Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Ideas




Tuesday, December 18, 2007

4.1 degrees below zero this morning and the absence of the wind is nice. The nor'easter that hit Sunday dropped over two feet of snow here and being married to a shovel handle, a snow rake, and a snowplow for all of yesterday wasn't my idea of fun. In my high school days I plowed snow with a rag top Jeep for a local lady. It was her Jeep and I got to use it as long as I worked for her. Some memories are fun but youth has a way of covering up bad things. I know today that plowing snow for hours on end in a vehicle in which you could always see your breath was not good. There was a little electric fan blowing on the windshield to keep open a clear spot within the over-glaze of frost. It worked for me back then but now even plowing has become a chore.

A week from today is Christmas. Our tree has been up and decorated for a week, the house is accentuated with flowers and decorations, and a pot of citrus, cloves and cinnamon simmers on the wood stove lending a baseline fragrance we confuse with baking cookies and holidays foods. It is a pleasant time.

Each year I try to offer some thoughts about gifts. They are all simple gift ideas from a simple gardener but things that a gardener or anyone who enjoys New England might enjoy. I understand that this is the age of gift cards but giving just a little thought to a gift shows you care.

Magazines are like newspapers in many respects. They are being replaced one by one with
on-line productions which are much less expensive to produce and more environmentally responsive. I'm reminded of this at holiday time when the mailbox is full of catalogs. I still haven't gone to the "do-not-call" type website for the catalog world. You can actually ask to be taken off catalog mailing lists. According to the direct mail industry, 95% of all catalogs are not even opened before they are discarded and successful direct marketers are pleased if they receive orders from 1% of their mailings. Do the math on that one and you'll come up with a number representing a lot of trees that served no purpose at all.





Just the same, there are two magazines I really like. They are People, Places and Plants and Northern Woodlands, both New England magazines. Gail and I have met PPP's founder, Paul Tukey, here at Vermont Flower Farm when he came to prepare for an article on our business and discuss an article I helped write on growing hostas. He is a great person, knowledgeable of gardening, well traveled, a good father and a gardener with a perspective. In the past couple years he has founded SafeLawns.org, For a Healthier Planet, of which Shepherd Ogden from Cook's Garden days is the Executive Director. If you buy a subscription to PPP right now, they'll send you an accompanying gift subscription for a friend. This way you can give yourself and a friend a super present at the same time. If you look at the SafeLawns site you'll see where Paul has taken the subject of organic lawn care international. In a world that has yet come to understand chemical pollution, Paul's work on safer lawns is worthy of a thought at holiday time. He has written a book, The Organic Lawn Care Manual, describing his pursuits and it's available from Storey Publishing. So the PPP Magazine is a good start and although the book might produce thoughts of prior lawn chemical-spreading guilt, it will encourage a plan for the future. Between the magazine and the book you can either have chemical free lawns and nice gardens or no lawns at all and very, very nice gardens.

Northern Woodlands is like having a personal trainer. It doesn't come out nearly often enough but when it does I am amazed at what I can learn. It's great for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and would be great for a school teacher at about any level. Every issue has some mention of flowers from the wild that we should be watchful of, discover and protect. I especially enjoy the A Look At The Season's page which offers a week by week review of what to expect over the course of the next three months. You might have to adjust a week or so one way or the other depending on where you live but it's a close enough reminder to keep you on target in subsequent years.

Books are traditional and this is an area I leave to bookstores to help with. I could never get through even the new books I purchase every year. A couple I do like are little pocket sized books by Kate Carter. Her first was Wildflowers of Vermont and her more recent release,
Shrubs and Vines of Vermont.
These are valuable little guides which slip easily into a pocket. They have a protective plastic cover too. Publisher and author info is available at http://www.wildflowersofvermont.com

Sometimes gifts can be no more than a super nice card, even a handmade card and some scribbled thoughts. I like to receive these because they stick with me as memories. Our friends Tracey and Diana pick out great cards every year. They are so special to me I keep them out year round. The picture at the far top of the page is from a painting by Cindy Gage Stotz at Studio C. http://www.studiocweb.com It is titled "Spruce Trees".

This card (below) is titled "snowy spruce" and it's by Katharine Montstream of Montstream Cardworks in Burlington. Take a look at http://www.kmmstudio.com

My card has been sitting on the little CD player by the kitchen stove since last Christmas so the snowflakes have a little splattering of spaghetti sauce but it's the trees that count.



Another fun gift is membership to any of Vermont's fine, but too often overlooked museums. Fairbanks in St Johnsbury, ECHO in Burlington, Montshire in Norwich, North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, Vermont Institute of Natural Science...to name a few.

And if all else fails and the gift truly has to be"gardening" and you don't know where to go, give Gail a call at 802-426-3505. A handmade Vermont Flower Farm gift certificate with a picture from one of our gardens will certainly fill the void and solve the gift problem. Where else can you get Vermont hardy plants, garden advice, local chit chat and a sense that this is a place you have to return to time and again?

Karl the wonder dog just gave a whine that in dog speak says "Let's get going, it's time for our last call-of-the-night walk." Tonight it will be a nicer walk as it's 15 degrees out, with gently falling snowflakes and no wind. If you were here, you could walk with us.


Green garden wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
http://vermontflowerfarm.com
http://vermontgardens.blogspot.com



5 comments:

rusty in miami said...

Great post, as always. This year I collected seeds from my garden and sent it with some of my Christmas cards. Marry Christmas to you and your family.

joey said...

Do hope your Christmas was wonderful, George. Mine was miraculous (though hectic) since although still recovering and adjusting to being blind, my sister after 5 months in and out of hospitals and nursing homes is now here with me.

Just read your 'sad' comment about NO cranberries ... come on over!!!

George Africa said...

Hello Joey;

A gift we can always share is one of the experience we have in life. It is free for the asking.

In my other world away from my son's autism, my gardens and nursery business, I work with Vermont's Div. for Blind and Visually Impaired. I'm sorry to hear about your sister but know you will help her continue to adjust. If you have any questions, write me at bizplanr@hughes.net. Remember that as difficult as some responsibilities are, there are glowing positives too. You touch many, many people every day with your photography and writing.

Many thanks!
George

unique said...

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unique said...

One of the things that make Christmas special is the spirit of giving. As children we can’t wait for Christmas morning to open presents. We thought in terms of receiving. As adults we think in terms of giving. And hopefully, our unique Christmas gift ideas are gifts of love. Men look for just the right gifts for women. Women usually shop for men, their own children as well as others, and for family and friends. Here are some suggestions to get you started. http://unique-christmas-gift-ideas-tips.blogspot.com .