (from €35-€125)
Q is for quality garden tools. Avoid the gimmicky gift-boxed kinds and instead seek out beautifully made, ergonomically designed brands that will last a lifetime. Examples include the Dutch-made Sneeboer and De Wit ranges, the German-made SHW and Berger ranges, the Japanese-made Niwaki range (they don’t just do great secateurs) and the Swiss-made Felco range. Stockists include howbertandmays.ie ; fruithillfarm.com and mrmiddleton.com
R is for roses, whose beauty and scent makes them amongst the most loved of garden plants. Dublin-based garden suppliers Mr Middleton always carries a great selection of the British-bred David Austin roses that are very competitively priced (five bushes for just €60, mrmiddleton.com).
S is for scythe, the environmentally-friendly alternative to noisy, fuel-consuming strimmers. Cork-based Fruithill Farm stock Austrian firm Schroeckenfux’s beautiful range, which includes the ergonomically-designed, adjustable, lightweight ‘snaths’ (the scythe’s wooden shaft or handle) and a selection of hand-forged ‘mowing’ blades. (Snath from €77.50, blades from €64.50, fruithillfarm.com); S is also for soap, which all gardeners need. Handmade, using sustainable, locally-sourced botanicals, the vegan Soap with Soul range is made by clients of Childvision and Coolmine for We Make Good as part of its collaborative social enterprise (wemakegood.ie, from €6.95). S also stands for an annual subscription to the Irish Garden magazine, with access to expert articles and contributions by many of the country’s best-known gardeners (from €40, garden.ie)
T is for trees, which enrich and enable our lives in innumerable ways. Relying on donations from the public, sponsorship and contributions from landowners to buy and distribute trees across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Trees on the Land is a not-for-profit, cross-Border initiative working to leave a living legacy of native Irish tree cover and woodland for future generations. A donation of €5 covers the cost of planting at least one tree (treesontheland.com)
U is for undercover, a wonderful way to extend the growing season. From dinky miniature greenhouses by Design House Stockholm, that will fit neatly on a side table (thebluedoordirect.com, from €49) to full-sized polytunnels (thepolytunnelcompany.ie ) and state-of-the-art, money-no-object glasshouses (owenchubblandscapes.com , gabrielash.com, alitex.co.uk ), there’s something out there for every kind of gardener
V is for vase, because what gardener doesn’t welcome the opportunity to display those beautiful bunches of lush seasonal beauty picked freshly from the plot. For something different, check out April and the Bear’s Moire stoneware vase, which is made from clay using a 3D printing process (€135, a prilandthebear.com)
W is for water bowls, a beautiful way to introduce the element of water into the smallest of gardens. Dublin-based Howbert & Mays stock a very handsome selection made from Corten steel that make sculptural water features and can also double up as fire bowls (from €190, howbertandmays.ie W is also for watering can . . . Dublin-based Industry stock the perfect model for houseplant enthusiasts. Called the Orb, it’s made from powder-coated metal and is good-looking enough to leave on permanent display (€99, industryandco.com)
X is for Xerochrysum bracteatum, commonly known as the strawflower, the easy-to-grow half-hardy annual that features in all the very best dried flower arrangements. Available in shades of apricot, orange, pink, ruby-red, wine and cream, seeds are available from Galway-based seedaholic.com (you’ll find it on the website under its old name of Helichrysum bracteatum).
Y is for yellow, the colour of the spidery, deeply-scented flowers of Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’, a beautiful, award-winning variety of the slow-growing hardy shrub commonly known as witch-hazel which blooms in January-February, lighting up the winter garden and lifting the spirits of all who see and smell it (from €20, futureforests.ie )
Z is for Zamioculcas zamifolia, commonly known as the ZZ plant, the oh-so-fashionable indoor plant known for its ability to survive long periods of benign neglect (plantlife.ie, €16.99)