Express-News Weekly Column
Saturday, December 9, 2000 Submitted by Calvin Finch, Ph.D., Director
of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
HOLIDAY GIFTS IDEAS FOR GARDENERS
It is mostly gardeners that read this column.
Every year I produce a list of recommended gifts for the gardener
and it is the reader’s responsibility to get the information to
potential gift givers. Gardeners do it by bringing up the ideas
nonchalantly in conversation or, for those of us that are less
subtle, we tape the article to the night table or refrigerator
door with the items we want underlined.
This year it has been suggested that my list
of gifts include at least a few ideas for the gardener who reads
the column, but who is seeking gift ideas for the non-gardener.
Therefore, to placate my non-gardening critics my first gift idea
for 2000 is a front-end loading washing machine!
Anyone who washes clothes (gardener or not)
knows that a front end loading washer is superior to a top loader.
It is easier on the clothes and uses less water and less energy.
A gardener with stained knees on their gardening slacks probably
does not have a front-end loader. The problem with front-end loaders
is that they are expensive, about $200 more expensive than top
loaders. Now, however, SAWS (or Bexar Met.) and CPS will each
give their customers a $100 rebate towards their account ($200
total) to equalize the cost. For a rebate application call 704-7527.
Writing about washing machines reminds me
of another gift idea that spins. There is a new squirrel resistant
feeder where the perch is weight-sensitive and spins the squirrel
or white wing dove off of the feeder. We cannot give a SAWS rebate
on the feeder but it will be a fun gift for the bird lover that
complains all the time about the squirrels.
Do you buy holiday flowers for friends and
relatives? This year consider the cyclamen. It has beautiful orchid-like
red, pink, lavender or white blooms on stalks. After a two or
three week stint in the house, plant it in a container outside
in the shade and it will bloom all winter.
For a stocking stuffer for the gardener the
“Xeriscape Conversion Guide” is a great gift. It is $5 at your
favorite nursery or from the Bexar County Master Gardeners. Send
$7.40 to Xeriscape Conversion Guide, Bexar County Master Gardeners,
3355 Cherry Ridge Dr., Suite 208, San Antonio, TX 78230. The 32-page
booklet has the best xeriscape plant list available and walks
you step by step through the effort to convert a St. Augustine
dominated yard into a carefree, colorful xeriscape.
One of the most effective water saving technologies
is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation can be given as a gift in
several forms. Some nurseries and home improvement stores offer
drip irrigation kits of many sizes and shapes. If your gardener
has container plants, a small vegetable garden or flower bed,
there are kits for all those applications. Another option is to
get a rough plan of the garden and carry it to one of the organic
soil suppliers or nurseries that custom build drip irrigation
systems. They will tell you approximately how much the system
will cost and you can buy a gift certificate of that value.
Gift certificates are always convenient. Buy
the Xeriscape Conversion Guide and then purchase a gift certificate
at your gardener’s favorite nursery that will allow her/him to
buy a plant from the xeriscape list.
Mulch or compost is not a romantic gift but
is much appreciated by the gardener. Present it as a gift certificate
or have a pile delivered to the front yard!
Books are always wonderful gifts for the gardener.
We have a good selection of books that are especially relevant
for the South Texas area. “Perennial Garden Color” and Antique
Roses” by Dr. Bill Welch are two of the best. Many of the photos
and examples cited are local gardens. Scott Ogden has produced
two worth books, “Gardening Success With Difficult Soils” and
“Garden Bulbs for the South”. He emphasizes plants and cultural
practices that are environmentally appropriate. “Gardening With
Native Plants in the South” by Sally and Andy Wasowski is a must
book for a gardener that wants a landscape that is well suited
for our cycles of drought and wet weather. One of my favorite
gardening books is “Attracting Birds to Southern Gardens” by Pope,
Fryling and Odenwald. Wildscape is a variation of xeriscape that
emphasizes plants that attract birds and butterflies. Paul Cox,
the Assistant Superintendent of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens
and an outstanding horticulturist, and Patty Leslie cooperated
to produce “Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide”, a book that is fun
to read because of its wealth of anecdotes and historical stories.
It is also a useful guide to select trees for the xeriscape.
Find all of these gift ideas (except the washing
machine) and more at your favorite neighborhood nursery or organic
material store. The gift shops at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens
(555 Funston Place) and the Schultze House (514 HemisFair Park)
are also fun places to shop. For more information and business
hours call the Botanical Gardens Gift Shop at 829-1227 and the
Schultze House Gift Shop at 229-9161. Make a day of it by enjoying
the gardens before you make your gift selections.