Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered how plants have really come to be identified with the holiday season. From the pagan beginnings of Christmas greenery, to more history about the poinsettia than you really wanted to know, and a primer on Christmas cactus and its impostors from other holidays.
Let’s take a few minutes now to talk about some last-minute details about the holidays. Of course, many people work themselves into a frenzy around the holidays. But that’s not what the holidays are really about. They are about simplicity, about family and friends, about reflection and, for many, religious observance.
Now, there is more than one holiday this time of year. Christmas, of course, plays the lead. But there’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, solstice and Yule. People even celebrate the imaginary Festivus, created for an episode of “Seinfeld.”
So, if you are looking for that last-minute gift, don’t do so in haste. The purpose of giving a gift is not to give “stuff” or monetary value, but to give something that has meaning. Even the simplest gift can have big impact if given thoughtfully. Luckily, there are lots of simple gift options for gardeners that can be both useful and thoughtful.
Now, I’m not talking about a chia pet here, but something actually tasteful or useful. Here’s a quick list of things that would make good gifts for the gardener, nature enthusiast or locavore in your life.
- An elegant houseplant: If your gift recipient has a green thumb, help them use it year-round by finding a nice houseplant for them. Orchids and African violets can make a great, lasting gift. I’ve also seen some elegant and attractive planters with succulents in them. Succulents seem to be popular now in the gardening world. Cyclamen are also a bright pick-me-up and are available this time of year. Dress up the plant with a colorful ribbon for a holiday addition.
- Help feeding the birds: Many gardeners also enjoy wildlife, especially wild birds. A nice bird feeder (with some birdseed) makes a quick gift. Don’t forget about the summer, too — hummingbird feeders can be a great gift.
- Give the gift of knowledge: If you know what kind of gardening (perennials, vegetables, roses, etc.) your gift recipient likes, the gift of a book is appropriate. Go beyond the basics and find something unusual. Photography and art books featuring plants are also great choices. It’s not too late to order online, but finding something at a locally owned bookstore is even better.
- Basic garden tools: It may seem too practical, but one can never have too many good hand tools. Good trowels, pruners and gloves make excellent gifts or stocking stuffers.
- Seeds and plants: While they might be a little harder to find this time of year, there could still be some seeds lurking around on store shelves. The gift is even more meaningful if they are seeds you have saved. Put a packet in with a Christmas card, put some in the stocking, or hang one with the bow on the package.
- A fruit basket: While it may seem a little old-fashioned, I can remember the prevalence of fruit baskets given as gifts when I was younger. My great-uncle and great-aunt always visited my grandmother the week before Christmas, bringing cheer and a half-bushel basket of fruit. While fruit may not be “special” or “exotic” like it was years ago (when an orange was a totally unique and sought-after gift by children), there’s something both nostalgic and simple about the gift of hospitality.
Of course, some of the most thoughtful gifts aren’t gifts at all — well, at least not in the traditional sense. Sometimes, the best gift is to do something nice, whether it is for your recipient or for something in their honor. Here are some gift ideas where you can help give back.
- Offer a helping hand: This is especially good if your recipient is older or needs assistance. Give a coupon good for a certain garden task or for a certain number of hours of garden work. Sometimes the best present you can give is the gift of presence, especially when it is helping someone do something they love but struggle with.
- Give the gift of fresh food: There are many organizations that help feed the hungry, and they often struggle to find fresh food for their food pantry and soup kitchen. Give a gift in someone’s honor to be used for fresh produce. Another idea is to make a donation to Manna Meal, a soup kitchen in Charleston. They grow a garden each year to supply fresh food for their meals — they feed two meals a day, 365 days a year, to several hundred people who are hungry. You can donate at mannameal.com or call 304-345-7121. (Or find a local organization near you)
- Give the gift of a new start: One of those national charities that I think makes a wonderful thoughtful gift is Heifer International. Their holiday catalog features agricultural gifts that you can give to individuals and families in need all around the world. Gifts start at as low as $10. Some of the gifts include starter flocks of ducks and chickens, a beehive, trees and farming supplies such as seeds. The gifts help to provide for the recipient, but also provide a means of income. Last year, I gave my mom a flock of ducklings and my dad a beehive — their favorite gifts by far. You can give at heifer.org and print a card to give to your honoree in whose name you have donated.