Organised types will have their Christmas gifts growing somewhere sunny in preparation for styling with a final misting and a showy red ribbon. A herb bowl perhaps, or a handsome pot of salad leaves and tumbling nasturtiums. But those of us for whom December always comes as a shock still have time to get handy. A shallow ceramic dish and a morning’s work could see a succulent garden come together from clippings and trimmings around the garden. Complete with black pebbles or coarse gravel.
Far more hip than succulents in pots is succulents, or anything else really, in a hanging moss ball. Kokedamas are inspired by Japanese moss balls, which are a variant of bonsai. When a Dutch designer suspended them from the ceiling and called them string gardens an internet craze was born. Here’s one way to make them.
For plants to grow, rather than plants you grew, consider the constraints imposed by your loved one’s space, conditions and taste before buying. Best are rare oddities that don’t take up much room. Stone plants, perhaps, or a set of rhipsalis cuttings that could fall from a hanging basket (even a macramé hanger!) either indoors or out (both available from Tesselaar). For rose lovers the heartbreak of ‘Julia’s Rose’, which is the colour of milky tea seen through rose-tinted spectacles and which, in Sydney’s climate, is as sickly as a consumptive heroine, can be remedied by two new rose selections from Swanes, ‘Soul Sister’ and ‘Hot Cocoa’. Both have that alluring pinky-brown tone but a much sturdier constitution and a tea rose fragrance.
Always appreciated by the working gardener are good gloves, quality string, tubes of hand cream and slate plant tags. Diggers has a set of slates packaged in a hessian bag, which appeals. So does its native bee house that is also hotel accommodation for other beneficials such as native wasps and ladybirds.
If your green-thumbed loved ones prefer inspiration to perspiration, browse Australia’s online bookshop dedicated to the garden, Florilegium. Taking my fancy is Dutch artist Jacqueline Hassink’s photo essay on the zen temple gardens of Kyoto, called ‘View, Kyoto’, in which she captures the way the gardens are seen framed by the temple architecture. There is a particularly good harvest of Australian garden books this year too – ‘Wychwood’ by Karen Hall and Peter Cooper; ‘Connected: the Sustainable Landscapes of Philip Johnson’; ‘Garden Life’ by Sydney’s master of the small space, Richard Unsworth; ‘Stuart Rattle’s Musk Farm’ and Clive Blazey’s typically straightforward ‘There’s No Excuse for Ugliness: Falling in love with our best plants and gardens’. Not written by an Australian, but featuring 10 of our best private and public gardens on its tour of the world’s horti highlights is the doorstop of Phaidon’s ‘The Gardner’s Garden’. Happy shopping.