Hints, wishes and garden-variety fantasies from some of our favorite herb lovers.
As secret desires go, ours might not set pulses racing. But now that most gardens lie dormant and winter’s chill keeps us closer to hearth than yard, our minds turn to those gadgets and great ideas that would make gardening’s sweet perfection all the sweeter. Or maybe we’re thinking of that one gizmo that would keep our labors from being such a consummate pain in the Aster novae-angliae.
Scratch any gardener and you’ll find, just beneath the surface, a complete gear-head. It’s not that we’re greedy, it’s just that we’ve thoroughly embraced the great truth of our fathers: For every task, there’s a tool. This should be good news for those who love us: If there’s a gardener in your life, you never need to look far for a gift. Sometimes, what we most yearn for is some time to ourselves and a hand shoveling the compost.
What are you wishing for during these long winter days? What’s the best gardening gift you’ve ever given or received? Are you an herb lover, dreaming the winter away? What’s the stuff of your dreams? Write us a letter or an e-mail and let us know. Meanwhile, a few of our favorite herb lovers have made some wishes of their own. We hope you enjoy hearing from them; perhaps you’ll be inspired to try something new.
A friend took me out to dinner on the downtown Chicago riverfront recently in a fabulous restaurant. The meal was so perfect that I felt there could be no adequate end to such enchanting food. Then the waiter brought us a steaming pot of Silver Needles with Jasmine Tea. It was almost a spiritual experience: sipping that tea, smelling the aroma!
Upon investigation I found the tea is a special blend, offered by Todd and Holland Tea Merchants. Not only do they offer some of the best premium teas of the world, they also have special tea tours, including
one next April to China, in which you tour the famous, as well as some of the more exclusive, tea-growing regions of that country.
My dream gift would be that tour, whether in person, or by way of a large helping of their fabulous teas.
My favorite gift for any gardener is a little hand tool called a Soil Scoop, from Garden Works, which sells for about $16. Many upscale garden centers sell them, or you can contact the distributor. Note that this is a different product from the Fiskars Soil Scoop, which is a little plastic thing. I love my Soil Scoop, which I use to dig little holes, stir up soil in containers, transplant just about anything, etc. The pointed end makes digging easy, and it holds soil much better than a regular hand trowel.
And as I already have a Soil Scoop, I’d choose Fiskars Softouch MicroTip Pruning Snip, for myself. I could have used them a while ago when I cleaned up my scented geraniums.
My Christmas wishes are pretty simple. I would like the Herb Calendar (Clarkson Potter) by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead, one of the very large rosemary plants that often show up in various stores around Christmas and a trowel that is easy to use and doesn’t bend under pressure. I have a large trowel collection, but the perfect one has proved elusive.
How about an antique seed cupboard? I’d love one of those things!
I love to receive gifts of plants, even the most common, for ever after I associate the plants with the people who gave them.
—Jo Ann Gardner
Any beautiful garden art or rare specialty herb would always bring an appreciative smile to my face. However, at the top of my wish list would be a truckload of rich, loamy compost with someone to haul and distribute the compost to each bed. Now that would be a dream most any gardener would like to see come true!
— Kris Wetherbee
I'm drooling over some Trillium grandiflorum ‘Snowbunting’ I saw in Gardenimport’s Summer/Fall 2003 catalog. The write-up calls it an “outstanding double-flowered trillium” that’s very rare. Consequently, it costs a whopping $99.95 (CDN) per plant! The photo shows wonderful, slightly frilly, gardenia-like flowers glowing among typical trillium foliage. I can just imagine them in my shady back garden. However, the catalog notes that they’ll only accept orders from “very accomplished gardeners who have the growing conditions this unusual variety must have to flourish and be appreciated.” Somehow, I don’t feel I’d quite measure up to that yet.
Of course, I’d also be happy with some nice flagstones to replace my paver patio, or a garden gazebo, or lots and lots of lattice to cover my garden shed. If I were being realistic, I’d ask for white martagon lily bulbs — tall, dainty-flowered creatures that also tolerate shade. But even those don’t make me go all gooey like those blasted double trilliums.
—Mary Fran McQuade
In a perfect world, I would be receiving the gift of garden time — time to dream and design and delight in my own garden, as well as the gardens of others. In exchange for this rare gift, I would dream of joy and peace, I would design my life to reflect them, and I would delight in how gardens can change our lives.
My Christmas wish would be to have all of the plants in my garden labeled with solid metal plant labels from Lark Label. Many of my container plants have Lark Label metal signs, with common name, scientific name and plant family. People love it. They don’t have to ask “What’s that?” — they can simply read the label.
I’m dreaming of Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia, one of the most scrumptious books I’ve seen in ages. It’s a hefty, two-volume set and carries a hefty price as well. But I love it so much I’m giving it to two of my favorite gardeners for their holiday gift. With more than 20,000 photographs of plants — from delicate ferns and vibrant flowers to sturdy oak trees and ancient, glorious Douglas firs — it is truly a plant lover’s delight. Text entries are written by a collection of writers whose pedigree forms a Who’s Who of American Garden Writers, and the delicious photography is a feast for the eye. I especially love the photography’s variety. On one page you’ll see a close-up of a gardenia so creamy white and emerald you can practically smell a Southern summer. A few pages later you’ll see a photo of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons that invites you to put on your hiking boots and head out.
I could spend hours poring over this book for pleasure, but it also serves as a superb resource, with solid information on useful particulars, such as the origins of North American flora, background on hardiness zones and climate change, as well as per-plant entries on botanical names, common names and cultivation information. A star indicates Flora awards, bestowed on plants recommended as outstanding in their group by the project’s consultants. You won’t want to schlep Flora on visits to the local nursery, but any plant aficionado would love it for the coffee table or resource shelf.
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