December 23, 2010

Live Gifts for the Garden

It's tricky to give gardeners gifts.  Whimsy and garden decor are always appreciated.  Birdbaths, pots, a sundial, all good choices.  Indoor plants wrapped in foil are nice.  Gloves and kneepads are okay although not a lasting gift.

But the best presents I have received for my garden have been live plants.  They remind me over and over of the giver as I tend them and watch them grow for years and years. 

Jim and I received plants as wedding gifts when we were married years ago.

My sister and brother in law gave us a blueberry bush.  It was a favorite for its delicious (but scant) berries that topped my morning cereal --- harvested three at a time --- and for the adventures of the hyperactive squirrel who got caught in the netting we had put over it to keep the birds away from the fruits.  That blueberry bush had history and stories, and it always made me think of my family.

Friends from work gave us two New Dawn roses.  They were tiny things that grew to be rambling, long-limbed blooming scramblers that covered a split rail fence.  They were the first things I saw every time I came up the driveway, and they always reminded me of those friends, even years after we had lost touch.
'New Dawn' from a Dave's Garden forum post.  Ours looked just like this at my old house, fence included, but how could I have never taken a photo of it?

Others gave us perennial plants: poppies and yarrow and other delights that we planted at the feet of the roses.

One of the best gifts I ever got was the Dixie cup with a white pine seedling in it that my kindegartener gave me one Mother's Day.

But here's the thing with gifts of live plants: they belong to the garden, not to the gardener.

When we sold the house the plants could not come with me.  The white pine was by then a big tree, a miracle grown from its tiny paper cup beginnings.   In the hectic days of the move, I did not take divisions of the perennials or cuttings of the roses or the blueberry; I wish I had, but I had nowhere to plant them at the new house at first.  I miss those gifts now.

At our new home we have also received plant gifts: one Christmas a niece gave us a mail order gift certificate for two butterfly bushes, with a ship date for that spring.  She specifically picked out a yellow flowered 'Honeycomb' Buddleia x weyeriana, and of course when I see the big arching shrubs now I think of them as "Angela" shrubs, not as Honeycomb butterfly bushes.
Buddleia x weyeriana 'Honeycomb', but it's really 'Angela Shrub' to me
That was actually a great solution to garden plant gift giving: the paper certificate at Christmas was easy to wrap and give, but the actual gift arrived later when it was time to plant.  And yet it was not a generic certificate that I would have used to buy mulch or garden gloves; it was a specific plant she picked out for my garden.

A simple hostess gift of a tiny hydrangea came from another niece one summer.  Just a little thing in a four inch pot, wrapped in cellophane.  Of course it's now a big glorious shrub with metallic blue blooms (it's a 'Blau Doneau') filling a corner of my garden where there is some shade. 

That's the great thing about shrubs and trees as gifts.  They get so much bigger.  What starts out as a little modest gift, or even as a piece of paper with a promise to ship, becomes a major element in your garden over time, reminding you each year of the giver.


  1. Yes, these gifted plants are a lot like pass along plants in that they keep the giver long in the heart as well as the garden.

  2. What wonderful gifts you have received. I share your sorrow in leaving plants behind - when we moved cross country there was no way to bring any plants with me. Memories had to be left behind. Today I'm scrambling to acquire seeds from my mother of plants in her garden, hoping to bring back some of those plants I cherished.

  3. This is so true, Laurrie--when I look at some of the plants in my garden, I think of the giver more than the name of that plant. I can think of no better way to remember someone special or a special time in your life.

    Best wishes for a very Merry (and white) Christmas!

  4. I can't say that I have received many plants as gifts, but I do agree that plants are the gift that keeps on giving. Though they weren't "gifts"per say, my mother, an avid gardener now in her late eighties, has given me many cuttings and seeds over the years. I treasure these plants and think of her every time they bloom.
    I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the new year.

  5. Lisa, gifted plants really are special in the garden. Have a very happy holiday!

    Marguerite, how nice to get seeds from your Mom's plants. I hope you can watch them thrive for a long time.

    Rose, thanks, these gift plants do take on the identity of the giver. Merry Christmas to you!

    Jennifer, you and Marguerite are both lucky to have your mothers' plants to enjoy over the years. Happy holidays!

  6. That would be sad to leave those gifts behind. The only plants I've gotten as gifts were two Encore Azaleas from my MIL. In the garden are family heirlooms that have been passed down, iris and perennials, that are very valuable to me.

    Wishing you a merry and white Christmas!

  7. Hi Laurrie, I hope you get some very special plants this year. :)

    A very Merry Christmas to you!

  8. Plants as gifts are wonderful, even if you do have to leave them behind. The assortment of litte trees in the opening shot reminds us that there are treasures on the grocer's shelves this time of year. Be sure to check the labels for things hardy in your zone.

    May your Christmas be merry and bright!


  9. Sweetbay, thanks for coming by... have a wonderful Christmas!

    Garden Ms. S, thanks, and a very merry Christmas to you!

    Frances, those little supermarket gifts can grow into real treasures in time. Happy Christmas!

  10. So true...I love the story of your little pine tree. Are you ever able to go by and see that tree now? I bet it delights your son! A friend of mine shares generously from her garden and her cuttings are some of my favorite plants because of the friendship they remind me of...happy New Year Laurrie.

  11. Cat, thanks for visiting. I can see the top of the pine tree when I drive by the old house, and it keeps getting bigger! Have a very happy new year!


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