’Twas the night before Christmas, 

and all through the house

not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there. 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds

While visions of BB guns danced in their heads.


Yes, I made that last thing up. I never remember dreaming of sugarplums, or anything else for that matter, as a kid.

I didn’t go to sleep on Christmas eve night, but lay with eyes wide open, anticipating the next (early) morning.

My sister, Jeanette, and I hit the floor running at 109 Lake St. about 4 a.m., before Daddy could stop us. (I got the BB gun.)

I read sometime ago of a man who made a whistle out of a poplar stick, just as he did as a boy.

He meticulously described every step of the project, from whacking the outside of the bark to loosen it, right down to the finale of cutting the hole for the sound to emerge.

He then recapped his bland pleasure as he whittled, then added, “But where was the ecstasy when I blew it?”

Ah, where is any ecstasy anymore like that of the innocent experiences of childhood, whether blowing a whistle or anything else that regaled us as youngsters?

Well, planting a shrub, maybe, or, better, actually seeing it live. You might find ecstasy there, you know, like winning the lottery.

There are, even at this late date, possibilities for making the gardener on your Christmas list at least happy, if not quite ecstatic.

I am not asking for boulders any more. One reason is that they’re too much for me to handle, even with a come-along. Now, manure, that’s a horse (or chicken) of another color.

Fine friends and kin have gifted me with everything from a few fresh horse dollops from a church group years ago to trailer loads of more horse dollops, and right on down to bat guano from caves in Mexico.

(Note to family: I am about out of guano.)

Since I think you fellow gardeners need some of the time- and work-savers I have enjoyed for nearly a half century, I will fill you in on a few of them so that you can order from Santa (or Amazon) some like appurtenances. 

Among my favorite tools is a trowel aptly named “Heavy Duty Digger Trowel.” The one you need is the 12-inch size.

Try Amazon or Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (Google) in Virginia. They have them, and this is a gift that any gardener will love.

Both of mine have been filed down to sharpen them from originally a foot to now about 9 inches. This over 30 years or more.

This trowel is made from a single piece of stainless steel, and you can run over it with a car with no bending, but perhaps a tire blowout. Don’t try this at home.

It is the best trowel I have ever owned and, when sharp, will cut right through small roots and other minor obstacles.

Designed for planting small bulbs, it is also great for digging out for annuals and perennials, and even small shrubs. It won’t cost you much more than $10.

Another of my favorites is a digging spade made on a smaller scale than standard spades. It is designed for women and wimps like me.

The handle is long enough for quite a bit of leverage, and the blade, about 10 inches, can be easily kept sharp, cutting the effort for digging at a minimum.

Incidentally, a 7-inch file is indispensable, and costs less than $10.

Get your gardener two while you are at it, at any hardware or box store. 

Another indispensable item in my tool room is a gooseneck hoe.

The handle is full-length like a regular hoe, but the blade is V-shaped and, I think, made from a blade of an old fashioned mowing machine.

It is some 3 or 4 inches wide at the connection to the handle, and the tapering shape makes it ideally suited for fine weeding between close-grown plants.

It is ideal for weeding young chickweed at this time of year, and I plan to get busy with it soon. 

Happy Christmas to all, 

And to all a good night.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

Load comments