In the ‘olden days’ garden catalogs did not arrive until after the new year, the first sign that spring will eventually return. Now my mailbox is already full of garden catalogs describing all kinds of plants, books and tools, every company hoping for some of those holiday dollars that are so important to business in these difficult days. The catalogs are really tempting because many gardeners are like me, greedy for a new plant, or a new book and new information. The trick is to find the right plant, book or information.
Sometimes you know a gardener has a particular passion. I have one friend who always welcomes a handsome pot for her container plantings. However, unless you know that a gardener has a particular enthusiasm a gift certificate is a great way to make sure the gardener in your life gets exactly what she, or he, really wants. Over the years I have gotten a few lovely plants as gifts, and enjoyed them for a while, but chosen as they were by non-gardeners, they were not as hardy as they needed to be for the gardens at the end of the road. I have gotten tools as gifts, but again, non-gardeners are not always able to assess the quality or utility of a given tool. In the case of plants and tools, gift certificates make the perfect gift. And think of the pleasure the recipient will have considering the possibilities before it is actually time to acquire the item itself.
New information can come in a variety of ways. Books, of course. Our local book shops have a good supply of dependable and beautiful garden books. I have written in this column over the past year about many excellent books I have found from “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind” by Gene Logsdon and “50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat” by Ruth Rogers Clausen to the “Encyclopedia of Container Plants: 500 Outstanding Choices for Gardeners” by Ray Rogers. I might even mention my own book, “The Roses at the End of the Road.”
Some of us will think of magazine subscriptions that bring us loads of new information and inspiration every month. I have long been a subscriber to Organic Gardening, Horticulture Magazine and Fine Gardening. Over the years it has been nice to see how mainstream magazines have been paying more attention to organic methods. I have a new subscription myself to Green Prints: The Weeder’s Digest, a quarterly magazine that is a family operation with Pat Stone at the helm and wife Becky handling circulation. You can log on to www.greenprints.com for sample articles, and the monthly electronic newsletter.
Another way to gain new information, support important garden and educational activities, and gain a variety of benefits is by giving a membership to a horticultural or plant society. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society (www.masshort.org) membership will give a free ticket to the Blooms! Garden show in Boston in March, free or discounted tickets to many botanic gardens across the country, free subscriptions to magazines, discounted workshops and programs at the Elm Bank Gardens in Wellesley. They also have a research and circulating library at Elm Bank which is a wonderful resource.
Right in our own backyard we have Nasami Farm which belongs to the New England Wildflower Society (www.newfs.org). Nasami’s many greenhouses propagate thousands of native plants for sale in spring and fall. NEWFS members get discounts on plants, programs and free admission to the beautiful Garden in the Woods and a subscription to the Society’s publications.
I also belong to the American Horticultural Society (www.ahs.org) because it means I get their excellent magazine The American Gardener, but there are other benefits like discounted admission fees to many botanic and public gardens across the country, seed swap, and discounted publications and programs. Their extensive website contains information for members only, but even non-members will find a great deal of useful advice on this site. All these organizations provide education for children and adult gardeners, helping us all to be better stewards of our land.
There are also special plant societies from the African Violet Society of America to the American Hosta Society and American Rhododendron Society. There are even more specialized groups like the Historic Iris Preservation Society. What plant is your gardener passionate about? There is bound to be an appropriate plant society.
Consumables make great gifts. We gardeners can use up fertilizers and potting soil at a great pace. I think my container loving friend would be thrilled to find a pot filled with potting soil, perlite, organic fertilizers like Neptune’s Harvest or Espoma Rose Tone under her Christmas tree. So would I. This may not seem glamorous, but it is such a useful gift, acknowledging all the gardener’s needs and desires.
One of the best garden gifts I ever received was a load of rotted horse manure for my first garden. I was so grateful. Nowadays we don’t need to count on a friend with a farm. We can order, or get a gift certificate for a load of rich compost from Bear Path Farm or Martin’s Farm. The need for compost never ends.
This bag of gifts may not contain much glamour but it sure contains the promise of many pleasures all year long.###
Between the Rows December 10, 2011