Archives For holiday gifts

Gardening Gift Book Recommendations, Part 2

More gift titles from our Fruit & Vegetable Garden horticulturist

Karen Z. —  December 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

You can give a gardening book to almost everyone on your list. They will especially love books about food and how to grow it! Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg adds to her recent Top 10 Gardening Gift Books blog with a follow-up list—plus more titles to find at our Garden Shop (on-site and online). 

Order through our Amazon Smile link and 0.5 percent of the profits go to support the Chicago Botanic Garden! Or bookmark smile.amazon.com/ch/36-2225482

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

Audels Gardeners & Growers Guide: Good Vegetables and Market Gardening. Its opening line: “The book of nature is open, but its wonderful beauties and mysteries are revealed only to the careful student.”

Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest

Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by C.E. Voight and J.S. Vandermark

Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by C. E. Voight and J. S. Vandermark. Our horticulturist-in-chief, Kris Jarantoski, included this classic on his recommendation list, too.

Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History

Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers. A go-to history book about the world’s most distinctive gardens and the communities of people who built them.

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts by Frances Densmore

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts by Frances Densmore. Such a fascinating book, all about food history and resourcefulness.

How to Grow Vegetables by the Organic Method

How to Grow Vegetables by the Organic Method edited by J.I. Rodale

How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method edited by J. I. Rodale. The grandmother of organic gardening books, by the grandfather of organic gardening. A classic.

Edible Landscaping

Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy

Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy. Beautiful yards from beautiful vegetables.

Seed to Seed

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth

Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. For the seed saver in your life.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. For gardeners of all ages.

Secret Garden, An Inky Treasure Hunt

Secret Garden, An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. A botanical coloring book to unleash your creativity—add Caran d’Ache colored pencils to this gift.

A RARE FIND: Planting: Putting Down Roots by Penelope Hobhouse. Sleuth the book resellers to find this hand-sized book, part of a series by one of England’s great gardeners. 

special bonus!

Now at our Garden Shop: More Great Gift Books

Lisa hand-picked these favorite fruit-and-vegetable books from the bookshelves at our Garden Shop. Members, make us your book-buying resource—you always save 10 percent!


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Top 10 Gardening Gift Books…

...from our Fruit & Vegetable Garden Horticulturist

Karen Z. —  December 9, 2015 — 2 Comments

Gardeners love to read about gardening. Therefore, gardeners love books as holiday gifts. But which books?

When we learned that horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg had built up a working botanical library for herself at home, we asked her for suggestions. She took the question to heart. Titles flew. In fact, it was hard to winnow the list down! Here, then, are Lisa’s top ten favorite gardening books for gift-giving.

PHOTO: Book cover of Les tomatoes du prince Jardinier

Les tomates du Prince Jardinier by Louis Albert de Broglie

Les tomates du Prince Jardinier by Louis Albert de Broglie

PHOTO: Horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg with fold-out from Le Potager du Roi.

Fold-outs in Les tomates du Prince Jardinier speak to tomato diversity like nothing else in print.

Know gardeners who grow tomatoes? Gift them this book, then bask in their reactions. Louis Albert de Broglie, the Gardener Prince, grows 650 tomato varieties at Le Château de la Bourdaisiére in Touraine, where he’s established the French National Tomato Conservatory.

Under the nom de plume “Le Prince Jardinier” (he’s a member of one of France’s noble families), de Broglie, whom worldly Americans may know as the current owner of the Parisian shop Deyrolle, has authored one of the most spectacular books you’ll ever open—and it’s a revelatory look at tomatoes. Includes recipes, fold-outs, and a book-within-a-book of garnishes. In French, available online.

PHOTO: Book cover of Vegetable Literacy.

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

“When it debuted in 2013, Vegetable Literacy became my new favorite cookbook,” Lisa says. “It’s so aesthetically pleasing, so beautiful to look at, and it elevates horticulture to its proper place.” Madison organizes her book by the families of plants, showing gardeners and cooks how and why vegetables from the same botanical family can be substituted in recipes. “It’s a soothing, orderly, nurturing book,” Lisa says, “and it’s botanically correct. It’s a great gift for deepening the gardener/cook connection.” Check it out at our Lenhardt Library. 

