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Archive for Sunday, December 5, 1999

THE GIFTED GARDENER PRESENTS FOR A GREENTHUMB CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS TIME OR SEEDS

December 5, 1999

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From seeds to soil, hundreds of items await the deserving gardener.

Shoppers are plentiful and noticeable at this time of year. They plot and plan, ponder and wander, hustle and bustle. Until, finally, they shop, they buy and, one-by-one, they cross names off their gift list. Then, they return home to wrap and hide their newly purchased gifts.

Others, similar to shoppers, barricade themselves in bedrooms or basements to fashion one-of-a-kind homemade gifts. They are the ones who gather up raw material in the creation of unique gifts for the unique people on their list.

For every kind of gift-giver the December holidays offer an ideal chance to show family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers and other special people in our lives that we love and care about them. Indeed, everyone is looking for the perfect gift.

For the people on your list who are gardeners, gift choices are abundant. Gifts for gardeners come in all sizes and shapes. They range in price from pennies to more expensive gifts. Yet, some of the most treasured gifts a gardener can receive do not cost anything.

On the frugal side, a few packets of seeds tucked in a small terra-cotta pot wrapped in tinted tissue paper and tied with some curly ribbon would gladden the heart of any gardener who receives it. Garden gloves are a perennial favorite. And don't forget a kneeling pad or a package of twine or cluster of stakes.

More expensive gifts include trellises, wagons or wheelbarrows, potting table or garden bench. These large gifts might be hidden in the garage or basement. Send the gardener on a scavenger hunt following a trail of clues until the gift is found.

An easy gift to shop for is a subscription to a gardening magazine. There are dozens of them and each one is a starting point for the formation of ideas in a gardener's mind.

On a recent sunny weekend, I wandered around town in search of gift suggestions for gardeners. I popped into stores, like many other day-after-Thanksgiving shoppers, and into a few garden centers, looking for gift ideas. The stores were filled with an assortment of presents, many which would delight a gardener. Everything from hand tools to gardening boots, from manure to sundials, from gazing globes to wind chimes was available.

To be sure, the nurseries don't look the same in winter as they do in the summer. They are more barren than we are used to seeing them. Nonetheless, they are filled with great gift ideas. Seasonal plants, like Christmas cactus, amaryllis and poinsettias light up the counters and benches. They make an ideal present for a hostess or for the person "who has everything."

If you are looking to give a live plant as a gift, try something unusual. Doug Davison, owner of Vinland Valley Nursery, suggested a gift of topiary. The plants are placed in decorative containers and trained to grow around sculpted frames. Wreath shaped topiary is most popular at this time of year. Other shapes, like reindeer, are fitting for the season.

For the more adventurous soul, bare topiary frames are available. "They come with instructions," Davison assured me. "It's very simple. They (the frames) come apart so you can fill them with sphagnum" and grow your own plants.

"Ivies are the best," he recommended, noting that there are a lot of different varieties, some of which are hardy throughout the winter. Others need to be taken inside during the cold weather.

Davison also mentioned the popularity of herb topiaries.

"They are great for the kitchen window," he said. "And fundamental." What gardener wouldn't like to snip a bit of fresh rosemary from a topiary wreath in the middle of winter to flavor a special recipe?

For those of you coaxing a budding gardener in a young child, how about a mimosa plant. Davison said the sensitive plant is a big hit with children.

"It's the interactive plant," he said.

Still looking for unusual gifts, select a vintage ornament or a piece of vintage pottery.

The day of my shopping spree was too nice to head home, so I wandered over to Pendleton's Country Market. The walls and display tables were festive with wreaths, snowmen, if fact, entire snow "families," bouquets and swags that would make any home look like Christmas.

"We have wreaths, bouquets, floral decorations and gifts of all kinds," Karen Pendleton, owner, said. The dried flower arrangements are beautiful, as those familiar with her handiwork will know. Many of the evergreen wreaths have been preserved with glycerin, enabling them to last more than one holiday season. "They will last about four years," she said.

One popular item has been wreaths made from material that birds find edible -- corn, sunflowers, bittersweet and millet. "Feeding birds is popular," Pendleton said. To that end, she has decorated baskets filled with pine cones. A little peanut butter spread over the cones gives the birds a tasty treat.

Other sought-after gifts are the herbal wreaths and those decorated with, believe it or not, chili peppers. Pendleton said that the chili peppers are a "hot" item this year. Decorative gourds make great gifts for creating a fun holiday atmosphere.

Of course, she also has many dried flowers for the truly creative people wanting to put together their own arrangements.

"People are more used to having flowers in the house, year round," Pendleton noted.

"It's the food for the soul idea."

Surrounded by all the gifts at the Country Market made me wonder what kind of gift Pendleton herself would like. "Now if someone was buying for me," she admitted, "I'd want shears." John Pendleton was sitting in a chair nearby. When asked what he would appreciate as a holiday gift, he said, "Just a nap."

What a great idea for a gift, especially if your finances are limited. Give a gardener a gift of time. Offer to mow the lawn, pull the weeds, mulch the flower beds, water the garden.

Or better yet, free a gardener from a task that takes him or her out of the garden. Give your own "gift certificate" for the performance of household chores so the gardener can get into the garden. Offer to baby sit, wash the car, change the oil, go grocery shopping, clean the house, cook a meal, do the laundry. My gosh, the list is endless.

Practical garden gifts are always appreciated. Most gardeners would love a 10-pound bag of rich potting soil or a 25-pound bag of premium birdseed. How about vermiculite or soilless seed starting mix and a few packets of seeds. Hand tools, stepping stones, bird houses and bird feeders make wonderful presents.

Don't forget gift certificates to garden centers. Lawrence is blessed with many fine nurseries. Gift certificates feed the imagination all winter long. Those who receive such a gift remain deep in delightful dreams during the winter in anticipation of spending it come spring.

So, whether you are getting a ready-made gift or making it from scratch, the gardeners on your list are sure to appreciate your thoughtfulness. And that makes the season all the more worthwhile.

-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. You can reach her at gardenspot@ljworld.com.

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