Gift-giving is a big part of the holiday season. Besides family and friends, it is common to give gifts to pets too – a bone for the dog, a catnip mouse for the cat. Many people also give their gardens attention and love, so how about something special for the garden too – you wouldn’t want it to feel left out. Why not give the garden itself something special – an interesting and unique plant to add beauty and make all your trees and shrubs feel part of a special collection.
With that in mind, here is a selection of special plants that any garden would be proud to make room for. Of course, if you feel funny giving it to the garden, you can always give it to the gardener – he or she will surely appreciate the attention, and an addition to the plants surrounding your home.
What kind of plant would your garden like? Surely something special and unique, eye-catching and beautiful, while also something that will not be much work for the gardener, and that will grow into a feature to enhance the beauty of any garden. With that goal in mind, let’s look at a selection of special trees and shrubs that are worthy of being a true gift.
The Japanese Paperbush, Edgeworthia tomentosa, really is something special. Although better known in Europe, it has only been available for about 15 years in North America, so it is still not well-known, and will be something very new, that once seen will never be forgotten. This deciduous shrub will grow about 7 feet tall in time, and be perhaps 5 feet across. All winter it will be decorated with large flower buds, hanging from the branches and covered in long, silvery hairs – already an attractive winter feature. As soon as winter begins to fade, perhaps as early as February in warmer places, those flower buds turn upwards and open into clusters of white and yellow tubular flowers. As an extra bonus they also radiate a delicious fragrance all across the garden. The effect of these flower clusters, each one white and capped with a bright splash of yellow, on the bare branches, is absolutely stunning. Some people say they look like lightbulbs, but everyone who sees this plant wants one. It is a unique vision that is hard to capture in words. The solution is to plant one, you truly will be amazed, as is everyone who sees this beautiful plant.
You might think such a gorgeous plant was hard to grow, but the Paperbush is not. It is hardy in sheltered spots in zone 7, and thrives in warmer areas. It will grow in sun or shade, in any well-drained soil. Just put some organic mulch over its roots in spring, and it will be perfectly happy. Not content with being amazing in spring, it also has large, blue-green leaves all summer, that give it a unique ‘presence’ in the garden.
Rio Red Grapefruit Tree
Many people like to start the day with fresh grapefruit, and how much better would that be if they came right from your own garden? Grapefruit lovers especially love pink grapefruit, for its beautiful color and sweeter taste. They are popular for desserts and cakes too. But not many people know that you can grow your own in a pot, no matter where you live. Just keep the potted tree in a cool, bright, frost-free place when outdoor temperatures are below 50, and you will have fragrant blossoms and a crop of fruit over Christmas, which is why this is such an appropriate gift for your garden. The first fruit will be ready in October, and you can just leave them decorating the tree until you want one – they will stay fresh that way until late spring, so it’s fruit for up to 8 months of the year.
The ‘Red Rio’ variety was especially bred to be hardy and fast-growing. This is the queen of pink grapefruit, with rich, pink-red flesh, hidden beneath yellow skin. In summer this beautiful evergreen tree will grace your balcony, terrace or patio with that Mediterranean feel. Just place it in a bright, sunny place and water when the soil begins to become dry. A special tree to make a special garden.
Pink Lady® Apple Tree
There is something appropriate about fruit trees for presents, so let’s suggest another one, that will grow outdoors across almost the whole country. One of the most popular apples around is the Pink Lady, with rich-red skin over crisp, juicy, white flesh. Everyone loves the blend of sweet and tart that makes this tree unique. We often think of apple trees as a northern plant, but the Pink Lady Apple Tree is a low-chill variety, which means even the mild winters of the south are enough to make it bloom prolifically. The bumper crop of fruit keeps for three months, so you will have a steady supply for eating and baking right up to the Christmas season. That apple sauce you make can be from your own garden – impressive!
Plant your tree in a sunny place, and keep a circle of clear earth around the base, so that grass doesn’t compete with your tree for nutrients. You will be harvesting your first apples within two years, and full-sized crops in just five. Nothing beats growing your own food and giving your family something nutritious and free of chemicals.
When it comes to trees, the most gift-worthy surely are the Japanese Maples. These gorgeous plants, available in many, many varieties, bring a special grace to any garden, and that specialness makes them idea as a gift – for the garden or the gardener. Each variety has its own unique qualities. Some are upright, growing into small trees. Others are mounding or cascading, making graceful bushes that are ideal to grow in a pot, even if you don’t have a garden at all. Many are colored red all summer, and they all turn stunning fall colors, from orange to purple, depending on the variety. It’s hard to suggest just one or two, because they are all so lovely, but for something really unique, consider the Fernleaf Full Moon Maple, with broad leaves like a hand, and vibrant fall colors. Or the Butterfly Japanese Maple, which goes through the year changing constantly from pink to scarlet to red, on leaves that are edged in white – a truly unique tree.
Red Star White Cypress
Let’s finish with an evergreen that has something special to offer in winter. The Red Star White Cypress, is a selected form of an American native tree, the White Cypress, Chamaecyparis thyoides, which also makes it a good choice in this time of ecology and conservation. An upright dense bush or small tree, this plant spends spring and summer clothed in blue-green leaves, but when colder weather comes it turns rich plum shades of purple. Instant Christmas decoration for your garden, with no work needed from you. It will grow well in ordinary garden soil, and it is also one of those special trees that will grow in wet places, where many other plants fail completely. A sunny spot is best to bring out that vibrant winter coloring, but otherwise this is a carefree plant that asks for nothing but a drink of water during any extended periods of drought.
These trees are all unique plants that make ideal gifts for gardeners, or, as we began, simply for your garden. That way you get to give yourself a gift too! In this festive season, don’t neglect the place that gives you so much pleasure all the seasons of the year.