Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Thoughts

Monday, December 11, 2006

32.5 degrees here on the hill. Same temperature for the past 3 hours. Gail has a nice roast chicken in the oven. It smells delicious and prompted Karl, the wonder dog, to jump up and trot-trot-trot to the kitchen in hopes that something dropped off the counter onto the floor. He and his vacuum-like mouth just returned to his dog bed beside me, empty with disappointment but obviously relieved, knowing that the oven timer is wearing down. Dogs are smart critters and Karl, the wonder dog is exceptional.

Not only is the oven timer wearing down but the number of days left for rational holiday shopping is drawing down too. I have never seen myself as a shopper and as many can attest, I am not known for my package wrapping skills. Some have even commented that I clearly own stock in 3-M based on the amount of Scotch tape I go through. Regardless of that, I guess some think I should be consulted for gift ideas. With reluctance, and in hopes that none of this will be held against me, here are some ideas.

There are three words in my garden vocabulary that come to mind when I think through the first suggestion. Peace, tranquility and water. Hemingway was an author I admired and he commented on the relationship of man to water from the perspective of one's sanity. He usually was thinking of ocean-sized bodies but I think we can agree that water has a tranquilizing affect which brings a peacefulness to us. To that end I recommend a pre-made pond liner available at the Home Depots and Lowes of the world, rural farm stores and probably many hardware stores. A liner is as close to "instant pond" as you can get.

I bought the liner pictured above about ten years ago. It was inexpensive then so is probably about $135 now. 7-8 feet across, 28" deep, with a shelf for placing potted water plants and little raised bubbles on the bottom so when you step in to wash it out, you won't pull a Simon and Garfunkle "slip-sliding away" and get hurt.

This gift would best be purchased for someone who really wants one but doesn't live close by. That's because someone has to get it into the ground. When I close my eyes I can still see the sticker plastered on the side with that adhesive that never comes off. It stated that "In just 4 hour hours you'll be enjoying the beauty of your first water garden." Yeh right! With a back hoe, a truckload of sand and two helpers you couldn't get it done by noon if you forgot about breakfast and just started before the sun got hot. If you decide to buy one, write me and I'll explain how to install it the right way. Once it's in the ground you can plant around it, in it, add an electric or solar water pump, buy all sorts of water nozzles and add a number of other things to your list of garden chores and garden budget. Oh yes, and where do those goldfish go every fall???

Antique garden art is a broad category but some people do like to complement their plants with other items. Gail picked up two of these cast iron garden urns at an antique store in St Johnsbury for $250. They are in perfect condition and give her a chance to practice different container gardening styles each year. I half expect someone to stop by at night and grab one but so far they're still here. After the last good frost we clean them up and bring them in for the winter to display in the front room. Nice addition!

The armillary is another find. It came from an old dairy farm in Beverly, Massachusetts long ago. It's missing part of it's directional arrow but it's an eye catcher and a conversation piece. You'll also find out how many people haven't heard "armillary" before. You can still find which way is north even if you buy one without the pointer like we did.

Birdhouses come in all sizes and they're really nice. As long as they have a hole size of 1.5" you're guaranteed of getting some bird to set up residence for a while. They might not be bluebirds but they will be birds. The best might be handmade houses, especially those made by a kid with developing carpentry skills. To me there is only one place to purchase birdhouses and that's from Brown's Foster Home in South Gardiner, Maine. I stop by their booth every September at the Laudholm Craft Festival in Wells, Maine but their website will tell you the whole story. You'll get a warm feeling and a great "like-no-other" birdhouse made from recycled materials and found art.

If you want to give plants, our website
is one of thousands of nurseries available to help with your questions and your gifts. Gift certificates are commonly available and they often make it easier for the shopper who isn't up on botany but does like to see holiday smiles.

Garden labels are something lots of gardeners haven't figured out yet but want to. We use a very basic metal product from Eon Industries but there many varieties available. Search under "Plant Markers" and you'll find quite a selection. Ken and Sue from KS Plant Markers will show up and I know Sue will be happy to answer questions and help with an order. If you want to go one step further, kick in a box of Avery waterproof laser labels and you're likely to hear "How'd you come up with this?" The labels come in clear or white. We use clear with Times NewRoman font but the choices are endless.

A subscription to a gardening magazine is priceless if it's a regional magazine that tells you who is planting what and where. People, Places and Plants Gardening Magazine covers New England and upstate New York. Paul Tukey is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher and one of the nicest in the business. Take a look at Right now if you buy yourself a subscription you get another for free.

And if all these choices fail to stir an idea that seems just right for your special gardener, a hand made gift card with an invitation to spend the day on the road shopping nurseries near or far, will certainly do the trick.....and Vermont Flower Farm could be one of those stops.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature remains 32.5 degrees and a light mist continues to fall while last night's snow slides slowly off the roof, one section at a time.

Warm Gardening Wishes,

George Africa

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