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Minter: Gift mom something for the garden on Mother's Day

Be a little creative this year with your Mother's Day present, writes master gardener Brian Minter.

Moms are pretty special, and since Mother’s Day is almost here, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that say “Thank you” beautifully.

There is scientific proof now that flowers and plants not only make people happy, but they are also therapeutic.

They make our living spaces a lot more enjoyable as well.

The type of plant you give, however, should suit mom’s lifestyle.

If she is away a great deal, small tropicals or hanging baskets are not the answer so I would recommend something like an outdoor planter. Larger patio tubs can go a long while between waterings, and the addition of a small tree can make quite a difference to a patio, providing privacy or cooling a hot seating area.

Containers about the size of a half barrel, such as large 60cm (24”) tubs in cedar, fiberglass, plastic or terra cotta can make attractive permanent gardens. By using lightweight soil mixes, the weight, which can be a problem on balconies, can be minimized. If you add casters to the bottom of the pots, or use a plant dolly, they can be easily moved if necessary, or even if you just want to change the perspective.

Hanging baskets are a welcome gift too, but again, make sure they are large enough that they do not require constant watering.

There are so many being mass produced today that it can be difficult to find something unique and that has a personal touch. Ideally the baskets should be a minimum of 35-40cm (14-16”) across and deep to keep the maintenance down. If you are giving a gift of fuchsias or begonias, make sure they are going to a shady location. Large herb gardens, with edible flowers mixed in, are colorful and a delightful culinary surprise. If you have time, put together a customized vegetable container garden and include the latest, compact-growing veggies like ‘Tumbler’ tomatoes, delicious ‘Simply Salad’ greens, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, ‘Perseus’ cucumbers and mini-peppers.

Planting a tree in the yard for special occasions is not only a nice commemorative gesture, but also a good environmental plan. This is especially important in urban areas and there are many varieties well suited to smaller space gardens. Japanese maples, beautiful pink and white dogwoods, tree-form magnolias and weeping katsura trees are particularly lovely candidates.

Flowering trees and shrubs that attract birds, bees, and butterflies to the garden are wonderful additions. Sterile Buddleias (butterfly bushes), especially the new Proven Winners dwarf series, ‘Lo & Behold’, really do attract all kinds of beautiful butterflies. The fast-growing orange trumpet flowered vine called Campsis ‘Indian Summer’ is a good late-season food source for hummingbirds. The Korean, or kousa, dogwood has gorgeous blossoms, great fall color and edible seed pods. Speaking of edibles, a collection of container plants such as ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ raspberries, and the non-stop producing blueberry called ‘Perpetua’, and everbearing strawberries, will provide a continuous summer buffet.

Most Moms enjoy fragrance and there are so many choices available today. From the new Proven Winners series of compact ‘Bloomerang’ lilacs that bloom now and again in the fall, to the beautifully scented snowball shrub (Viburnum carcephalum), many new disease-resistant fragrant roses, and the old favorite, ‘Eternal Fragrance’ daphne, you will find no shortage of candidates.

Perennial plants are always appreciated with peonies and lavenders among the most cherished, and the hardy, continuous-blooming Spanish lavender, ‘Anouk’, being especially welcome.

Water features continue to be source of enjoyment on our decks and patios. Containers that hold water are quite magnificent when filled with floating water hyacinths, water lilies, and a myriad of colorful flowering water plants. Easy-care plug-in fountains and gurglers, with their soothing sounds, are delightful, and you can add even more music to her ears with high quality Woodstock wind chimes.

All these suggestions are gifts that will last well, and for the most part, grow in beauty each year. You might even plant Mom’s gift for her – in the right location of course, in carefully prepared soil!

So be a little creative this year.

It is not just the flowers and plants, but also the innovative ways in which they can be used to be enjoyed both inside or outdoors, that really makes the difference. Go ahead and add your own personal touch and let the special people you remember on Mother’s Day know how much you care.

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