The gardeners of the Greater Berkeley area are doubly fortunate. They enjoy the blessings of nature—a climate that is exceptionally congenial to horticultural pursuits—and the blessings of commerce—an uncommon number of first-rate, one-of-a-kind, locally owned gardening supply stores.
For the 2003 holidays, these shops have gathered a wide array of distinctive quality goods likely to please the discerning plantspersons on your gift list.
Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, 1310 McGee Ave. 526-4704.
• This fanciful, 10-liter watering can in the shape of a frog will make you smile. From Germany, of bright green plastic. $31.99.
• Vegan fertilizer (no s---!). Organic alfalfa meal: high in nitrogen, but with a fresh, sweet smell. Gardeners, especially rose gardeners, love it. The only fertilizer you’d want to find under your Christmas tree. 3-lb. box, $6.99; 12-lb. sack, $14.99.
• Sweeten the season with Sasanqua camellias: fragrant, winter-blooming, pink, white, or rose-colored flowers. 3 and 5 gallons. Morning sun. $34.95-$43.95.
• Versatile Asian hand cultivator. This versatile digger has a hand-forged 7” curved iron blade that resembles a small plough and can be used to mound, to level, to weed, to cut furrows, and to tamp down newly planted seeds and plants. A superb one-stop hand tool for vegetable and flower beds. $16.99.
• Bare root pear trees (partridges not included). Seckel, Bartlett, and 6-in-1 espaliers, varieties suited to local growing conditions. Reserve plants now; their arrival in January will chase away the post-holiday blahs and conjure up the coming, bountiful season. Seckels and Bartletts, about $30; 6-in-1 espaliers, $50.
The Dry Garden, 6556 Shattuck Ave. 547-3564.
Drought-tolerant, rare and unusual plants, many notable for their striking, e.g. elegant, amusing, just plain weird, form and color.
•Mother-in-law’s Chair. A large (18” diameter) lethal golden pincushion studded with 2” long spikes. $275.
• Winter-blooming (in our winter) South African bulbs. One that stands out is Lachenalia viridiflora, with astonishing turquoise flowers that make you want to get up close. 4” pot. $4.95.
• Elephant’s foot (Crested Pachypodium). From Madagascar, this wonderfully bizarre plant grows in a fanlike shape with a finely textured, silvery-green, almost iridescent surface, topped with a leafy green fringe. $50.
• Alluandia ascendans. Lemurs like to jump on this plant’s thick stem, which grows to 6 feet and is covered with little green heart-shaped leaves growing in vertical rows amidst substantial spines. $100-$150.
• Ficus petiolaris. Beautiful, sun-loving plant with deep green, red-rimmed leaves (like those of a fig tree), deep pink stems and veins. Up to 2 feet tall. $20-$40.
• Great selection of succulents and agaves. Stiff-leaved, rosettaed plants. Two eye-catchers among many: Euphorbia obesa. Resembles a living golfball; and Astrophytum myriostigma: A miniaturized, pale green version that evokes its common name, Bishop’s Mitre. $3.95-$40.
East Bay Nursery, 2332 San Pablo Ave. 845-6490.
• Cool-looking cyclist-designed gardening gloves made by West County Gardener afford exceptional dexterity and tactility. They come in bright colors (avocado, gold, electric blue, and burgundy), so you’ll always be able to find them. Men’s and women’s sizes. $18.
• Handsome harvesting baskets. Sturdy wire mesh coated with green plastic, walnut handle, pine body. Two sizes. 12” x 18”, $38.50; 8” x 14”, $33.50.
• River rock vases. The insides of these water-smoothed granite rocks have been hollowed out and sealed. $25-$60.
• Good-looking garden tote bag w/tools. Forest green nylon fabric with wooden handles and durable leather look-alike brown trim. Comes with a stainless steel trowel, fork, and three-tined cultivator, all with red oak handles. Lots of pockets plus room inside for plenty of other garden supplies. Lifetime guarantee from Monrovia. $25.
The Gardener, 1836 Fourth St. 548-6116.
• Top-size (17 cm.) paperwhites and accessories. Watch fragrant flowers bloom in your home this winter. (A dollar per bulb) Mount them on Japanese river stones ($4.50/lb.) or tumbled glass—beautiful, rounded, icy-pale aqua or white pieces of glass ($4.15/lb.), in a vessel of your choice. Or buy The Gardener’s Paperwhite Kit that includes bulbs, pebbles, a green ceramic dish and instructions. $24.
• Handblown glass hummingbird feeders. Hang one or more gorgeous, multicolored globes on your Christmas tree before setting them outside for the birds. Blue, green, yellow, with a metal feeding tube whose red tip will lure the hummers—the kind with wings. $34.
• Molded garden totes from Germany have a clean, modern design. Sling one over your arm or shoulder in the garden, just hose it off. Orange, aqua, white. $16.
• Hang your garden tools on pretty rubber straps that screw into the wall. Almost a yard wide, in raspberry, citron, grass green. $22.
Hida Tool & Hardware, 1333 San Pablo Ave. 524-3700.
