Gifts Inspired by Nature for Mom

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Artwork by Cindy Hendricks of Woodfield Press

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”  Hans Christian Andersen

On a chilly April morning, with such a deceptively brilliant blue in the sky, my desire to get outside and do something overwhelmed my common sense knowledge that we had at least a couple more sub-freezing degree nights ahead of us. But, I couldn’t stop myself. Our local farmer’s market doesn’t open until April 16th, however my determination to surround myself with the joys of springtime in the backyard was overwhelming.

Once inside the hothouse oasis of the local nursery, my senses ran amok. Being that my husband has expressly forbidden overcrowding our house and yard, I came up with the brilliant idea that Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and no one could deny me the right to buy gifts for mothers – mine, his and anyone else’s mother.

So, I put together a selection of some gifts that are a little different from the traditional chocolates and delivered arrangements. I think there’s something for all the moms who enjoy a little sunshine, bird chirping and digging in the dirt.

Mary Enblebreit

Beloved Artist Mary Englebreit has created a magical collection of garden fairies for her Merriment collection, featuring delightful little sprites from reading fairies to artist fairies, and all the darling accessories to brighten up a miniature garden this summer. All can be found at  http://www.maryengelbreit.com/collections/garden.

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Pops of color will enhance every flower garden and landscape, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and bumble bees. Mom will enjoy hours watching an endless array of bathing beauties – blue jays, chickadees and woodpeckers, fluttering their wings at her bath.

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Two things Mom can use at the beginning of every gardening season, are a good pair of flower sheers for deadheading her flowers and a nice pair of garden gloves, like these cheerful pink polka dot models. They’re neoprene and thin, so they give you the necessary practicality you need for planting seedlings, and they wash up nicely when covered with mud.

DSC01608Placing bright flowers and hummingbird feeders near windows Mom frequents is a great way to enjoy a summer full of cheerful winged feeders. The simple syrup used to fill hummingbird feeders is very easy to make. No need to add red food coloring, as the birds are equally attracted to clear syrups.

DSC01605Another meaningful gift that mom doesn’t always think of herself is planting a memorial garden. I myself have found them to be very healing.

 

Not only do I feel a spirituality when I’m outdoors, reflecting on the tranquility of nature, but there is a gentle reminder of the cycles of life, that provide us with solace. One of the best memorials I was ever given – an apple tree – was when my grandfather died. Thirteen years later, I think of him every springtime when it blooms. The idea has become so popular that many garden centers carry memorial stones or lights, along with companion flowers.

After mom is done in the garden, she’ll want to pamper and soothe herself with relaxing gifts she can enjoy in a nice steamy, hot shower or a luxurious bath, filled with the luscious scent of garden botanicals.

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Or you can treat her to a little pot of sunshine she can enjoy indoors on a cold and rainy day.

And finally, Papersource has some amazing flower print wrapping paper that’s almost too pretty to use.

I hope you found a couple of good ideas to welcome the season of getting outdoors, if not for mom, then for a friend or  even yourself. As Henry James once said, “Summer afternoon; summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Get out and enjoy one while you can!

Blogger Melanie Bisson, a Smart Perks employee, enjoys vegetable and flowering gardening, bird-watching, and SHOPPING!

Enchanting Miniature Gardens

use2Springtime is the season of cute! My mind is full of bright colors and baby animals. I want to smell green grass and fresh dirt. I want sunshine, even on the days when the temperatures are still struggling to hit the mid-50s.

Spring can’t come soon enough for me and I need to do something green and creative. That’s why I love mini gardens so much. Even in the dead of a Minnesota winter, I am lucky enough to  have two amazing garden centers nearby with large greenhouses, featuring elaborate fairy gardens or gnome villages, like the one pictured above in Tonkadale Greenhouse.

Since I can’t start planting my garden until the danger of a hard frost has passed (in mid-May), a good alternative to full-scale immersion in outdoor gardening is to create a potted or miniature garden indoors.

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You don’t have to live in a cold climate to enjoy miniature gardening. Container and terrarium gardening can be done anywhere and is simple enough for anyone. They require very little space. In fact you can create a tiny garden in a mug or teacup.

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Here are some quick tips that I’ve learned after several springtimes making mini gardens.

  1. Pick your container & your plants at the same time. Tiny, small-leafed plants, mosses and succulents are perfect for tiny gardens. I love to use Irish moss for ground cover. Most greenhouses now feature a section devoted to small plants for fairy gardens. These plants won’t get too big and crowd each other out. Check the tags on the plant for size guidelines. Or ask your nursery expert for some good suggestions for companion plants, given the size of your container. I like to mix it up with a couple of different small varieties of moss, ivy and ferns. Or, I’ll do all  succulents. Succulents are among the most forgiving of plants, and if you’re a plant newbie, they are harder to kill (I kid). use 8
  2. Plan for drainage. Remember, plants don’t like wet feet!  If your pot or container (you can use anything from a wood crate with a liner, a big bowl, a tin bucket, an old coffee can; I’ve seen some really cute mini gardens in repurposed containers) does not have a hole in it, providing adequate drainage is crucial. What I like to do, depending on the size of my container, is layer small stones or pebbles at the bottom of my container, with space for water to seep through. A thin layer of activated charcoal wicks moisture and absorbs any stagnant water odor. Dried moss can be used at the pebble layer to absorb excess moisture as well. 945239_657248600967981_589083094_n
  3. Use good soil. Choose a fluffy potting soil that is not too dense or too wet. I typically use Miracle-Gro, but any fluffy potting soil that allows air, moisture and nutrition will do. Depending on the size of my container, I use odd numbers of plants, based on the old decorating rule. For a medium-sized container, I will use three. I space them evenly, giving them room to grow, and tease the roots a little before nestling each little plant into it’s soil. Once the plants are in, I use extra fine sand, finely shredded bark, shells, or decorative moss as ground cover over the soil.
  4. Imagine and play. Then comes the fun part! Play time. I always start with a vision. I have little Zen gardens, cute gnome gardens, animal gardens, spring themed gardens, gnome getaways. Let your personality be your guide. I have a friend who loves the ocean and made a darling container garden using fine white sand, shells, and beach glass. use9
  5. Sunlight and water. Save the tags that come with your plants. Most miniature plants make good partners, requiring the same amount of light and water. I have always enjoyed my mini gardens indoors and then brought them outside, to the deck or patio, once the weather warms up.
  6. Enjoy! Caution: Creating these miniature vignettes with plants, and tiny little things that make you smile, is addictive. You start to see every small object as something that could serve a purpose in your miniature garden, from an acorn to agate or marble.

The miniature garden is the perfect March treat to tide you over until your warm weather plants can go in. But if you simply can’t wait, violas, or johnny-jump-ups, are a good cold-hardy plant that you could probably enjoy outside out today. Happy planting!

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Blogger Melanie B., a Smart Perks employee, is a Zone 4 gardener who believes in fairies and gnomes.