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Gardening

What to gift a gardener? Funny you should ask.

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: December 5, 2019
  • Published December 5, 2019

Sedum Morganianum succulent plant (Getty Images)

The gift-giving holidays are now upon us, and already people are asking what to give the gardeners on their lists. Those who have read this column over the years know this is not my favorite question to answer. Not only do I not know the gardeners in question, I am having severe pangs of conscience about the impact of some gifts on the environment.

I am of the opinion that all gardeners ultimately have a desire to protect the environment. And, at least among my readers, the motto “do no harm” had better be at the fore. Given that requirement, what would Greta find to be an acceptable gift for the holidays?

For starters, I am betting a succulent garden to care for would make the grade. These plants are now the rage. There are dozens and dozens of different varieties, and they all are easy to grow and even propagate. If you hop on the web and look up “succulent gardens” you will see plenty of examples of outdoor garden beds full of succulents, but also lots and lots of different indoor succulent displays as well.

Note the containers used by some of these commercially available set-ups. You could buy one of these, or you might be skilled enough to make some of your own. In any case, indoor succulent garden containers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are open while others are more terrarium-like. Pick out something you think would work on your gardener’s desk and fill it with unusual succulent plants that you can find in any floral department. A great gift with a neutral environmental footprint.

Next, I am sure Greta would consider gifting a wooden garden cart acceptable. All gardeners know what I am referring to: those rectangular wooden carts with two large, bicycle-like tires that work better than a one-wheeled wheelbarrow. Pretty carbon neutral, all in all, and very easy to assemble if you get a kit. Regardless, the design of these makes it easy to haul around the very heaviest of loads without resorting to a gas engine, and I guarantee that it will be a most appreciated gift. I can attest that these last at least 40 years; mine came from my father when I started gardening in Anchorage.

How about making a small, hydroponic kitchen garden, similar to those that are sold under the Aero Garden brand? Greta would probably join me in a boycott of the real item because the controlling interest in the company also sells Glyphosate. The idea of being able to grow some herbs and food in the kitchen, however, is a worthy one, and a homemade system will entertain most gardeners on a list.

Simply google “homemade Aero garden” or “homemade kitchen garden” and you will find several suggestions for simple-to-make, hydroponic set-ups, which are suitable for the kitchen. Any one of these would make a great holiday gift. By the same token, you can use soil in a flat and simply supply that and seeds for favorite herbs. Your gardener, if he or she is a real one, will already have lights under which to grow her gift from you.

Full bloom pink amaryllis flowers (Getty Images)

Every gardener would appreciate another amaryllis bulb or some paper whites to force into bloom. Appropriate containers and soil or pebbles to use while growing will spice up the gift. The amaryllis will bloom every year for a long, long time.

A worm bin, for the right gardener, is a terrific gift that can be put to use immediately reducing some of the holiday food and paper wastes. You can find these locally.

Mushroom kits would meet Greta’s criteria. Fun to grow and more fun to eat! My favorite fungi site, fungiperfecti.com no longer carries them, but they graciously lists many places that do. How can you go wrong. Mushrooms are fun to grow and eat! While at FungiPerfecti, check out their offerings.

Finally, consider a membership in the Alaska Botanical Garden. I like this one as it is a gift that keeps on giving all year. Every gardener will find something there to enjoy from the display beds, discounts at the nursery to classes and evening events like the current light display sessions. Come to think about it, why not buy yourself a membership!

Jeff’s calendar

Holiday lights at The Garden: Do check out the Alaska Botanical Garden display. Lots of activities. 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Jan. 11. $5-$7 (children under age 6 are free). alaskabg.org

Poinsettias: No drafts, let the water drain and soil should be just slightly moist.

Christmas tree recycling: Yes, Alpar and the gang will repeat their epic recycling program. No wires or tinsel. Plan ahead for recycling. alparalaska.com/wp. Details to follow the holiday.

Fungus gnats: Those annoying little flies ... they live and breed in your plant soil. If you suffer from them, put newspaper circles around your plants, soak and don’t water so much. Let the surface of your soils in your pots dry out.

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