Gardening Tips: December 18, 2013
Holiday Gifts for Gardeners
I hope you survived Black Friday or even Black Thursday this year without going broke buying “bargains.” A bargain is only a bargain if you actually have use for the item. I have noticed that some people buy stuff just because it’s on sale. This makes for great legitimate “bargains” for others at garage and yard sales next summer. Holiday gift shopping may be a joy for some people but for others it is pure torture. Some of us are just not that good at picking out gifts that will be appreciated. Fortunately almost three quarters of all the households in this country participate in some sort of gardening activity so the following suggestions might make your task a bit easier this year.
Begin by visiting a local greenhouse or garden center. You will immediately see many beautiful plants that have been grown just for the purpose of being a gift. I realize that most of the big box stores also sell plants at prices that local businesses often cannot match but these “loss leaders” are sometimes designed to lure customers into the store where they will purchase other things at prices that are not necessarily the lowest. Shopping locally helps to ensure that we will actually have choices in the future. Many small businesses go out of business when they are continually undersold by a large store that can afford to lose money for years. Once the competition is gone, prices will rise.
You might think that the prices for certain staple items would be the same at all branches of any given big box store, but I have seen firsthand that this is not the case. The exact same gallon jug of bottled water costs 25 cents less in Bradenton, Florida than it does in Catskill. Christmas trees are often sold by non-profit organizations such as the Boy Scouts or 4-H clubs so please try to find a local source for your tree this year.
The selection at local stores is also often better that the big stores. Colorful Poinsettias in all shades of red, pink, white and even yellow are locally available at prices ranging from a few dollars to $40 or $50 for a truly spectacular plant. Besides Poinsettias, flowering cyclamen, gardenias, chrysanthemums, Paperwhite narcissus, spring bulbs such as daffodils and tulips and a few other flowering plants may be enjoyed and then discarded without guilt a few weeks after the holidays.
Other flowering plants may become more or less permanent additions to the household. Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti make wonderful, long-lived house plants as do Amaryllis bulbs. Amaryllis bulbs in particular are almost fool proof and even people with no gardening skills or those who live in tiny apartments can enjoy this gift for years with little effort.
Knowledgeable indoor gardeners will appreciate a beautiful orchid, African violet, streptocarpus, miniature rose or gloxinia. Try finding these plants at a super-size store. Seed packets also make nice stocking stuffers. If your home is too small for a regular Xmas tree a living Norfolk Island Pine or mini spruce tree makes a nice substitute. Fragrant wreaths or table decorations or door swags made from fresh greens add a festive touch to any household. Of course don’t forget the holly and mistletoe! It is interesting to note that mistletoe berries are poisonous so the mistletoe packages you see for sale often have real leaves but plastic white berries. Holly can be carefully pruned from your foundation plants but be careful not to butcher the shrub!
Gardener’s love gadgets so fancy watering cans, atomizers, decorative planters, good gardening gloves and pot markers are a good choice. Decorative “Gro Lights” heated cables or pads, special fertilizers and high quality hand tools will be appreciated. If your friends like to cook, consider a herbal wreath or a braid of garlic or chili peppers. Sachets of sweet smelling potpourri, concentrated oils to make your own potpourri, dried herbs or other dried flower arrangements are popular gifts.
Weather devices such as indoor/outdoor thermometers, minimum/maximum thermometers, complete indoor-computerized weather stations, compost or soil thermometers, rain gauges, wind socks, weathervanes are sure to please gardeners.
Garden books are always welcome especially if the gardener has a special interest in a particular type of plant. For the computer enabled, there is also software that is aimed at this growing demographic. There are programs that will allow you to select plants to landscape your property and you can see what the plants will look like in five, 10 or even 20 years.
This Holiday season, when it comes to gift shopping, think Green!