Some years ago, I wrote a cheeky parody of Twas the Night Before Christmas, substituting familiar lines with more gardenesque verses such as, “The flowers were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of compost danced in their heads…”
It didn’t catch on. But this year, I hit on a new prospect; more on this in a moment.
Before getting into the idea, I want to share empathy with anyone already caught up in the holiday gifting swirl, looking for keepsakes to remind family and friends of our caring for one another. Problem is, like with many of you, I have hard-to-please folks on my list. Not necessarily picky, just already have mostly what they really want. So little tchotchkes are about all I have left to offer.
Under the guise of gifts, I’d love to sneak some of my favorite plants into my son’s garden and shower my daughter with indoor plants that could tolerate the low light and low humidity of her apartment without becoming alluring chew-toys for her cat and dog. But I’m afraid it would appear as a horticulturist dad pushing his own hobby onto them or straddling them with the garden version of a new puppy to care for.
That’s where maybe a trio of paperwhite bulbs and a water vase to get them to flower indoors and be tossed later could come in handy. Or home-made jam, a jar of sweet local honey from the farmers’ market, or a tin of Mississippi-grown organic Pearl River Tea from the guys down near Poplarville who grow special camellias for blending into authentic, delightful mixes.
Enter my new scheme: an advent calendar stuffed with little garden-related surprises. There are countless contemporary twists on the traditional countdown-to-Christmas calendar in which, starting around the first of December, every day a window, drawer, or box is opened to reveal a little treat. Usually it’s a verse, poem, bit of chocolate, or other tiny treasure. I’ve seen them with different mince pies, tea sachets, Legos, and even Advent beer. Some of these advent calendars now run into the hundreds of dollars!
So why not one with the gardener in mind? We all love little quintessential things that only do one thing but are irreplaceable. I can easily conjure 24 useful items small enough to fit into little pull-out drawers.
My quick list of hand-size garden bootie that could fit in a pull-out box: packets of seeds, plant labels, a tiny gnome, bird seed, slug pellets, bar of soap, pocket knife, ball of twine, fingernail brush, mosquito repellent, a baggie of Osmocote fertilizer, paperwhite bulbs for forcing indoors, rooting powder, a dibber (hole poker), notebook and pencil, a bag of compost starter microbes, expanding seed starting pellets, waterproof marker, green floral wire, blue bottles for a mini bottle tree, little pots, a spikey “flower frog” to hold floral arrangements upright, pot feet to keep containers from staining the patio or rotting the deck, gift certificate for mulch, and maybe even a personal size first aid kit with tiny tweezers, bandages, and pills for muscle aches…
That’s more than enough, without going big like a new pair of pruning shears, and a flat metal file to keep the shovel sharp. I could get creative with a flash drive for saving garden photos, or maudlin with little pieces of paper promising help with chores or hauling compost and mulch in my truck.
But you get it, and probably already have notions of your own. You’re welcome to run with the idea, jumping on this as a fun seasonal project worth expanding. Send photos.
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.