Fine Japanese tools and supplies. Now through Christmas: from now until Christmas, at least 10 percent off everything in the store.
• This picturesque yet utilitarian rustic bamboo broom sweeps up leaves, even wet ones, with ease. It could double as a great home dec accent and/or Halloween accessory for the witch(es) in your life. $8.80.
• Long-reach pruners, 1 to 8 feet long, plus extendable handles that add up to two feet, will enable you to reach that elusive fruit at the top of the tree. The cut-and-hold model keeps the harvest from falling onto the ground and getting bruised or broken. Smooth, trigger action feels good in the hand. $50-$100.
• Elegant, high-carbon garden shears for bonsai and flower arranging are each fashioned by a single craftsperson. With their elegantly curved handles, they could be displayed as art objects in their own right. $20-$50.
• Sickles for cutting grass and brush are better than your electric weed whip: no cord, no utility bills. Their laminated, high-carbon steel blades will stay nice and sharp. Light in the hand. $23.
• Hoes with nice balance, very sharp blades, oak handles 1-5 feet long, are made by small companies in Japan. $14-$20.
Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351.
• For a really green Christmas, get a living spruce, cypress or cedar Christmas tree. A December 13 class at the nursery will teach you how to choose the right tree for your needs, how to decorate its container, and how to keep your tree in good health. $100.
• Onyx planter pots turn opalescent in the sun. Filled with a variety of succulents that will spill over the edge, they make a simple but dramatic planting. $15-$60.
• Large ceramic pots in jewel tones—mustard, cobalt, deep jade—look good with the spiky leaves of phormiums. Nursery staff will help you match plant to pot. Pots, $20-$160; Phormiums, 1 gallon $12.95; 5 gallon, $34.95.
• Set several of these utterly charming moss stone frog musicians from Indonesia, and you have the makings of a frog gamelan (Balinese musical ensemble) for your garden. Figures include a drummer, a flutist, a cymbalist and other instrumentalists. Watered, they get covered with moss. 5 – 12” high. $7-$28.
UC Botanical Garden Garden Shop, 200 Centennial Drive. 642-3343.
In good time for the holidays, the Bot Garden’s next plant sale will be on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature an interesting selection of indoor and outdoor plants, all propagated by volunteer horticulturalists. Some of the choice offerings:
• Coreopsis giganta, Channel Island Tree Coreopsis. With its substantial trunk and mophead of yellow daisies, this California native—three feet high at maturity—would be right at home in a Dr. Seuss illustration. Planted right after the holidays, it will get established over the winter so that it’s ready to go and grow in the spring. Drought tolerant. 4-inch pot, $7.
• Lapageria rosea, Chilean bellflower, is the national flower of Chile and would make a very special gift for a true plant connoisseur. Because it’s hard to propagate, it’s hard to find in nurseries. Its flowers are shaped like elongated, rosy red bells about three inches long. Stunning. $50.
• Lovely Begonia fuchsiodes sports beautiful, deep red, fuchscia-like flowers. $7.
• Bemuse a good vegetarian friend with a gift of the carniverous, vaguely sinister-looking Sarracenia alata consists of a green stem, about a foot and a half long, that ends in a cobra shaped head. Set in water water, it will attract the gnats it likes to eat. Indoor/outdoor. $15-$20.
• Mounted bromeliads would make lovely and unusual gifts for lovers of houseplants. The Botanical Garden has Tillandsias, small bromeliads that grow on the trunks of trees in the jungle, placed on special clay mountings that can be hung on the wall. $12-$20.
• Rosarians (the fancy name for rose gardeners) will really appreciate “The American Beauty,” Tahoe Gloves’ long leather and nylon gauntlets. Unlike many other rose pruning gloves, this pair, in green and cream, really protects arms from the nastiest thorns and longest canes. $37.
Westbrae Nursery and Gift, 1271 Gilman St. 526-7606.
• Metallica gazing balls reflect a garden (and its onlooker), inviting contemplation and providing an intriguing accent to flora and foliage of all sorts. Westbrae has gazing balls in silver (the most popular color because it provides the best reflection), gold, green, red, teal and puprle. 12-16” in diameter. $54-$69.
• Garden gnomes got popular at Westbrae after one appeared in the movie Amelie. The ones at the nursery this year are imported ceramic reproductions of European gnomes that were originally produced in France, Germany or England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 10-12” high. $30-$60.
• Ceramic toadstools from England and from the United States add a beautiful touch of whimsy to a garden. Many colors and sizes. $5-$20.
• Choose from a wide assortment of Buddhas and Kwan Yis (the female form of the Buddha of compassion), available in architectural resin, cement or laval rock, in varied colors. $18-$150.
• Colormark’s metal watering wands come in rainbow hues that recall the aluminum tumblers of the 1950s. Designed to be screwed onto a hose, they are made in Wisconsin and have brass fittings, an on-off shut-off valve, and a heavy-to-light spray feature. Parts are replaceable. 8-10” long, $13; 30” long, $25.