How much more STUFF do we need anyway?

This year has changed my shopping habits. I visit stores as infrequently as possible and when I do it's because I need to hand pick something specific. Most of my purchases have been made online, whether  a wetsuit or new walking shoes. With the Holidays just around the corner I have been reflecting on the most memorable gifts I have either given or received. The answer is experiences. Not necessarily "stuff" tied up with a fancy bow, but fun, memory-making trips and unexpected adventures.

So my suggestions for you this year are all about giving the gift of an experience. While focused on the gardener, you can easily tailor these to any interest. And all are possible to do while maintaining recommended COVID safety procedures and practices.

Gift of Adventure

So much fun to rediscover my love of the water this year – and thrilled that my daughter Katie was a willing accomplice.

2020 has been the year I have re-discovered my love of the water in a big way. From tentative strokes in the pool to learn freestyle, I have now ventured into "wild swimming" and am going to see if I can manage to swim through at least most of the winter in our beautiful lakes and/or Puget Sound, albeit wrapped up in neoprene like a blubbery seal. There is nothing quite like immersing yourself (literally) in the beauty of nature, surrounded by snow capped mountains, late winter sun sparkling on the icy water – with the promise of a hot drink afterwards! I've made so many new friends too, from all walks of life and of all ages – they are truly inspiring.

A less extreme activity I got back into this year was kayaking. Many of you may not know that I used to teach kayaking (or canoeing as it is called in the UK) in my late teens and 20's at a church youth camp and also at the YMCA Fairthorne Manor, making lifelong memories and friends in the process. This summer my daughter and I rented sit-on-top kayaks on a local river and I could have cried to realize how much this just felt so "me". In fact we have now purchased two kayaks so as to be ready for impromptu adventures and look forward to getting some good mileage out of them in the future. (We've even sized them so our dog can come along too).

What's your idea of an adventure?

Molly and I enjoying a beach walk on Whidbey Island. Photo: Andy Chapman

A day by the ocean? Hiking? Snowshoeing? Skiing? Hot air balloon ride? Rock climbing? What about a gift certificate for a unique adventure? Add a picnic, take lots of photographs and I guarantee this is one gift that will never be forgotten. Either contact a local company to purchase a gift certificate or create your own – and plan your adventure together.

Gift of Cocktails from the Garden

Did you know you can make the most delicious cocktails using foraged plants, seeds, and berries? My good friend Ellen Zachos inspires me on so many levels. Besides being just downright fun and a Broadway star in one of her past lives, she is a Harvard graduate, garden author, and a well-known expert on foraging – both out in nature and in the home garden. I have been the guinea pig for some of her creations and they were truly delicious as well as fascinating to watch the process. Learn more about Ellen on this podcast, where she was interviewed by our mutual friend Theresa Loe. You'll get some great ideas. Or her website  which has many useful resources and recipes. But my gift recommendation is her book The Wildcrafted Cocktail  so your friends can learn to make designer cocktails from foraged, unbuyable flavors.

Sneaky tip: give this gift to a friend who lives nearby so you can offer to be a taste tester!

Gift of Photography

Anyone can take a snapshot, but not all can tell a story. Our good friend Gethyn Clothier captured this moment as I was cutting flowers in torrential rain for our daughters wedding the following day. (Thankfully the rain did eventually stop!)

A couple of years ago I gave my husband the gift of a day out with a professional bird photographer. He loved it! They spent the day in the Skagit Valley and captured many stunning images of migratory birds, birds of prey, and more, learning techniques and best practices as they worked side by side.

If you have friends who are passionate about photography – of people, landscapes, birds, or pets I'm sure you can find a local professional who offers individual or small group coaching.

I've taken a couple of private coaching sessions from Seattle photographer David Perry, each time going to him with a specific question or challenge I was struggling with. That's the beauty of individual coaching – you can tailor the session to your specific knowledge level and focus. On the east coast Rob Cardillo is a renowned garden photographer whose work I have long admired. Somehow I always seem to be on that coast a week after he runs workshops…..one of these days I'll make it! I love the dreamy quality of his work.

Check for photographers in your area who are offering half day or longer workshops. The skills acquired will be remembered and appreciated long after the session ends.

Gift of Travel

RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire, UK – full of inspiration. I'm so excited to visit here again!

There's a sense of cautious optimism in the air now that vaccines are being rolled out, and I for one am ready to travel and explore new places as well as visit familiar favorites as soon as it is deemed safe to do so. (I've already got my tickets for the Chelsea Show).

Still nervous of traveling with others? What about a self-guided road trip? There are so many ideas for great trips on Garden Design. (I know because I wrote and produced them!) From Florida to New York and Arizona to British Columbia, there are oodles of destinations – even some international ones in case you're one of my overseas readers. Pack the car, grab your camera and it's all yours. Remember to create a custom gift certificate.

If you're ready for something truly memorable many tour guides, including Andy and myself here at Le jardinet, have got tours lined up for 2021. We are still finalizing details but plan to open registration soon for our September 2021 tour to the Delaware and Brandywine Valleys and are really hoping we can make our much anticipated tour to England work for June 2021. We can promise you a lifetime of memories from either of those tours. If you'd like to be notified when registration opens please click here for England or click here for the east coast to be added to those mailing lists.

Gift of Learning

Do you have friends who love to plant up container gardens but would benefit from some professional tips? I have the perfect gift for them (or you). My award-winning online course Designing Abundant Containers features videos, downloadable handouts and PowerPoint style presentations. All can be watched time and again, whenever it is convenient. Definitely a gift that will keep on giving. If you wish to purchase this for yourself, use this link. If you wish to purchase this as a gift I've created this option for you.

Gift of Romance

This idea was "stolen" from my lovely friend Jenny Peterson in Austin, Texas. Here's what she suggested for her lovely but impossible-to-buy-for spouse: "I was thinking about setting up a glamping spot in the backyard — put the tent up, build a fire in the fire pit, have lights and an epic dinner with cocktails. Put music on the speakers and dance under the stars."

I hope Brett knows he's a very lucky guy.

Wishing you all the joy of giving 

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