published: December 2019

by Matie Belle Lakish

Holiday gifts for, and from, gardeners can be as creative as the gardens themselves. Whether you are giving a gift to a beginning gardener or choosing something for the experienced gardener who has “everything,” it is the thought that counts. Gardeners specialize in “creating,” and creativity is key to sharing your love during the holiday season.

I think back on some of the gifts I have been given and have received with deep appreciation: a pair of “rose-pruning” gloves from my sister that had long leather cuffs to withstand thorny bushes, a gift certificate for plants at a leading nursery from a gardening friend, a lovely hyacinth bulb in a pot from my neighbor.

Of course, I always like plants in my house, and poinsettias are traditional for the season. Daffodils and tulip bulbs in pots, as well as other potted flowers that can go in the ground next spring are always appreciated and can brighten up a room with their color and aromas. I have a jade plant in my living room window that has witnessed countless family dramas over its 20 or so years. Its original donor has now died, and I appreciate her every time I water my little tree. It has been decorated by my grandchildren nearly every holiday with handmade birds from Grandpa.

My neighbor is a photographer, and over the years has taken many photos of flowers and plants in my garden. I have a photo of a sunflower on my wall that is just about life-sized. Whenever I look at it I remember the summer of its growth, and it reminds me of my sister, who has always loved sunflowers. Other photos by my friend preserved the plants and animals that visited my garden in the past, such as the hummingbird moth sucking nectar from my lilac bush. A packet with a few garden cards makes a great gift. Many other artists in our area create in many mediums that are garden-related. How about an outdoor sculpture for a friend’s garden, or a painting of fruit or flowers that will last forever? Garden-inspired music, anyone?

Food items from the garden are always welcome. I have a few jars of crabapple jelly that I hope to share this year. I have received welcome gifts of champas (rose hip) jelly, chokecherry jelly, and serviceberry jam. I often include home-canned fruit, salsas, and relishes in gift baskets. Herbal vinegars and herb-infused oils make a great gift for salad lovers. A package of hand-made kale chips is a unique and healthful gift. I often receive packages of dried apples from my sister in Oregon, who has some century-old apple trees.

We often make baked goods to share during the holidays, but other prepared food items might also be appreciated. Plastic cartons of frozen soup can share your garden produce while providing warmth and nutrition to those who don’t cook often. Frozen casseroles can be heated and served later in the winter.

Dried herbs and native plants can be great gifts. A selection of tea herbs, or seasoning herbs, packaged attractively, is a creative and inexpensive gift that can bring joy for months to come. Or perhaps you would like to make sage or juniper bundles for aroma or for ceremony.

Most gardeners have a tool in mind that they have been needing, but have not yet acquired. Maybe they’ve mentioned a certain kind of hoe, or maybe you know they could use a good pruning shear. Even something as practical as a solid rubber wheelbarrow tire, or linseed oil for oiling their tool handles may be welcomed. Did you notice that their garden hose is too short, or has cracks and kinks that are frustrating? Give them a new higher-quality hose, or perhaps a nozzle that works better than what they are currently using. What other tools could they use?

How about a book on a topic they have expressed interest in? High-altitude gardening is always relevant to this area. Maybe they would like more information on hugel culture, growing in straw bales, various irrigation techniques, or new gardening tools. How about new research on soil microbes, earthworms, or pollinators? Perhaps they are building a new greenhouse and need more information on construction techniques, or planting suitable varieties. Some of my favorite books are the old Rodale books, How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables by the Organic Method, and Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. These and other classic gardening manuals can sometimes be found in second hand stores. I also have an interest in how food was grown by our ancestors and native peoples in various places. I particularly like to read first-hand accounts by Native Americans living in the southwest, as their information is so relevant to our climate and growing conditions.

Maybe a magazine subscription would be a good choice. I have always enjoyed my editions of Mother Earth News. There are other good magazines relevant to our unique growing conditions, and other media forms, such as videos, may also be appreciated.

If you are a gardener, and your recipient is interested in becoming one, he or she may appreciate a “gift certificate” of your time and energy. Time spent together preparing a planting bed next spring can yield two gifts: a place to grow their first plants, and the knowledge of how to do it in the future. Most of us gardeners have had mentors, at one time or another, who helped get us started. The passing on of our knowledge can be one of the most positive gifts we can give to the next generation. Or we may have friends or relatives who can no longer garden for themselves. What better gift than to plant that new rose bush or fruit tree? Perhaps a gift certificate for help weeding, pruning, or mulching.

And finally, how about the garden product itself? Did you ever package up an extra-large cabbage or put a bow on a fine winter squash? What about a Holiday Veggie Basket with just the right sized veggies for your favorite cook?

Wishing you a fruitful and creative holiday.