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Give (or receive) the gift of beauty

Garden Muse
by: COURTESY OF PALMFLEX INC., For those with a lot of gardeners on their list, Atlas gloves will make a lasting, practical impression.

If someone in your life is desperately searching for the perfect present for you, why not be helpful and drop a hint or two?

The trouble is, when I'm asked, I can't think of anything I need. So it's best to have a little list ready for these opportunities. Here are some ideas to help you prepare.

If I didn't already have one, my first wish would be for a picture window looking out onto the garden.

The view I enjoy every day from my office is from a window occupying most of a south-facing wall.

On this late November morning, red and yellow sweet gum leaves carpet the lawn. A hedge of giant Florida grass gleams gold behind a colony of vivid red twig dogwood, and silver Senecio greyii adds a soothing touch.

The oxblood leaves of oakleaf hydrangea contrast with the new yellow flower spikes of Mahonia 'Charity' in a glorious collaboration between fall and winter color.

My spoiled cat Webster, his gray and white fur as soft as angora, sits on a corner of the desk where I've placed a small purple rug for his majesty's comfort.

An indoor cat, he deserves to watch two fat squirrels chase each other around the sweet gum trunk.

Coyotes, unleashed dogs and bully cats that prowl my neighborhood convinced me that it's better to keep Webster and his orange tabby buddy, Kipper, indoors, but several view windows give them plenty to watch.

Investing in a big window will let you witness the seasons' changes even on days that you might not be out in the garden.

If you have a view window but it looks out on the road, a garage or some other dismal sight, create a scene to look out upon. A gift of beauty feeds the soul every day.

Containers are a luxurious gift that any gardener would love. Recently I've started collecting containers.

My excuse - someday I'll be gardening on a patio, and I must be prepared. Meanwhile, pots beside the greenhouse door, near the entry to the meditation hut and on the front porch dress up those places.

I also grow plants in containers in dry shade and where island beds need a focal point. A pretty pot adds permanent color and texture while fleeting flowers come and go.

Who wouldn't adore an arbor, trellis or obelisk - they add decorative touches to the garden, while supporting clematis and climbing roses. Even in winter, their framework adds structure to the dormant landscape.

Obelisks have a smaller footprint than arbors and trellises - it's easy to tuck them into a border and let a vine soften their edges, or even enjoy them naked for the ornamental pattern.

A much smaller-ticket item, the Atlas 370 glove (www.palmflex.com) makes winter gardening so much easier. Coated with nitrile and waterproof, it holds up well to cold without compromising your fingers' dexterity.

I was pleasantly shocked at the low price and bought several pairs, expecting them to fall apart. Nearly a year later, they're still in good shape. I love the colorful four-pack of pink, purple, lime green and blue, but you can also order the manlier black.

My favorite gifts have come from friends who have window-shopped with me and went back to buy what I've admired. So if you're trying to find a gift for the gardening friend who has everything, take your pal to a destination nursery.

My top pick this time of year would be Ferguson's Fragrant Nursery in St. Paul, (www.fragrantnursery.com), brimming with pots, statuary, birdbaths, fountains and iron trellises, as well as winter fragrant shrubs like sweet box and wintersweet.

Owner Danielle Ferguson has an eye for designing containers with stylish plant combinations - you'll get lots of ideas for winter interest.

No gardener ever has enough fertilizer, especially the spendy slow-release granular kind like Osmocote. And for friends who are strictly organic, pay a visit to Concentrates Inc. (www.concentratesnw.com).

There you'll find kelp extract, bat guano, worm castings, and bags of chicken and steer manure at affordable prices.

Wrapping these gifts may call for some ingenuity. Perhaps a tarp with a big bow would work!

For your gardening friends who are less likely to venture out when it's cold, an outdoor thermometer that's legible and also attractive makes a very nice gift.

My hubby spotted one for us at Kay Snortum's Artfull Garden (www.theartfullgarden.com) in Hillsboro, where you'll find garden-related jewelry, fountains, sculpture and garden ornaments, many by local artists.

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