Gardening: The gift that keeps giving

Susan O’Brien

For some seasonal culinary bling on your plot, Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights’ is one of the most beautiful veggie specimens around. It looks just as good in a border or pot with a kaleidoscope of colour radiating through the stems, and large, textured leaves.

It is a cool season plant, very easy to grow and a prolific continuous cropper. From just a single sowing, it will provide spinach like, tasty leaves throughout the year. A superb all-rounder.

I am looking forward already in anticipation. As this month draws to a close, the days become brighter and the budding gardener emerges renewed. If you are looking for some gardening inspiration as a gift, I have chosen a few of my favourites.

The Irish Seed Savers annual gift membership provides more than a seasonal harvest. As a registered charity, they grow, conserve and distribute Irish, organic vegetable seeds, grains and fruit tree varieties that would otherwise be lost to antiquity. In addition to a selection of coveted seeds, entry to the garden is free all year, among other member benefits. There are several levels of subscription for all ages, individuals and groups. Membership is available from 

Some of my most coveted ‘tools of the trade’ are available from the beautiful garden centre and gift store at Enable Ireland on Sandymount Avenue. 100% of the profits from the store support the disability services.

A quality pair of secateurs is a worthy, once-off purchase. My go-to brand is the robust, red-handled Felco. Size 2 is a good universal fit. In order to clean and replace worn parts, any secateurs should dismantle in its entirety with ease. I purchased my first and only pair just 17 years ago. The accompanying clip-on leather holster has ensured that it is always to hand when needed and remains firmly by my side. 

Klaus Laitenberger, organic gardener and author, living in Ireland for many years, provides an impressive literary trilogy of comprehensive growing guides, Vegetables for the Irish Garden, Fruit and Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse and The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook. Aptly, the focus is on gardening in Irish soils and Irish weather conditions. These books are sure to satisfy all levels of experience and culinary tastes. There are available on offer now at 

For added flavour and use of colour, Edible Flowers by Kathy Brown, is much more than a simple catalogue of familiar plants. Instead, the reader is guided around a ‘garden menu’ and invited into the kitchen.

There is a stunning selection of container-grown planting schemes and each one is accompanied by a simple, step-by-step illustrated guide. All the flowers are paired with complementary foods and the recipes are described in full.

Serving suggestions and accompaniments are both sweet and savoury. They include drinks, butters and oil infusions. This book is truly a decorative delight. 

Alyson Mowat shows off her creative flair in Terrariums and Kokedama, with some stylish ideas for indoor planting, and all low maintenance. Each display is unique, beautiful, quirky, bordering on conceptual at times, but incredibly captivating. The simple to follow instructions are accompanied by illustration drawings and close up photography. The process itself is entirely calming.

Overall, this collection is a template and it seeks to inspire the reader’s own personal style rather than simply prescribe. As you will see, each element in the creation is individual and the choice of vessel, plant and embellishment is entirely up to you!