PHOTO: Book cover of Thoughtful Gardening.

Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox

Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox

Well known to British gardeners for four decades as the gardening columnist for the UK’s Financial Times, Robin Lane Fox deserves a place on more American gardeners’ bookshelves. Thoughtful Gardening collects a series of his columns, organized by seasons, into an easy-to-read book that’s charming and witty, yet sensible. “I read it in snippets, adding sticky notes, underlining, revisiting it every year,” Lisa notes. “It brings a fresh perspective through both historical information and hands-on experience.” Available to read at our Lenhardt Library.

PHOTO: Book cover of Art and Appetite.

Art and Appetite : American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine by Judith A. Barter and Annelise K. Madsen

Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine (Art Institute of Chicago) by Judith A. Barter and Annelise K. Madsen

The companion book to the Art Institute’s 2013 exhibition of the same name, Art and Appetite illustrates nothing less than the history of American food through its art. From a still life of cherries in a hat to Andy Warhol’s soup cans, the book skillfully and entertainingly marries food, food history, cooking, and art. So filled with facts and historical connections—chapter one alone tackles “Thanksgiving: The Great American Food Fest”—that it’s impossible to put down. Vintage recipes included. Available online.

PHOTO: Book cover of Le Potager du Roi.

Le Potager du Roi by Pierre David, Gilles Mermet, and Martine Willemin

Le Potager du Roi by Pierre David, Gilles Mermet, and Martine Willemin

Lisa’s 2014 gardening travels in France included a trip to “the kitchen garden of the king” at Château de Versailles. King Louis XIV’s 25-acre vegetable garden employs the same methods of growing, preserving, and storing today as it did in the late seventeenth century.

“America’s early gardening history was tied to France,” Lisa explains, “and it’s thrilling to see the gardening methods still in practice, the thousands of varieties of old pears and apples and fruit, and the detailing of the espaliers—it all ties directly into my work today.” The layout, the photography, the history—what a great gift! Available online.

PHOTO: Book cover of Vascular Plant Families.

Vascular Plant Families by James Payne Smith, Jr.

Vascular Plant Families by James Payne Smith, Jr.

A gift for the garden geek and plant nerd, Smith’s book focuses on plant families and taxonomy, including flower structures, pollination, and the fine details of botany. “I consult this book all the time,” Lisa reveals, “and it has the most wonderful illustrations!” Members, check it out at our Lenhardt Library. 

PHOTO: Book cover of Kitchen of Light.

Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad

Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad

The host of TV’s New Scandinavian Cooking goes directly to the source for his food, foraging for ingredients, eating flowers, and using just a few ingredients to make fresh, clean, simple outdoor meals. “Cookbooks are wonderful gifts when you make the right connection with the right cook,” Lisa muses. “Scandinavian or not, adventurous cooks will use it constantly.” Available online.

PHOTO: Book cover of Knott's Handbook for Vegetable Growers.

Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers by Donald N. Maynard and George J. Hochmuth

Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers by Donald N. Maynard and George J. Hochmuth

According to Lisa, “It’s the vegetable grower’s bible, and a truly useful gift.” Now in its fifth edition, Knott’s Handbook is the resource for row spacing, seed planting, soil information, weed management, post-harvest handling…all in one very important resource. If you don’t buy yourself a copy, read it at our Lenhardt Library. 

PHOTO: Book cover of Around the World in 80 Plants.

Around the World in 80 Plants by Stephen Barstow

Around the World in 80 Plants by Stephen Barstow

When author Stephen Barstow and his wife—both vegetarians—moved to Norway, vegetable growing went from hobby to necessity. Tour the world’s food plants with the man who holds the world’s record for most edible ingredients in a single salad (537). “It’s the book I’m reading now,” says Lisa, “and it’s dedicated to Château de Valmer, where we send our Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden interns to work each year.” Our Lenhardt Library has it on the shelves, too. 

PHOTO: Book cover of Nothing Ever Happens on My Block.

