Best gifts for gardeners
Presents handcrafted for gardeners in your life , including the best shops and gardening books.
By Francine Raymond
The Leaping Hare Country Store at Wyken Vineyards in Suffolk has a mix of unpredictable treasures in its fabulous garden department and sells my favourite plastic French grape picking baskets — the most useful of garden trugs. Filled with their sparkling Moonshine (“A wow — and it gets better and better” – Hugh Johnson), you have the recipe for a very happy Christmas.
Petersham Nurseries in Middlesex houses a fabulous collection of all things house and garden. Their zinc-topped kitchen/garden dining tables, starting at £580, caught my eye. Seasonal bestsellers include practical copper hand tools with beech handles with a lifetime guarantee. Petersham is also holding a series of Christmas markets
Daylesford Organic Garden Shop in Gloucestershire (also at Pimlico and Notting Hill Gate) sells wonderful Christmas larder fodder, from delicious individual chutneys to an entire organic lunch in a hamper with a bronze turkey to mince pies for four to six people (daylesfordorganic.co.uk; 01608 731700).
West Green House in Hampshire holds a garden-themed Christmas fair until December 11, with stock from all over the world, featuring an amusing range of poultry-inspired goodies. The garden and café — both well worth a visit — are also open to the public during this period.
Most gardeners imagine they already have everything they could possibly need. A surf through some of the green-fingered websites is sure to come up with some novel stocking fillers.
Adopt a beehive with the British Beekeeping Association. Keep bees without getting your hands sticky and support research into honeybee health. Subscribers get a jolly welcome pack of a jar of honey, bee-friendly seeds, lip balm and a helpful book..
thegardenersshop.co.uk sells lots of smallish garden goodies including a hugely out-of-scale pine-cone bird feeder, which may confuse the magpies.
Committed gardener Jo Riding offers garden products, plants, news and advice. I loved her chicken-wire cloches and giant wooden plant labels.
Many makers and artists sell direct to the public at craft markets or from their own websites. Make the most of an opportunity to buy unique works of art and support real talent.
Ed Brooks produces bespoke garden pieces from sustainable English wood. I lusted after his delicate driftwood gate, that would look so good in my garden, and his plain oak benches that would look good anywhere. He also makes bridges and tree houses and has an online range of smaller pieces (edbrooks.com; 01297 560807).
Stephen McRae is a truly innovative metalworker. Using steel, wrought iron, copper and brass, he forges intricate gates and fountains from trees, flowers and natural forms. All major pieces are made to order, but he also sells from his website. His fig tree gate is absolutely lovely (stephenmcrae.co.uk; 07729 119818).
Stoneform Design will carve architectural pieces for restoration projects, garden sculptures — like their artichoke – or memorial features. Their simple garden benches, lettering and small commemorative pieces are exquisite — I have three sleeping white doves made from cast reconstituted Portland stone.
Identical twins Kate and Hannah Breach will paint anything on anything. Specialising in plants, animals and lettering, their website is chock full of desirable personalised objects made to commission. I want their artichoke tin please, and need them to paint me a new house sign .
Our Plot by Cleve West (Frances Lincoln) is a personal account by a wonderful gardener all about his community of allotmenteers.
The Italian Kitchen Garden by Sarah Fraser (Pavilion) encourages readers to get growing and cooking good peasant fare, then head off for the Tuscan hills, if only in our dreams.
The Resilient Garden by Marylyn Abbott (Kyle Cathie) features clever and inspiring plant selections to cope with the vagaries of the weather or demands of the site.
All About Me (Minedition) by John and Juliet Atkinson. Absolutely nothing to do with gardens, but quite the nicest book about Father Christmas ever. Beautifully produced and a must for doting grandparents. Oh, and Father Christmas, on second thoughts, maybe just a small fig gate…
Christmas prepping in Prague
By Elloise Bennett
Prague is a city of rainbow-colored buildings, charming art deco cafes, winding streets, and soaring spires – it’s not for nothing that this city, with its long and rich history, is known as the “Paris of the North.”
Visiting Prague has been on “To-Do” list seemingly forever. But I wanted to avoid the summer tourist hordes and beat the snow, so I decided November is the perfect Prague time and I could go there to do my shopping and prepping for Christmas.
It was already cold enough to bundle into scarves and gloves, but the city was not too crowded, and I had the added bonus of seeing the twinkly Christmas lights lighting up the famous vistas of the Charles Bridge.
Northern Europe is also famous for its Christmas markets – a great place to do your Christmas shopping in a setting that gets you in the mood for good cheer. Prague’s Christmas market was set up in the Old Town Square, and did not disappoint!
Wandering through the stalls you can check out arts and crafts, beautiful fabrics, locally-made jewelry and wrought-iron decorative items like candlesticks and medieval-looking door knockers.
But best of all, you can also sample the wines that they sell in pretty little gift boxes. Wines that can be heated up for a cold Christmas evening, or honey wines that are a great dessert complement. Roaming between the stalls with a warm cup of the mulled yumminess is the way to shop!
