TOMS BROOK — Now that potted plants are inside and the earth is starting to freeze, the gardeners in families are getting antsy to get their hands back in the dirt. Although winter weather isn’t conducive to work in the garden, a bevy of gifts to prepare gardeners for spring is at their fingertips.
Lynne Phillips, the owner of Natural Art Garden Center, said she stays busy year-round, even when the time isn’t ripe for putting anything in the ground.
Gift certificates are always a popular item, Phillips said, because they are as good as cash and never expire. Sitting on a certificate now can help gardeners spring right out of the gate when the sun comes back.
“Some people may want to give someone a tree,” Phillips said, “but they don’t want to get it until the spring.”
Holidays are a busy time for Phillips as she prepares Christmas wreaths to ship all around the country. Decorative sprigs twisted into horseheads, chickens and the more traditional circles take up her time from the summer through the winter months.
If someone is interested in a wreath but wants to make it with their own hands, Phillips said she also offers classes which may also be paid for with gift certificates.
Christmas items and classes start piling up in October but there are still items available to meet all kinds of needs.
If decorations aren’t on the list this year, Phillips suggested tools as a timeless gift that goes a long way — especially if those tools got left out in the rain and snow. Phillips said she suggests people buy the best tool they can, with the money they have. For example, she pointed to her pruners she uses every day. They cost her about $70 when they were brand new but with careful maintenance, they are still working more than 20 years later.
“You can buy $10 pruners, but you’ll probably replace those several times,” she said. “So, if you can save up your nickels and buy the better tool, then buy the better tool.”
Or, around this time, someone can spend their nickels on someone else.
Gardeners and family members of gardeners can pick up everything from pruners to trowels from Phillips, and spend as much or as little as the occasion calls for.
Some gardeners know more than their family members about tools and if they are looking to take the next step in putting that knowledge to use, they might be interested in becoming a master gardener.
Every Virginia Tech Extension office in the state offers a Master Gardener program that works with volunteer-minded gardeners to put their skills to use in the community.
Mark Sutphin, an extension agent in Frederick County, said the program is changing this year with some of the classes moving online.
“This year a portion of it is going to be at your own pace online through some different online modules and presentations that have been developed by the state office,” Sutphin said. “We’re going to incorporate those along with some hands-on lab opportunities.”
Master Gardeners need to complete a minimum of 50 hours of classroom time plus 50 hours of volunteer time to graduate from the program, Sutphin said.
Because gardeners have to commit so much time, Sutphin said the online classes were put in place to make it easier to fit into a schedule than a typical Tuesday/Thursday evening class every week.
Initial information sessions and applications for the current Master Gardener classes filled up earlier this month but, Sutphin said if there is enough interest, extension agents could look at opening another program.
Whether this holiday season is focused on getting a family member that tool they’ve been looking for, a resilient house plant that will survive any conditions or setting them up to put their gardening skills to community use, the sleet and snow doesn’t have to mean the death of the garden.
Natural Art Garden Center is located at 27358 Old Valley Pike; 540-436-3130
For more information about the Master Gardener program, contact Sutphin at the Virginia Extension Office, 540-665-5699.