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Article Published November 26, 2014

Eight Gifts with Local Roots for the Gardener in Your Life

By By Kathy Connolly
If it's really the thought that counts, the eight ideas below should go far with the gardeners and earth-lovers on your holiday list. Each combines real utility with meaningful ties to people and places around southern New England.
River Clay Planting Pots: Madison potters Anita Griffith and Robert Parrott made a chance visit to the Kane brickyard in Middletown one day 25 or so years ago-and found themselves with a lifetime supply of red shale clay from the Connecticut River. They happened to visit on the last day that Kane was in business.
Now, Griffith and Parrott continue to produce pottery with a rustic flair from their once-in-a-lifetime find.
"The clay is rugged," says Griffith. "It is still filled with stones from the river and broken chunks of fired brick, just as it came out of the Kane mixer. The imperfections are evidence of their origin."
On a personal note, I own some of these pots and can honestly say plants love to grow in them. Reach Griffith and Parrott at 203-245-7837 or email ct2potters@comcast.net.
Amaryllis Bulbs in Bulk: What's not to like about a plant that offers brilliant, giant blossoms indoors during winter? If the price of amaryllis bulbs gives you pause, however, check out a bulk purchase from Bridgeport bulb wholesaler Colorblends. Pot the bulbs individually before giving them as gifts. Their new owners need only add water.
"People tell us they give these to the same people, year after year, surprising recipients with new colors in what becomes an anticipated tradition," says Colorblends horticulturalist Christian Curless.
Shop at www.colorblends.com or call 888-847-8637. Hint: The bulbs sell out. Last-minute shoppers may be disappointed.
Precision Digging Tools: When Daniel Mathieu of Windsor was in his 80s with replacement hips and knees, he found the garden a challenge. Then he did what any good inventor would do: He created a new tool, the Spear Head Spade (SHS).
Fast-forward five years, and thousands of the U.S.-built spades have been shipped by the Connecticut-based company run by Mathieu's son, Julien. I recently reviewed SHS for an online publisher and loved the deep, precise cuts it makes in established beds, among other things. See www.spearheadspade.com to learn about the three models, find a retail outlet, or order online. Call 860-688-3280.
High-Quality Pruners: The pruners manufactured and sold by Florian Tools of Southington work like a car jack, using leverage to increase the power of the pruning cut while reducing hand strain. Result: People with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or diminished hand strength can continue to enjoy gardening. The company offers four models of Ratchet-Cut tools based on the technology developed and patented by R. Stuart Florian of Southington in 1965. See www.store.floriantools.net for these and other landscape products or call 860-628-9643.
Gift Certificates for 2015 Seeds: Three regional companies offer gift certificates for next year's seeds. Scheepers's www.kitchengardenseeds.com of Bantam offers a wide variety of heirloom and rare vegetable varieties. See www.selectseeds.com of Union for heirloom and rare flowers.
For something truly regional, take a look at Project Native of Housatonic, Massachusetts. It's the only organization I know that collects New England seeds and packages them for sale to the public. The gift certificates are good for Project Native's meadow mixes as well as native nursery plants next season and other products. Visit www.projectnative.com, email lkratt@projectnative.org, or call 413-274-3433 from
9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday, before Thursday, Dec. 18.
Seed Packets: Colorful seed packets make terrific stocking stuffers. Hart Seeds has an outlet in the parking area behind its main offices at 304 Main Street in Old Wethersfield. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Call ahead: 1-800-326-4278.
Across the street from Hart at 263 Main Street, the Comstock Ferre/Baker Creek seed store is open Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 860-571-6590 or visit
www.rareseeds.com/get-to-know-baker-creek/comstock-ferre.
Rain Barrels: Beverly O'Keefe, the Rhode Island Water Lady, offers rain barrels, as well as accessory kits and two sizes of downspout diverters. I visited her earlier this year and stocked up on some large barrels made from food-grade plastics. Shop at her West Kingston, Rhode Island, location until Dec. 24. (Best to call ahead.) Delivery options are available. See www.riwaterlady. Call 401-539-0667.
Composting Systems: Unconventional, perhaps, but most gardeners would love to add some high-quality worm compost to their garden soil. Nancy Warner of Charlestown, Rhode Island, offers red wiggler composting worms and composting systems from her website, www.wormladies.com. Order online or call Warner at 401-322-7675 before Sunday, Dec. 21.
Enjoy your shopping!
Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, garden writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. Visit her website at www.speakingoflandscapes.com.