Nothing Ever Happens on My Block by Ellen Raskin

Nothing Ever Happens on My Block by Ellen Raskin

“This is the book that started it all—the catalyst for my library,” Lisa says. A book from her childhood that seemingly has nothing to do with gardening, Nothing Ever Happens on My Block is about awareness—or, rather, Chester Filbert’s lack of awareness, as he claims boredom while the block around his house seethes with interesting spies, pirates, monsters, and fireworks. It’s a fun gift for all ages—and especially those who know that awareness is one of the great secrets to great gardening. Available online.

Order any of these books through our Amazon Smile link and 0.5 percent of the profits go to support the Chicago Botanic Garden! Or bookmark smile.amazon.com/ch/36-2225482

Visit the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden for more inspiration.


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Bulbs for the Holidays

Tom Weaver —  December 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

A number of tropical and semitropical bulbs can be used indoors to brighten up the winter months. Long-lasting blooms of amaryllis, Star-of-Bethlehem, and cyclamen are welcome additions to winter white.

PHOTO: A group planting of amaryllis, surrounded by ferns and English ivy.

Hippeastrum ‘Amalfi’ in the Semitropical Greenhouse

Amaryllis

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are probably the best-known bulb grown for forcing indoors in the winter months. In recent years, plant breeders have introduced dozens of new varieties ranging in size from small miniatures no bigger than 4 inches across to giant doubles that can reach 8 inches in size, with dozens of frilly petals. Most commonly found are the large, red cultivars such as ‘Red Lion’, but for a unique holiday plant, look for some of the less-common varieties such as ‘Amalfi’ (a smaller pink variety), ‘Zombie’ (a double-flowered salmon-and-white variety), or the unusual purple-and-green Hippeastrum papilio.

Amaryllis are easy to care for, requiring bright light and not very much water. They do not like to be overly moist, and perform best if allowed to dry slightly between waterings. Cooler rooms prolong flowering, so make sure not to place it next to a heating vent. After they are done blooming, plants can be kept alive until summer, when they’re best placed outdoors to receive ample sunshine. When you return them indoors in the fall, stop watering, and allow the foliage to dry out and turn yellow. The plants will remain dormant for anywhere from one to three months. During this time, they require very little water (water approximately once a month). When you see new growth starting again, move the bulbs to a sunny location, and start the process all over again. As they age, amaryllis bulbs will get larger and larger, sometimes splitting into multiple bulbs. When this happens, they can be divided and potted up separately.

PHOTO: Closeup of Hippeastrum papilio bloom.

Hippeastrum papilio by Jerry Richardson from Warsaw, Indiana [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Star-of-Bethlehem

Another beautiful—but less common—plant that provides winter cheer is Ornithogalum ‘Bethlehem’or Star-Of-Bethlehem. These bulbs produce a 1- to 1½-foot-tall spike loaded with clean, white, star-shaped blooms. They grow best in a bright, cool location—the same type of environment an amaryllis prefers. Special care must be taken to not over water these, as they dislike having wet feet. In addition to the classic white flowers, a newer species, Ornithogalum dubium, has become available recently, with flowers ranging from buttery yellow to neon orange.

PHOTO: The white, lily-like blooms of Star-of-Bethlehem.

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum ‘Bethlehem’)

PHOTO: Florist cyclamen in the Semitropical Greenhouse.

Florist cyclamen in the Semitropical Greenhouse

Cyclamen

Florists’ cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum cultivars, are related to hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen coum and C. hederifolium), but are not hardy in northern climates. They’re also generally much larger plants, suitable for using as a living centerpiece, or tucked into a gift basket for the holidays. Plants range in size from minis that are 3-6 inches tall, up to full-sized plants that can be nearly a foot tall when in bloom. The flowers come in many shades of reds, pinks, and purples, and in white. There are many beautiful bicolors and even some plants with exotic, frilly petals. In addition to beautiful flowers, cyclamen also feature some of the most intricately pattered leaves of any houseplant. You can get plants that are all silver, silver with green veins, green with silver veins, and many other unique patterns. 

