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Gifts that give back

The garden scope

The amazing Brunton MacroScope (www.close toinfinity.com or [907] 258-1505), $179, with carrying case, neck strap and lens caps) will alter how you relate to the world by changing the way you see it. Like binoculars, it lets you spy on a bird in midair. But with an easy turn of the side-mounted knob, this scope also zooms down to objects just 18 inches away for an intimate look at an insect's antennae — without disturbing the bug. Sturdy, lightweight and tripod-mountable, it's small enough to fit in most stockings.

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Portable greenhouse

What gardener doesn't covet a cozy greenhouse for sprouting seedlings, rooting cuttings or coddling a collection of winter-sissy orchids? In lieu of a pricey permanent structure, consider a self-erecting portable greenhouse from FlowerHouse. The roomy DomeHouse ($500) offers 156 square feet of growing space. The smaller DreamHouse ($270) is also dandy; the SpringHouse ($175) still provides headroom. Made from UV-resistant rip-stop fabric, they pop up like magic and store compactly. Sold at http://www.flowerhouses.com or (810) 686-8489, and at local home centers.

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Tree pruners

The Fiskars people have been forging fine tools since 1649. Among their modern best: tree pruners that slice through inch-thick wood as if it were butter, using precision blades, rotating heads and ropeless cutting action. The 62-inch long aluminum Pruning Stik (around $70) weighs less than two pounds. The aluminum-fiberglass Telescoping Pruning Stik (around $110) is 30% lighter than a standard pole pruner, extends to 13 feet and includes an attachable 15-inch saw blade. Sold at home and garden retailers.

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Heavy-duty gloves

Jim Kleinert, the hand surgeon who designed the ergonomically correct Bionic Gardening Gloves (www.bionicgloves.com or [877] 524-6642) has taken his craft one step further with new Extended Wear Gardening Gloves ($39.95) and a Heavy Duty Pro Style ($44.95) version. In addition to anatomical padding and breathable web zones found on original Bionic gloves, these built-to-last models are reinforced in all the right places.

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The potato patch

Gardeners of all ages can grow their own spuds with the Complete Organic Potato Patch Kit ($39.95, http://www.woodprairie.com , [800] 829-9765) from Wood Prairie Farm, a family operation out of Maine. The kit contains four different varieties of double-certified organic seed potatoes, a rugged American-made hand hoe, organic potato fertilizer, a planting guide and a recipe booklet. At harvest time, you'll gather your crop in the Maine-made garden hod and store your bounty (those tubers not eaten immediately!) in the mesh potato bag.

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A kind word

Gardens and poetry — could there be a better match? Plant lovers can festoon the fridge and file cabinet with Magnetic Poetry's Gardener Kit ($9.95 ), which includes 240 "verbally fertile" word magnets, such as bug, blister, summer, grow and worm. For outdoor fun, there's Poetry Stones Deluxe ($49.95), with a starter bag of concrete mix, three tint pigments, assorted forms, a trowel, instructions, plus 70 upper and lowercase press-in letters, numbers and punctuation. Be creative: row markers, pavers, address blocks, handprint stones and pet memorials are a few suggested projects. Both products available at department stores.

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Memberships

Two other gifts of enduring value should make any gardener smile: A membership to a favorite public garden, with such yearlong perks as first pick at plant sales and discounts on classes and events; or a truckload of sweetly scented organic mulch — several cubic yards full — dumped in the driveway just after Jan. 1 and ready to spread throughout the garden.
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