Or stop at another stall and try a Trdelnik: the Czech equivalent of a cinnamon roll. Literally, dough rolled onto a wooden pike and then baked over the fire. These bakers keep the pikes rolling so it’s crispy on the outside, and fluffy inside, and the cinnamon flavor mingles with the woodsy flavor of the smoke.
Shopping beyond the edges of the Old Town Square and the market ranges from throngs of tourist shops that offer the same Bohemian garnets and silver earrings and Bohemian crystal glasses, to Pařížská Street with Prada and Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The Palladium Shopping Center (smartly built into the ruins of a monastery) on Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square) has everything in between!
I found the shopping in Prague fascinating – partly because it’s inexpensive (for Europe!), partly because no world economic crisis was in evidence anywhere, and partly because it makes me very aware of how much has changed in Prague since the days of the Velvet Revolution. Exploring the streets, you definitely cannot help but ponder the fact that Prague has survived wars, Hitler, and Communism. Of course, part of the reason for the brightly painted colors on the walls is to celebrate that survival, but the spires, the Baroque curls, the lovely squares, the luxurious palaces – those are all also testaments to survival.
You see that survival in the new businesses that are flourishing: Shops, cafes, and restaurants – some with a very traditional approach, but others with a modern twist to pull in not only the tourists, but the locals who want to spend and enjoy.
So if you are like me and shopping and museum visits work up an appetite and a desire for a glass of wine, here are two great spots to try:
- For a cozy cup of coffee, luscious chocolate cheesecake, or fantastic homemade pork dumplings, stop at Angels Coffee! Located in the square behind the Tyn Church (walk down the alley to the left of the church if coming from Old Town Square), this welcoming café is a great blend of comfortably cozy, modern art on the walls, and great views of a quiet courtyard that is a nice escape from the crowds. Good for an afternoon pick-me-up, or a nice meal – they have a great wine list and friendly staff that make excellent menu recommendations. They feature local art on the walls, and have deep chairs to sink into and rest weary feet after a shopping or museum day!
- For a chance to wear your fancy new Prague jewelry to lunch or dinner, don’t miss out on a stop at Host Restaurant. Located in a stairwell hidden off one of the streets in the Prague Castel complex, this restaurant is a good example of the old-new Prague. Gleaming black lacquer bar, striped walls that evoke a Baroque-meets-now feel, incredible views of Old Town Prague, and gleaming wine glasses – all complement the sparkle of the owner, Pavlina, and her team. The food… sigh.
The menu at Host has great variety: Czech traditionals like Gulash are there, but I recommend a venture into the other smart new approaches on local favorites. I tried the pork sirloin served with a creamy mushroom sauce over a caramelized port-wine reduction, paired with potatoes mashed with onions and herbs. Let’s just say, you need to have dinner at Host to experience the melt-in-your-mouth pleasure for yourself!
And through it all… happy exploring!
IND.I.A. SPA’S BIRTHDAY
Ind.i.a is a company as solid as steel, the kind of steel which proclaims history, passion, difficulties, and progression at the same time. It is made up of a group of companies which all started and began 40 years ago.
Back in 1971, Arch. Bruno Gonzato started the company, Ind.i.a, to produce amphibian means of transport. Ind.i.a, with the initial letters coming from the Italian name Industria Italiana Anfibi, later was changed to Arteferro.
To sponsor this business he first started producing wrought iron scrolls, which is a very common item throughout the Vicenza area.
Within a very short period, Bruno Gonzato realized that his business is much more fascinating that he could have ever imagined, and decided to start investing in this market. Following his instinct, the art and passion of wrought iron was able to transmit.
Ind.i.a has grown through much experience and magnitude to become a group of 22 subsidiaries worldwide, all producing and distributing components, forgings, and finished products of wrought iron and stainless steel through three different name brands: IND.I.A, II Grande Fabbro, and Arteferro Inox.
The expansion has not undermined the love for tradition which marks out this ancient art. To this day Arch. Bruno Gonzato still considers himself a craftsman rather than a major manufacturer, always running his company looking for innovation and design.
He is helped by his wife Stefania, whom is also an architect and designer, as well as his daughter Francesca and sons Matteo, Davide, Dario, and son-in-law Andrea. Through the will of letting second generation grow in managing the industry, it sets a solid base for the future and grants continuity of the company’s philosophy and quality of the brand Ind.i.a.
Eiffel Tower ‘to be turned into green jungle’
The Eiffel Tower could be transformed into a giant green “jungle” covered in 600,000 plants as part of an environmental scheme.
By Peter Allen
In a controversial plan that could change the Paris skyline, £65m pounds could reportedly be spent on making the Eiffel Tower the most “ecologically correct” tourist attraction in the world.
But many have already expressed outrage that the world famous Iron Lady, which attracts 7 million visitors a year, could be altered beyond recognition.
Ginger, an engineering company which specialises in ecological projects, is behind the scheme, estimated to be completed within two years. The firm is adamant that the rebranded tower will become a “green lung” for the whole of Paris.
