Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Garden

A variety of unusual and inspiring delights — and the best part? A green thumb is not a requirement.

CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator. This lightweight, steel-bladed hoe is the smallest version available, just 13 inches long, but it has become indispensable in my garden since it debuted in 2002. It's good for weeding and digging, for making furrows to plant seeds, de-thatching a lawn, or, if you happen to live near a wheat field, harvesting. Perhaps you saw CobraHead's inventor, Noel Valdes, at the Philadelphia International Flower Show this year. (His wife and two kids are involved in the business, too.) CobraHead is made in the U.S.A. The handle is a recycled composite, and it works equally well for lefties and righties. Shipping's free. There are lots of tools and fancy gizmos out there, but this one, at $24.95, is simple, well- and American-made, plus versatile. (www.cobraheadllc.com/)

'Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century" by Dick and James Strawbridge. Self-sufficiency, and the vegetable garden's place of honor in that way of life, was the hot subject of many books that landed on my desk in 2010. This one, from DK Publishing, is written by an entertaining father and son living on a small farm in Cornwall, England, that was the focus of a BBC-TV series called It's Not Easy Being Green. It may not be easy, but with this book, you'll learn a little bit about everything involved. It's a good place to start, and the Strawbridges make it fun. (Amazon.com, $19.80)

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  • Figs. We can grow them in our Zone 6 and 7 gardens in the Philadelphia region, and to my way of thinking, this is a dandy holiday gift for about $20. Logee's Tropical Plants in Danielson, Conn., sells several kinds that can either be grown outside here year-round or kept in pots inside in winter and moved outside in summer. Best bet for year-round: "Chicago Hardy." It's the most cold-tolerant fig Logee's sells. If you buy it now, keep it inside till early spring, then plant it outside and leave it there. Best bet for indoor potted fig: "Ischia." Its figs are lime green. (www.logees.com/)

    Mason bee house. Mason bees aren't as well known as honeybees, but people in the know refer to them as "nature's best pollinators." Each one supposedly visits up to 1,000 blossoms a day in spring, 20 times more than a honeybee. Given the honeybee crisis, attracting these non-stinging guys to your garden with a house made of bamboo tubes is a great idea. A mason bee "house" ($16.95 to $36.95) will do the trick. (Gardener's Supply, http://gardeners.com; Nature Gift Store, http://nature-gifts.com; Birding Depot, http://birdingdepot.com)

    Public garden membership. For families, there's no better gift than a membership to one of the area's many public gardens. Among them:

    Awbury Arboretum, $65, www.awbury.org;

    Bartram's Garden, $35, www.bartramsgarden.org/; Camden Children's Garden, $35 for family of three, www.camdenchildrens garden.org/; Jenkins Arboretum, Devon, $45, www.jenkinsarboretum.org/; Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, $90 till Nov. 30, $105 after that, www.longwoodgardens.org/; Scott Arboretum, Swarthmore University, $55, www.scottarboretum.org/; Morris Arboretum, $90, www.morrisarboretum.org; Tyler Arboretum, Media, $60, www.tylerarboretum.org/.

    Virginia A. Smith INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
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