The Utterly Inessential Mother’s Day list: 16 gifts guaranteed to either surprise or delight

Is your mum the sort who's happiest with what she knows — or one who loves a surprise? With Mother's Day imminent, Toby Keel and Hetty Lintell pick out gifts which will mix up both choices. What you do with the information is up to you...

The Utterly Inessential Shopping List’s stated aim of celebrating those things which you don’t need, but really would rather like, hits a snag each Mother’s Day. For while none of the things listed below is anything that we couldn’t live without, celebrating your mother is anything but inessential. So hands in your pockets and do the right thing.

And remember: a bottle of gin is always a failsafe option. If you’d rather go straight there then our round-up of the best gins for Mother’s Day is the place to look.

Traditional choice: Montblanc fountain pen

The art of handwriting might be in trouble in a world of keyboards and smartphones, but it isn’t dead yet as these elegant, traditional and stylish pens show. From left-to-right: Patron of Art Homage to Victoria Limited Edition 4810 Fountain Pen M, £2,615; Patron of Art Homage to Albert Limited Edition 888 Fountain Pen, £7,300; Fountain Pen Patron of Art Homage to Moctezuma I Limited Edition 888, £7,500.

From £2,615 from

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Surprise choice: Oppo Pad Air

If you’ve thought about getting your mother an iPad, we’ve some bad news: the huge inflation has hit the Apple tablets, and the basic entry-level model now costs a whopping £500. Ouch. But if your mum is simply after something to use to check her email, watch BBC iPlayer and see what tomorrow’s weather will be like, the Oppo Pad Air is a great choice. Beautifully-built from metal, yet light, thin and smooth in operation, it looks like it costs far more than £200, and its screen size and shape actually works better than an iPad if you’re watching TV shows or films: it’s 16:9, the same as a television, so you don’t get big black borders at the top and bottom of the screen as you’ll find with an iPad.

Oppo Pad Air, £199 from

Traditional choice: A year’s worth of flowers

A bunch of flowers is always fabulous, and never a bad present for Mother’s Day. But a bunch of flowers every month? That’s something very special which will put a smile on your mother’s face for a year — and will let her brag to her friends about how thoughtful you are. Bloom & Wild offer a three, six or 12-month subscription, at £20 for classic blooms or £25 for seasonal specials.

£20 for classic, £25 for seasonal from

Surprise choice: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

A 21st century update of that HMV advert: His Master’s AirPods?

There’s a part of us all that wishes phones still had headphone jacks, and headphones had wires to plug in. But times change, wireless is largely the only option in most instances. If your mother regularly catches trains or aeroplanes, she’ll thank you profusely for going for these utterly superb — but very pricey — headphones. If she just wants to listen to podcasts in bed, the non-pro 3rd generation AirPods will be just as good, and you’ll save £90.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation, £249 from

Traditional choice: Posy earrings by Lily Gabriella

‘Spring is in the air and with it the joy of flowers creeping back into bloom,’ wrote Hetty Lintell in Country Life the other day, as she choose some of her favourite jewels to reflect her favourite season. And these delightful earrings were pock of the bunch.

£18,500 from

Surprise choice: Google Pixel Watch

It’s bizarre to think that the latest generation of smartwatch is 100,000 times more powerful than the NASA computers that handled the Moon landings in 1969. Whether your mother would need — or even appreciate — that much power sitting on her wrist is a question only you can answer, but there’s no doubt that this is an astonishing gizmo. As well as getting your messages and controlling your music, you can also use the watch to look after smart home features like lights and heating, use it to pay for things, track your health and fitness, and much more. Get the 4G option and you won’t even need to take your phone with you for it to perform its tricks.

Google Pixel Watch, from £339

Traditional choice: A big box of Montezuma’s chocolate


Just as flowers don’t go wrong, so chocolate always hits the spot — and Montezuma’s have some lovely selection boxes for Mother’s Day: this one, pictured, is the Milk Float.

£22.99 from

Surprise choice: Nama sneakers

Made from embroidered suede and recyclced mesh, these trainers are pretty much the antithesis of ordinary footwear — and mothers with a devilish streak will love them.

£595 from


Traditional choice: A scarf in Harris Tweed or a Liberty print

With some presents you’re always taking a bit of a gamble, whereas others feel like they couldn’t possibly backfire. These lovely scarves fit right into the second category.

£59.95 from House of Bruar

Surprise choice: You’re going to need to send an edgy card

Buying cards has been particularly tricky, with only the limited racks in the supermarket to choose from in the latest lockdown. But there are plenty of places doing things online instead, albeit at a price — from the cute to the funny to the divisive. Prime candidate is the one above, which your mother will probably find either wildly insulting, hilariously funny, or a bit of both.

£3.29 (plus 81p delivery) from

Traditional choice: Say it with (a tube of) flowers

The British florist sell gorgeous tulips by post, which arrive in funky cardboard tubes. Simple and just perfect — and for extra credit you can even get a weekly, fortnightly or monthly subscription.

From £20 at

Surprise choice: A lovely jug

From left to right, these are a Green Pelias pitcher (£55, Sophie Conran —, Green Tartan Squiggle jug (£75, Matilda Goad & Co — and a Bordallo Pinheiro Strawberry pitcher, 2L (£59 from Divertimenti, 020–7581 8065 —  Delightful.

Surprise choice: Ariat Wexford boots

These classic Chelsea boots are available in a range of colours — just a great mix of practical and beautiful.

From £155 from

Traditional choice: Brook + Wilde Marlowe pillow

Pure decadence, this pillow filled with Hungarian goose down isn’t so much a thing to lay your head down on — it’s more like melting softly into a giant marshmallow. The down is ethically-sourced, the covering is Egyptian cotton, and the effect is really rather wonderful.

£229 from

Surprise choice: A bath she’ll never want to get out of

Relaxing in the bath is surely the Mother’s Day Starter for 10. So let mum relax in style.

From £382 at

Traditional choice: A beautiful botanical bundle

Have we gone past ‘peak succulent’, as the millennials describe these things? Maybe, maybe not, but if your mother is yet to hit the point of cactus saturation (cacturation, perhaps?) then these look lovely.

£74 from