This year, in particular, is the year for gardening gifts of quality, innovation and practicality. And if you want to spring for something a little more lavish, make it a gift that will bring pleasure for many years.

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This isn’t the year for frivolous gifts — as if gardeners have ever been much into nonessentials. Quality, innovation and practicality will be appreciated this holiday season — and if you want to spring for something a little more lavish, make it a gift that will bring pleasure for many years.

With Grobal Self-Watering Planters, gardeners can finally travel with peace of mind, knowing their houseplants won’t die while they’re away. These cleverly designed planters have water reservoirs that automatically keep plants happily hydrated. Their appealing egg shape and glossy finish earned these planters mention in The New York Times “Sunday Styles” section. How many garden items can make such a boast?

The Grobal comes in great colors, including orange, candy pink, celadon green and baby blue, plus the usual brown, black and white. Don’t even think about getting the small size, because the large is only about 7 inches by 7 inches, and costs $25. The Grobal is available from the A+R store (

From the same company, check out the Grass Circle and Picture Frame, unique ways to bring the garden indoors for the winter. Certainly the cushy feel and bright-green color of grass evoke the vitality of springtime, and may cut down on fresh-flower budgets. Who needs bouquets when you have lawn growing indoors? The circle and frame come with everything needed to grow a mini-lawn, including tiny sponge balls impregnated with nutrients. The grass is advertised to last for four to five months; refill kits are available. The circle is just under 16 inches wide; the frame, 15 inches. The circle costs $105 and the picture frame is $60, made by Metaphys, and available at

Give a gift of a healthy back to a loved one, with an ingeniously simple Pot Lifter from Gardener’s Supply Co. ($29.95, I’m sure jockeying heavy pots into position tweaks our backs more than any other garden task. These self-cinching straps work to move rocks and heavy root balls, as well as containers, without stooping or straining.

Next to our backs, we tend to wear out our hands, making ergonomic Comfort Tool Grips a welcome gift. These neoprene pads wrap around the handles of just about any tool, including shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows, to absorb shock and vibration while giving a secure, cushioned grip. Set of two is $14.95, from Gardener’s Supply Co.

Also from Gardener’s Supply are new guilt-free Tub Trugs made from recycled plastic, which are as colorful, useful, lightweight and indestructible as the more ubiquitous non-recycled ones. These 11-gallon trugs also make great ice buckets or — with holes poked in the bottom — cheap, colorful plant containers. They come in an array of colors and sell for $19.95.

Most gardeners are great readers, especially in winter when they actually have time to spend with books. “Designer Plant Combinations” by Scott Calhoun (Storey Publishing, $18.95) is hot off the press. Beginning and expert gardeners will love this photo-laden book of beautiful, workable combinations, each using six plants or less.

I can testify that “Flying Flowers: The Beauty of the Butterfly,” by Rick Sammon (Welcome Books, $40) will be a much-appreciated gift. A friend gave me a copy months ago for my birthday, and I’ve turned to it many times since for a pure jolt of nature’s glorious complexity. Sammon is an underwater photographer who has turned his talents to capturing the ethereal beauty of butterflies, some in flight, most preening themselves on leaf and flower. The saturated colors, intricate patterning and mind-boggling diversity of these insects fill your eyes and heart. The book’s marvelous photos prove true the quote from Elizabeth Goudge: “Butterflies . . . not quite birds, as they are not quite flowers, mysterious and fascinating as are all indeterminate creatures.” Though the book is out of print, it’s available at among other online retailers.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is