Dark, cold days lie ahead, but that doesn't mean the gardener in your life can't find reason to feel a little cheer, perhaps even of the holiday type. Here are some gift suggestions for the gardener on your list:
■ The amaryllis is astonishing, especially the white Aphrodite, a double amaryllis with petals lined and edged in red picotee trim. Or the new purple-stalked Sophisticate; its wavy red and green blossoms are simply striking. Easytogrowbulbs.com carries healthy and huge bulbs for about $15 each. Pot them now to personalize this gift, which will brighten up the darkest January. While you're there, check out other offerings, such as the Oxalis, which you'll want on hand when St. Patrick's Day rolls around in March.
■ Do you know someone who has everything? Help them to protect it. The Midland W-120 radio is a home safety device that transmits National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather service warning alerts, warnings about approaching bad weather and other environmental hazards — tornados, ice storms, chemical spills — and even Amber Alert abduction notifications in your area. With battery backup, the radio is designed to operate even when power outages occur.
The radio is equipped with specific-area message encoding, or SAME, technology, which allows it to pick up county-specific information from the National Weather Service.
Shelley Bendall, preparedness coordinator for Lexington's Division of Emergency Management, said, "This radio is the best thing you can do to protect your family and property from severe weather." The radios are available at Kroger, Walgreens and elsewhere; they cost about $40 to 50. You can find your home county code to program into the radio, and more information about emergency preparedness, at Bereadylexington.com. The code for Fayette County is 021067.
■ The Droll Yankees bird feeder can give gardeners countless happy hours watching birds frolic. The Droll Yankees American Hands bird feeders, made in the United States, are sturdy and well designed, and they carry a squirrel-damage warranty. My favorites are the hanging tube feeders with metal-reinforced openings, which have outlasted all others in my back yard. Check out the Bottoms Up Nyjer thistle models, from which goldfinches must hang upside-down to pry out seeds. Add to this gift an excursion to the Audubon Society of Kentucky's winter bird seed sale at Southern States Cooperative, 2570 Palumbo Drive, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 14 and 21. Find more information and birding field trip opportunities, including the annual Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 17, at Audubonsocietyofky.org.
■ Two books by local authors stand out on my holiday reading and gift list this year:
The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by Maggie Green. (The University Press of Kentucky. 368 pp. $29.95.) Growing a successful kitchen garden goes hand in hand with home cooking. Green, whose new cookbook reads like notes from a lifelong Lexington friend, finds the best of what is ripe and ready to eat each month of the year. December features a Kentucky Christmas dinner, cookie gift tips including bourbon ball and buckeye recipes, and the best blackberry jam cake ever. Black-eyed peas and kale are filed under January. Just about every traditional Kentucky comfort food is included in this homey, heart-warming collection. The local produce availability chart in the reference section at the back, sorted by produce type, is a great idea, as are the listings for special suppliers, markets and festivals.
Beeconomy: What Women and Bees Can Teach Us about Local Trade and the Global Market by Tammy Horn. (The University Press of Kentucky. 376 pp. $29.95.) Horn's Beeconomy opens a window on the world of beekeeping and female beekeepers. This history is an introduction to apiary culture and a hint at possibilities for economic engagement. For a quick look at some of Horn's work at Coal Country Beeworks, go to Eri.eku.edu/honey.php. Horn will speak about native plants attractive to honey bees at 7 p.m. March 22 at the Gluck Equine Research Center, 1400 Nicholasville Road. Admission is $5.
■ A wall calendar from the Smithsonian Institution, featuring seed catalogs, has 12 color illustrations taken from vintage Victorian vegetable and flower catalogues in the Smithsonian's collection. It's $13.99 from Zebra Publishing.
■ The Charley Harper 2012 calendar is eye-pleasing and teasing. Harper's clever way of portraying the nuances of a bird's temperament in minimalist graphic style makes for a refreshing look at nature. From cardinals to quails, this is a fun, colorful look at some favorite avian friends. It's $13.99.
■ Fiskars tools are well made, they have innovative gearing and ergonomic handles, and they're comfortable and easy to use. The Uproot lawn and garden weeder gets high marks for enabling gardeners to yank dandelions and other weeds, root and all, from the ground without kneeling or bending over. A foot pedal at the end of a long handle presses a metal claw around underground roots so you can pull them out. This is a great gift for folks with stiff backs. Go to www2.Fiskars.com/Products/Yard-and-Garden. The cost is about $30.
■ Experienced gardeners know that the key to a good garden is rich, healthy soil. So, atop my holiday wish list (are you listening, Santa?) are a couple truckloads of good Bluegrass topsoil and some well-composted horse manure, delivered. Just put a bow on it. Go to Conrobinson.com, 1400 Cahill Drive, off Old Frankfort Pike.