Orchids are the perfect pandemic companion or holiday present. Barb Gorges/courtesy

Thinking about ways to treat yourself or a gardening friend this holiday season? See what you think of these ideas.

A Way to Garden: A Hands-on Primer for Every Season” by Margaret Roach

These garden blog posts show up every Sunday morning in my email. They are transcripts of her radio interviews with all kinds of people in the garden world, and the chats are always inspiring and informative.

This book is an updated edition of her first book from 21 years before. Margaret, like us, is in Zone 5, but in New York State, so some of the advice may need to be adapted a bit for here. I enjoyed the luscious photos and her generous gardening philosophy.

The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants” by Jennifer Jewell

Sometimes, on the way to gender equity, we isolate the underdogs to bring them to the public’s attention. I hope in years to come we won’t need to separate by gender anymore for projects like this.

I found this book to be a fascinating read, not just because it highlights the accomplishments of women from around the world, but because it showcases the enormous variety of their plant-related careers and how they found them.

Margaret Roach, garden journalist (mentioned above), is featured, and so is Lauren Springer, a garden designer in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Here are some of the many other careers included: nursery owner, flower farm owner, floral designer, landscape architecture firm owner, horticulturist, public garden leader (various titles from CEO to director), landscape architect photographer, seed education program founder, garden historian, garden artist, garden magazine editor, herbalist, professor, scientist, horticultural therapist, botanist, botanical photographer, botanical artist, ancestral plant medicine educator and advocate, garden writer, biodynamic farmer, seed keeper, plant pathologist, plantswoman, gardener.

HERShovel, Green Heron Tools

I asked for a shovel last Christmas, one in the style a gardening friend enjoys using. But it wasn’t the same shovel – hers might be out of production. It was heavy, the handle was too thick for my short fingers, the step at the top of the blade was too narrow, and it wasn’t good at scooping.

Two women came up with a shovel a few years ago designed specifically for women – it’s “hergonomic.” Some men find it more comfortable to use, too. For one thing, it comes in different sizes: small for people under 5-foot-2 and large for people over 5-foot-7 and medium in between.

It has a large “D” handle, wide enough to grip with both hands, and it is light. I’m anxious to try one. Then maybe I won’t be asking my husband, Mark, to help me dig as often.

Even if you don’t get a HERShovel, or the HERSpadingfork, check out Green Heron Tools, www.greenherontools.com, for advice on proper shoveling technique and maintenance.

Because the two business owners originally trained in health care, they have illustrated physical health tips for gardeners. The best one is to change activities every 20 minutes or so. For instance, change off between weeding, pruning and digging to give a break to the different muscle groups used in each.


Last spring, I took advantage of Fantasy Orchid’s pandemic mail-order sale. It coincided with a couple of warm days, and the box arrived from Louisville, Colorado, having been in transit only two days.

I ordered a Phalaenopsis because I already had one and know that it is cat-proof. It arrived with big buds ready to open within a week, by mid-April.

The last two of those 15 flowers are still hanging on. The miracle is that now, in early December, the first two flowers of the next wave have opened. There are at least another 10 buds developing that should last well into spring or even summer.

This orchid has been a wonderful pandemic companion. We have it on our kitchen table and enjoy it every day. Having it 3 or 4 feet from our southeast-facing window means the blooms will last longer in the dimmer light.

When it quits blooming, we will give it more sunshine. For more on how easy orchids are to grow, see https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/ orchid-adventure/.

Barb Gorges writes a monthly column about the joys and challenges of gardening on the High Plains. Find her past columns at http://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com. Readers are always welcome to contact her with questions and story ideas at bgorges4@msn.com.

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