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My top ideas for choosing garden-themed gifts 

November 28, 2021


I saw a great piece of botanical art recently and as it was of herself’s favourite flower, I thought, now that would make a nice Christmas gift. It really was a tenuous attempt at justifying buying it for myself, don’t think I would have got away with it, jewellery will be expected. 

Though, aren’t you supposed to give something as a gift that you would like to receive yourself? Perhaps I’ll go for it, I’ll keep you posted.

'Every fragile beauty...' watercolour on Arches paper. Rose from Birr Castle.
‘Every fragile beauty…’ watercolour on Arches paper. Rose from Birr Castle.


There are many great botanical artists in Ireland, it really is a specialist art form and I am addicted, to admiring, that is, not trying my hand and one could do far worse this season than invest in a piece, if not to give, then to keep.

With movements restricted so much over the last two years, give yourself half an hour, make a cup of tea and visit 

This is the website of the Irish Society of Botanical Artists and you won’t be disappointed. All the different member artists are featured with links to their own portfolios and websites. If the garden is full of plants then the next best gift could be a beautifully painted picture of one. I need to stop looking and start thinking more jewellery.


But is the garden ever full of plants? I don’t think any gardener would ever not like to receive a gift of a plant. I find myself often repeating that the garden is a living entity, it is constantly evolving and changing, with or without our input and what makes a garden special is that it is individual, made up of plants which have been given by people, now perhaps departed. To admire the plant in the garden always brings a smile to the face as you recall the person that gave it to you.

Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen
Irish Examiner gardening columnist Peter Dowdall. Picture: John Allen


For that reason, a plant or any gift for the garden is always nice to give and to receive. If you are giving to a “lockdown gardener”, that is, one who has discovered the wonders of the garden and may be taking their first steps down the amazing and fulfilling path of gardening then perhaps start with something simple like flower bulbs or a seed starter kit. 


These can be great for kids too as they are quick. For the older among us, we have learned that we need to embrace the virtue of patience in the garden, nothing happens instantly and we are always planning ahead. Kids have yet to fully embrace the concept of patience and so bulbs and seeds which give relatively quick results will always go down well. 

Once they have nurtured the seeds into seedlings and beyond, they will be invested in the plants and will feel such a huge sense of achievement as they come into flower or fruit. At least, I certainly did when I was a small child, in fact, I still do now that I am a not so small child.


Trees are a beautiful, meaningful and important gift but do think before you give one. How big is the garden that you are giving it to and to what size will the tree grow.

I am regularly asked to recommend a tree to give as a gift for a special occasion and often to a grieving family who have recently lost someone. I think this is such a thoughtful action, to want to plant a tree or shrub in someone’s memory but it’s not always easy to recommend one as so many things must be taken into account, aspect, soil type, overall size and more. 

A few tips when choosing one though may be to look for something that has the name of the person you are giving it to, or that you are planting in memory of, in its title. For example, Rosa My Mum or Rosa Special Dad, Rhododendron Alfred, Syringa Belle de Nancy and for larger gardens, perhaps Cedus Nana or Quercus Carl Ferris Miller.

A quick search online may help you to find something and then all you have to so is to source the actual plant, trips to garden centres and plant shows will follow and before you know it you’re hooked.

Something that flowers at the time of a birthday is also nice to give, a prunus or malus maybe, which will flower during April and May. Either would be nice to give as a gift or as a way of remembering someone.

The last Christmas present I received from my mother is a beautiful Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ which I have growing in a pot and I await its blooms eagerly each year during spring.

For now, I will have to convince myself that the botanical painting isn’t actually a present for myself.

• Got a gardening question for Peter Dowdall? Email


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