Gardening Gifts

Black gum leaves a few short weeks ago.

Black gum leaves a few short weeks ago.

Where does the time go? Time and wind have stripped most of the trees bare. Only the stubborn oaks still cling to about half their leaves, biding their time, waiting for me to rake what’s fallen before they drop the rest on newly cleaned lawn. Some days I’m pretty sure I can hear them snickering at me.

Most of the winter birds are here now. I saw my first Dark-eyed Junco yesterday afternoon. It stopped by the bird bath attached to my back deck railing for a quick sip after a trip to the feeder. Soon the flocks of noisy American Robins still greedily stripping the Southern Magnolia cones of their fruits, will move on to warmer climes. Not a minute too soon from the looks of the forecast. Highs in the low 40s by Sunday, lows in the teens likely on my patch of Piedmont.

Long gone to southern climes.

Long gone to southern climes.

Tis the season to contemplate gardening gifts. First, of course, come the thanks for all the garden beauty and plenty that adorned our yards and filled our tables. Then it’s time to contemplate how we can share our love of gardening with others.

In past years, I’ve listed suggestions for publications and products you might want to consider as gifts for the gardeners on your list. This year, I’d like to suggest a few other options.

As my joints have grown creakier with time, I’ve come to realize how much older gardeners (ahem) appreciate the gift of help with their treasured plantings. Senior gardeners may still manage to plant new plants and pull weeds, but repetitive physical tasks like spreading fresh mulch or pruning large branches may be more than they can safely handle. The senior gardeners on your list would treasure a gift of able-bodied assistance, say, once a month, so that they can live with their beloved landscapes as long as possible.

If you are a senior gardener yourself, consider giving the gift of your gardening wisdom to others. Offer a younger family member your guidance and expertise as they plant their first shrubs, venture into tomato cultivation, or try growing fresh herbs indoors. Your years of experience are far more valuable than you may realize.

Don’t have any novice gardeners on your list? Give a gift to your community by volunteering at your favorite public garden or offering your expertise at a community garden. At the public garden where I volunteer, you don’t need to be an expert gardener to help. You merely need to appreciate the benefits of such places, and lend your enthusiasm to the nearly infinite tasks that such operations require.

Gardeners of any age can share the beauty of their gardens with those far away by giving photographs of their charges, or paintings or other forms of artistic expression, if you are so inclined.

Franklinia alatamaha; photo by Wonder Spouse

Franklinia alatamaha; photo by Wonder Spouse

The great thing about garden giving is that you receive far more than you give. Every time I help a novice gardener overcome her frustration with a challenge, or celebrate with her when she picks her first bean crop, or rose, her joy is my joy too.

Finally, consider giving gifts to preserve our dwindling natural gardens — the forests and fields filled with vegetation native to our region. In this age of rapid urbanization, these natural gardens need tending every bit as much as our backyard landscapes, if we want any wild lands, any natural beauty, to remain for future generations.

Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Consider giving donations to land conservation organizations in honor of those on your gift list. If you know someone on your list, for example, is an avid supporter of The Nature Conservancy, donate money in his name to that organization. Worthy organizations abound, and all are increasingly challenged to continue their good work on dwindling budgets.

Even if you don’t have a person in whose honor you’d like to donate, consider giving Mother Nature a gift by making a year-end donation to one or more of the many organizations working to preserve what’s left of our natural world, and to educate everyone on why this work is critical.

Personally, Wonder Spouse and I just made a year-end donation to the NC group trying to preserve one of the few remaining healthy stands of a mountain wildflower in danger of disappearing forever. I told you about their efforts to raise enough money to save a stand of Oconee Bells here.

I checked with the person spearheading this effort. They still need more than $100K to buy this unique piece of land from the current owners. Even if I never see this place with my own eyes, if we can save it, I will always know those wildflowers are still here on the planet, where botanists can study them, and future generations of visitors can be gobsmacked by their delicate splendor.

Garden gifts are gifts of life and beauty, investments for our children, treasures for all the world to cherish.

Persian Ironwood glows in the late autumn landscape.

Happy garden giving to all.


  1. #1 by Genevieve Joseph on November 22, 2013 - 5:33 pm

    Oh, Catherine.

    A wonderful Thanksgiving message, which I have shared with our entire staff across the state. I hope they will be inspired and take heart that their mission is shared and their work appreciated.

    Happiest Thanksgiving to you and yours,

    Genevieve R Joseph
    Associate Director of Philanthropy
    919.794.8870 (Office)
    919.413.5053 (Cell)

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