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Garden Variety: Aunt Ron’s Holiday Advice For The Gift-Lorn

By Ron Sullivan
Friday December 22, 2006

Uh-oh. It’s the 22nd. Last-minute gift shopping! If you celebrate Solstice, you’re late already. No matter. ’Tis the season on some calendar or other, and there’s a good chance you’ve forgotten someone, maybe or the quasi-mail service lost that perfect present you found in the Fussbudgets International catalogue. You’ve just now fished it out of your spamtrap, the email notice about the Christmas party at the executive director’s husbands’ brother-in-law’s stepdaughters’ new club, and you know that if you don’t show up you’ll be nominated to that Interminable Search Committee again. And you’re the Human Resources Director’s Secret Santa, oh joy. 

If the person you need a gift for is a gardener, you’re in luck. There’s doubtless some piece of crap, um, fascinating vintage repurposed objet d’art around the house you can give a gardener, if you call it a garden ornament. If it’s rusty, so much the better. If it’s not, scrape patches of the surface off and say, “It’s supposed to acquire a patina if it’s kept outdoors long enough.” 

If it has parts that still move, say it’s a gopher or deer repellent. When it doesn’t work, it’ll be just like every other alleged gopher or deer repellent.  

Or you can do a quick and legal Martha Stewart number and handcraft something.  

Strategy One: Grab the nearest concave object and plant something in it. In a streetside garden in south Berkeley, I’ve seen a pair of old boots planted with succulents. They looked good, too.  

Sneakers would give the plants even better drainage. Quick, take that pair you keep by the back door for emergency trash runs and split up the echeverria on the windowsill and/or the sedum groundcover out front. If you have a matchmaking urge, give the left shoe to one victim and the right to another.  

If the giftee is the sort of person who bronzes baby shoes, feel free to cover your old Keds with metallic spray paint—ideally before planting. Paint them white if they’re going to a Shabby Chic home. Glue beads all over them if you have spare beads and glue. Sign them if you have the nerve.  

Strategy Two: Promise something your target will have to try on first. Garden gloves, or a garden hat, or (if you’re feeling generous) a pair of Felco pruners. Make a date for February, after the mad shopping rush is over.  

Strategy Three: Find a pass-along plant. Split up your spiderplant or orchid or some other houseplant you actually like and pot up the puppy for a present. This is probably a less dubious gift than the version that includes old shoes. To glam it up, fish some gravel out of the aquarium for a top dressing, or swipe your kid’s marbles or even a scoop of kitty litter. Probably best if it’s clean kitty litter.  

If all else fails, call the nearest stable. A great heap of horse manure is always in good taste. No stable? Try City Hall—wherever you live.