It would see the 1,063ft tower turn into a flagship of ecotourism, introducing thousands of baskets of plants, as well as a state-of-the-art irrigation system made up of 12 tonnes of rubber tubing.
Ginger estimates that it will give off 84.2 tonnes of CO2 and absorb 87.8 tonnes, making it “carbon positive”.
A spokesman for Ginger said: “The project was confidential but the schedule indicated by Le Figaro is right.” It would see seedlings being grown at nurseries around Paris until June next year, and then hung around the tower on hemp poles attached to the structure until June 2013.
But SETE on Wednesday expressed “incredulity” at the project, with a spokesman saying the first they had heard of it was “in this morning’s Figaro”.
The controversy deepened when Jean-Bernard Bros, Paris’s tourism chief, said he was “not associated in any manner whatsoever to a proposed revegetation of the monument”.
Visitors queuing up to visit the global icon on Wednesday said they were “absolutely astonished” at the plans.
“The whole point of the Eiffel Tower is that it is an engineering masterpiece,” said Anil Singh, who was visiting with his wife and two children from Delhi, India.
“We have come to see the wrought iron – if we wanted to see a hanging garden we would go somewhere else.”
Laurent Martin, who has lived in Paris all his life, added: “It is typical of the ridiculous green schemes which are introduced everywhere nowadays.
“This is an example of a city which is prepared to waste money at a time when nobody can afford it. It is quite scandalous.”
The tower was built in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, and was originally the entrance arch to that year’s Universal Exposition – a world fair celebrating French engineering.
At first it was criticised as a blot on the landscape. But it was soon revered as a striking piece of modern structural art, and is now the most popular tourist attraction in the world with an entrance fee.
It is by far the most prominent symbol of Paris, and indeed of French culture, featuring in countless films, documentaries, photographs and paintings.
Eiffel originally had a permit to allow his tower to stand for 20 years, but it avoided being demolished after becoming a valuable communication beacon during the First World War.
Wildomar closes down another park
By Yazmin Alvarez
The city’s second park to close down is in the process of being fenced off. Fresh cement was holding up newly placed posts. But an error in building material left Windsong open to parkgoers for one more afternoon.
Wildomar City Manager Frank Oviedo said the fence material that was to go up was something similar to that of a wrought iron fence. However, after inspecting the material Tuesday as it was being installed, the fence material was not as durable as expected. “At least it gives us one more day,” said Luopa.
The decision to shut down the city’s parks, Heritage Regency, Windsong and Marna O’Brien was announced during a June 29 City Council meeting and came after a court ruling last year that nixed a $28 annual tax on residential parcels that paid for park maintenance. That eventually led to the June 7 election on Measure D. Had the measure passed, it would have imposed a maximum $28 annual parcel tax on property owners to fund a new Community Facilities District, paying for maintenance of the three parks and other public recreation sites.
The new fence, which is expected to be put in Wednesday, is a coated chain-link fence similar to what is already installed along the backend of the park. The more durable fence is an attempt to keep vandals out.
Windsong Park closure Wildomar closes down another park
But the park has already seen its first act of vandalism even before the fence installation has been complete.
The posts that were cemented in Monday were pushed over and had to be reset early Tuesday.
While graffiti and vandalism within Wildomar has been an existing problem, Oviedo said more of it has been seen since the loss of parks funding.
“Without the resources there to keep up the maintenance, the parks are left empty and unattended. The fences go up to secure it,” he said. “People need to start taking responsibility for their community. I eat breath and live to make this a better community. When things like this happen, it’s just very frustrating.”
“I’m really going to miss it,” said Luopa, who has lived across the street from the neighborhood park since 1998. “It just really makes me mad that they have to close down the parks. What about the kids, what will they have? They deserve to have a childhood.”
Luopa was among those who voted for the measure. She said her grandchildren and great grandchildren play at the park when they visit. She see’s mother’s walk their children to the park and caretakers take some of the elderly residents around the park track for some exercise.
“The park is used,” she said. “What’s $28 from residents to keep it open? I would gladly pay $40.”
But her real frustration is that the park will once again be an eyesore in the community. It was closed off once before already and she said she waited five years for it to reopen. Now, history is repeating itself, she said.
The city’s largest and final park to remain open is Marna O’Brien. It is used by Little League and Pop Warner teams. It remains open and is currently maintained by Friends of Wildomar Parks.
Windsong, the small neighborhood park off Prairie Road near William Collier Elementary, didn’t receive the same attention from Wildomar residents.
“There just wasn’t the community support needed to keep it open,” said Wildomar Community Services Director Paula Willette.
“We have to call this closure permanent,” Willette said. “There’s no foreseeable funding for that park.”
Willette said the only way the park would be reopened is if residents came forward and showed interest.
“But I don’t see council bringing it up at any time. Plus we’re not getting phone calls from residents demanding it to stay open. There are no overwhelming calls and it’s a little disheartening.”