Archive for Sunday, December 13, 1998

HOLIDAY HAUL

December 13, 1998

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There are several gift ideas that will please whatever gardeners you have on your shopping list.

It's almost as if the recent spring-like temperatures fooled us about the actual time of year. I've seen people mowing lawns recently and sprinkling newly planted grass seed. Begonias with a southern exposure along our back porch sent out deep pink flowers, well past the normal freeze date.

Nonetheless, it is almost wintertime. And that means the gift-giving season is quickly approaching.

Thankfully, unseasonably warm weather made the going a little more pleasant, enabling early shoppers to escape the bulkiness of heavy coats and jackets as they went from one store to another. With our minds temporarily shifted to spring, coming up with gift ideas for gardeners on our list has been a little easier.

I recently visited some local garden centers for a look at new and unique gift ideas and found that gifts for gardeners come in all shapes and sizes and a variety of price ranges.

The living gift

Naturally, one thinks of giving plants to a gardener. Carly Adams, operations manager at Sunrise, suggested giving potted plants whose bloom can be enjoyed now, such as an amaryllis or paperwhites. To make the gift even more festive place it in a decorative container or wire basket that has been wrapped with sheet moss and over planted with ivy or ferns.

She also suggested different types of topiaries made of ivy or herbs. Herb topiaries actually do double duty -- as a well-trained planting and as a handy herb that can sit in the kitchen window during the winter waiting to be used for culinary purposes. When the topiary needs trimming, "you just snip them off and throw them in the pot," she said.

Adams noted that all topiaries come with easy instructions for that well-manicured look.

"They require minimal care," she assured me. "If you gave it as a gift, you could easily explain (it),"

"The big thing now is the rusty lawn ornaments for the garden," she pointed out.

She showed me lawn chairs, planters, bakers' racks and arbors made from metal. The metal ornaments can be used indoors or kept outside. Left with their natural finish, they rust as they age. If a less rustic look is desired, the metal can be sprayed with a polyurethane in a variety of colors.

Water and fire

Across town, Holly Greer, associate manager of Earl May Nursery and Garden Center, had a few other gift ideas.

"The thing that seems to be most popular are the water gardens and tabletop fountains," she said.

As the two of us spoke, the soothing sound of a small tabletop water garden was audible. If you like the idea of water, yet want to get more adventurous, try an aquarium.

"We are really seeing an influx of the Mexican pottery," Greer said.

Other garden ornaments that are both decorative and functional are the chimineas.

"We have the miniature chimineas and the full size which have gotten to be real popular," she said.

Since I wasn't familiar with these items, Greer told me that the miniature ones could be used with candles or for aromatherapy. Their small size -- plus the fact that they use only candles -- permit them to be used indoors. However, they can be placed on the patio or deck.

"The big ones are used more on the patio," she said. "On cooler evenings where you've got 50 or 60 (degrees) and you just want something to help take the chill off the patio."

The large chimineas use natural firewood. Greer also noted that many people use pinon wood, a type of pine.

"It is a natural mosquito repellent and so it is used in the summer even on the patio," she said.

Greer provided a whole list of other gift ideas for the garden including baskets, garden tools, statuary, wrought iron patio furniture and birdfeeders.

"People are really into birdfeeders," she said.

Landscape details

From there I wandered over to Clinton Parkway Nursery and Garden Store Inc. and interrupted nursery worker Laura Krom for her suggestions on gift ideas.

"I think the gazing globes would be really beautiful," she said.

Though gazing globes, available in several colors, are intended to reflect the garden during the summer, Krom felt that they would be beautiful with the sun and snow reflecting off them.

"That would add a little color to the yard," she noted.

Krom also suggested living plants such as "red twig dogwood because they have the red stems, junipers, boxwood. Anything that's evergreen would be nice to use," she said. "Anything that has a nice green leaf."

If you are worried about planting at this time of year, she said, "You can keep planting them all the way up until the ground is frozen. So there's still plenty of time."

Krom has other ideas about gift ideas for gardeners -- stepping-stones.

"Everybody thinks of doing all these things in the spring, getting their yard ready in the spring," she noted.

So why not do some of the busy work, like laying out the hardscaping projects, now when you are not so absorbed with the planting, pruning and weeding of spring.

"It's not too late to do stepping stones, bird baths or any of that kind of stuff," she said. "You can get it out now, especially birdfeeders, because the birds are going to come in. They are looking for the food."

Judy LaFond of Cella's told me that metal sculptures are a popular item right now, especially those shaped like animals. I saw several small ones in the shape of roosters and much larger ones like, fittingly, reindeer.

LaFond also mentioned that metal candleholders that can be placed indoors or outside are another wonderful gift idea. As the candle burns, its light is reflected through the cutout sides of the metal holder, causing the intriguing shapes to dance against the wall.

Whew! By the end of my shopping expedition, my head was filled with gift ideas. Unfortunately, I don't have too many gardeners with whom I exchange gifts. Even so, the trip was valuable. Now I know what to put on my list.

-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can send e-mail to her at gardenspot@ljworld.com.

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