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Garden gifts help cure the winter blahs

You’ve seen the tell-tale signs. The garden lovers in your household stand by the window, gazing out at a barren landscape. Slowly, their eyes move from the grey skies to the stark tree tops and finally down to the monochrome hues of dormant lawn and flowerbed. Their shoulders slump and they let out a long, sad sigh...

The diagnosis: they’re suffering from SITS Syndrome. What’s that? You say you’ve never heard of SITS? It stands for Stuck Inside Til Spring. And you haven’t heard of it because I just made it up.

However, the ailment is real enough. Those of us who love being outdoors get the winter blahs right about now. We think of all the things we should have done last season, and we’re chomping at the bit to get on with new projects as soon as spring arrives.

If you have a SITS sufferer in your house, there’s at least one way for you to help them get through the winter... and to quit driving you crazy with all that moping and sighing. With the Holidays upon us, the answer is simple: a gift (or two) that will lift your landscape lover’s spirits and put the color back in that green thumb! And if it’s YOU that’s suffering, simply clip out this column, highlight where appropriate and leave it somewhere conspicuous.

Here are some quick idea sparkers for the garden and landscape enthusiasts in your family:

Dig into a book There must be almost as many gardening books as cook books out there, and every year sees more being published. A trip to the book store is always fun, but if you can’t stand the mall crowds, shop online.

In addition to the usual Web-based bookstores, surf around for some special sources, such as http://www.nybgshopinthegarden.org an excellent site hosted by the New York Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find virtual “shelves”of books under topics such as garden design, herbs & healing plants and gardening for children. There’s a sale section with titles such as “The Outdoor Garden Room” ($7.50), “Garden Mania” ($7.49) described as a cornucopia of garden design and ornament, choc full of historical diagrams and drawings, and “Life in the Woodlands: Animals, People, Plants” ($3.48), a book for young adults about how our environment has been damaged and how to repair it.

If you know someone who is into the all-natural approach to creating a landscape, give them “Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.” It lists for about $49.00 but it always seems to be on sale for a lot less and is a useful reference for non-chemical gardening. You can find this at bookstores and from online resources.

Garden Tools A cool tool now will give your gardener inspiration for the season to come! How about a really neat tool caddy? My favorite looks like a small pull-along golf caddy that holds tools instead of clubs. It has a bunch of side pockets for gloves, clippers, seeds and all the other bits and pieces you want to keep handy. Drop me a line at [email protected] for shopping information.

For the Birds... and Bats For the bird lover on your list, you can’t go wrong with a new bird feeder, and this is one outdoor gift that can be used right away. A simple 2-sided or 4-sided hopper is easy to fill and maintain, and some hoppers come with suet cages too.

A bat house kit is a great rainy day project that you can share with the kids. For around $25.00 you can get a kit that is fairly simple to assemble and is an excellent idea if you’re plagued by mosquitoes in the summer. Bats are a great (and natural) way to control skeeters, eating hundreds or even thousands of the little pests every night.

Butterfly Condo Everyone loves the sight of colorful butterflies flitting around the garden in the summer. A butterfly house gives them a good reason to stay around your yard, particularly if you place it near some Buddleia davidii (butterfly bushes). Again, I can give you some shopping info if you drop me an e-mail.

If you have a unique way to banish the winter garden blahs, send it to me in an e-mail and it might end up here in this column.

The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] For resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org