12-10-10: Gifts for Green Thumbs
Our garden guru Anne Raver recommends gifts for plant lovers:
A few of my favorite gardening books:
The Education of a Gardener, by Russell Page. Page, an English landscape architect and garden designer, worked with Geoffrey Jellicoe; this book delves into the Islamic roots of the classic garden, and describes quite beautifully the basics that any gardener needs to consider in designing a personal garden.
Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables, by Joan Dye Gussow, the 80-something organic gardener who still teaches an acclaimed nutrition and environmental awareness class at Columbia University. (Gussow’s first book, This Organic Life is also a must-read for gardeners interested in growing their own food.)
The Garden Primer, revised edition, by Barbara Damrosch. I return again and again to this book, as my dog-eared bible for practical gardening; everything from when to plant tomatoes to how to harvest garlic.
Give bulbs as low-key, lovely holiday gifts:
Paperwhites, for indoor forcing. These cheerful white tazetta daffodils have a musky, intense fragrance that you either love or loathe. Ziva, which is quite intense, is the most commonly available at most garden centers; may be ordered by mail from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, John Scheepers Beauty from Bulbs, White Flower Farm; very intense fragrance.
Inbal, which has a sweeter fragrance, and must be planted in potting soil, not pebbles, is harder to find. The sources above are sold out; it may be available at quality garden centers.
For an elegant touch, give Ziva paperwhites in a “kit” with smooth black river stones and a tall glass hurricane vase. (Just put the pebbles in the bottom of the vase, set the bulbs into the pebbles, add water, just enough to almost reach the top of the pebbles, but not quite.) This way, your friend or relative will be able to watch the bulb develop—putting down roots, sending up stem and flower bud, and finally flowering, without toppling over.
Amaryllis bulbs are always fun to plant and watch, as they, too, send up a stem with fat buds, and then amazing flowers, which are sometimes fragrant. My favorite are the Cybister hybrids, which have spidery slender petals, also referred to as dragonflies. La Paz is a beauty; so is Evergreen, which can be grown year-round in a pot. Available at local garden centers and by mail order from White Flower Farm and John Scheepers Beauty from Bulbs, to name a few.