Gifts Gardeners Dig

A plant trade of Hakone grass

Gardeners love to share plants and, about three years ago I received a chunk of Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ – aka gold Japanese forest grass in exchange for a division of thyme from my gardens. When I received this trade I was not quite sure where to place the shade-tolerant ornamental grass but it soon found a new home near a huge oak tree – a dark spot in my Connecticut garden that needed a bright punch.

The new transplant grew slowly that first season and I was not convinced it would survive the winter.The following spring brought a pleasant surprise.

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Though not initially enamored with the coloring of Hakonechloa, the grass soon grew on me. Its drooping leaves swayed gently in the breeze. Its gentle, pale yellow and green hues added soft, bright color to an otherwise darker group of foliage, without screaming look at me!

Hakonechloa Macra Aureola From Debbie Summer 2012 Thumb

Then oak tree had to come down to allow more sun to reach our rooftop solar panels. With that huge tree –  at least 80 feet tall – gone, the area took on a whole new look. No longer overshadowed by the massive tree trunk, the hakonechloa grass and fellow perennial plantings became the focus, rather than under-plantings.

With new-found sunlight, the plantings showed renewed vigor. The pale yellow tones of the hakonechloa grass played well with the creamy variegation of adjacent carex, and offset the pale green lichen covering a nearby granite boulder. The creamy hues of the grass perfectly matched those of the tickseed coreopsis blooms at the front of the bed.

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The area is still developing. A small hypericum bush (left center) has yet to come into its own, a low-bush blueberry (right center) should now spread its wings without the competition for water and nutrients from the giant oak. To the left of the hakone, a climbing hydrangea that once grew up the oak trunk will soon cover the remaining stump and wend its way along closer to the ground, and the carex will need some thinning so it doesn’t overrun other plantings. But the hakonechloa grass I was initially apprehensive of has become the anchor to this area.

Carex Tickseed Coreopsis Hakonechloa Macra Summer 2012 Thumb

Now, each time I look out from the front of my house, I catch a glimpse of the hakonechloa grass, enjoy how its presence pulls its neighboring plants together into a cohesive group, and  think of Debbie, from A Garden of Possibilities. Her hakone division is another gardening gift that keeps giving … well worth my thyme in trade.

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Gifts Gardeners Dig – 2011

I’m in an anti-large-chain-retail mood. It’s not even December yet and I’m already overloaded by the constant barrage of buy-me ads littering my mail (both snail and e-), the Sunday paper, and the airwaves.

Not trying to offend anyone here but … I’m repulsed by television visions of early shoppers shoving, fighting, pepper-spraying, mauling and even shooting each other to get a bargain. I suppose this would be an appropriate spot to insert a video of such antics, but why?

I don’t appreciate pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music and holiday decorations and I fail to see why intruding on Thanksgiving is worth a low-priced TV, video game, hot toy or cell phone. Thanksgiving and the following weekend is my time for relaxed reflection on life’s treasures, to relish family, and to tend to autumn tasks – managing leaves, installing deer fencing, splitting and stacking firewood.

I acknowledge my views may differ from the mainstream … I don’t start holiday decorating until December is fully entrenched on the calendar … but because I don’t want to miss the gifts for gardeners idea boat, here’s my suggestions for plant lovers on your gift list.

Gift certificates to a local nursery.
I don’t know a gardener who does not appreciate the opportunity to stroll through their local greenhouse during cold winter months or a garden center in spring. Trust me. Do some sleuthing to learn your gardener’s local greenhouse of choice and get the gift certificate from there. If your gardener has physical limitations, offer to accompany him/her on the shopping trip and help plant the new greenery. Your time will be appreciated as much as the gift certificate.

Subscriptions to gardening publications.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For Nutmeg State gardeners I recommend two bi-monthly publications, Connecticut Gardener and the Home and Garden Newsletter.

Connecticut Gardener is written by and for … you guessed it … Connecticut gardeners. I’ve subscribed to Connecticut Gardener for years and, in 2012, I’m slated to be one of their contributors.

The Home and Garden Newsletter contains research, updates and expertise of the University of Connecticut and it’s eight Cooperative Extension Centers.

There are a few national magazines I find consistently packed with good gardening information. Fine Gardening is published by The Taunton Press which also publishes many fine gardening books.

Then there’s a new online magazine, Leaf. It’s inaugural issue, Autumn 2011, hints Leaf will be interesting, humorous and trendy. Purchase a print copy to wrap and be sure to suggest the gift recipient sign up for future issues online

Organic Gardening is ideal for food gardeners, Mother Earth News fits do-it-yourself types, and The Herb Companion is a thoughtful choice for those who love cooking with and growing herbs.

A gift membership.
The Connecticut Horticultural Society offers educational programs, garden tours and trips (read more in my next GOOPs post on December 1, 2011). Membership to The Connecticut Botanical Society – they focus on plants in the wild – brings a newsletter, notice of the group’s walking tours, and events and access to the society’s dried plant library of more than 36,000 entries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The American Horticultural Society, a national educational version of state-based hort education groups, sends their print magazine, The American Gardener,to every member.  It, alone, is worth the membership fee . Members can also take advantage of discounted entry to many botanical gardens and to some flower shows.

This idea list is mostly tallied from personal experience. It should get your creative gift-giving juices flowing but if you need more ideas read my Gifts Gardeners Dig article from last year or stay tuned for my upcoming post, Books for Gardeners.

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