Cyclamen prefer to be grown in a cool room and kept slightly moist. They never want to be sitting in a tray of water, and they never want to be completely dry. If your plant does start to wilt, give it a drink of water, and it will perk back up in just a few hours. Like the two previously mentioned bulbs, your cyclamen probably will go dormant in the summer. If that’s the case, just cut back on the watering until new growth starts again in the fall.

Cyclamen flower buds

Cyclamen flower buds

When picking a cyclamen, try to pick one with as many buds as possible. Each plant is capable of producing dozens, sometimes nearly 100, blooms that open slowly over the course of the entire season, giving you several months of blooms. Because the buds are produced all at once, it is important to pick one with as many buds as possible; this way, you know that you’re going to maximize your bloom time.

All three of these plants are currently on display in Wonderland Express and the Semitropical Greenhouse.

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Gifts That Gardeners Give

Karen Z. —  December 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

What do gardeners give as gifts?

Staff around the Chicago Botanic Garden get creative this time of year, sharing harvests of fruit, nuts, herbs, and more in creative—and delicious—style. We asked our staff to share their handmade gift ideas, and their responses were so creative that we knew you’d say, “Share.”

From a Fruitful Garden

Web designer Christina Weisbard has a weakness for fruit trees…which explains the bounty of mulberry, quince, and crabapple jellies that she’s made for holiday gifts this year. Of the pickled green tomatoes that she also canned, she says, “They may never make it as gifts—we’re eating them too fast.”

PHOTO: Jars of jellies and pickles.

Crabapple and quince preserves are joined by end-of-season pickled green tomatoes.

Not Handmade, but “Hen”made

Lucky Sarah Paar (coordinator of flower shows). She keeps six Plymouth Barred Rock chickens, all black-and-white and gorgeous, at the suburban farm where she lives. She’s saving the four to six eggs she gets every day and handing them out as precious gifts, perfectly presented in a green berry box softened with raffia.

PHOTO: A variety of natural-colored hen eggs in a bowl.

Not just for Easter: Plymouth Barred Rock hen eggs are this season’s gift, too.

Currant Events

Boyce Tankersley, director of living plant documentation, gets the most out of the fruiting vines and brambles in his suburban yard, creating beautiful, jewel-toned vodkas (black currant, blackberry, Michigan peach, and Moroccan mint), and syrups (elderberry and peony blossom).

PHOTO: Ruby-colored blackberry vodka in a delicate bottle with a cork stopper.

Homemade infused vodkas are as beautiful as they are flavorful.

A Bloom That Thrills

Teachers, neighbors, and far-off friends are receiving amaryllis bulbs this year, complete with pot, lightweight soil mix, and growing instructions from Stephanie Lindemann, manager of horticulture events. With care, amaryllis will repeat the show next year. This long-lasting pink and coral beauty is Hippeastrum ‘Amalfi’.

PHOTO: A blooming amaryllis wrapped in burlap is ready to gift.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum ‘Amalfi’) make great “repeat” gifts.

A Tiny Terrarium

Hold one of Clare Johnson’s bubble bowl terrariums in your hands, and you can sense the horticultural therapist at work: each terrarium is a perfectly shaped jewel, fresh and green and carefree enough to leave on your desk all winter, with little care required.

PHOTO: A tiny terrarium.

Bubble bowl terrariums are filled with dainty succulents.

Handmade & Heart-felt

Filled with lavender from her garden (plus a bit from the neighbors), Lynn McKay Ledford’s wool felt and cotton sachets can scent drawers, shelves, and suitcases for many months. Feel free to compliment Lynn on her sweetly modern design next time you see her at the Information Desk at the Visitor Center.

PHOTO: Hand-sewn square sachets are decorated with felted leaves.

Wool felt and cotton sachets are filled with fragrant lavender.

Simple, Elegant, Fresh

As outdoor floriculturist, Tim Pollak has a deft and knowing touch with plants—which shows in his fresh ideas for host/hostess gifts or centerpieces. Simply arranged, stemmed greenery looks elegant in a clear vase filled with cranberries and water. Fresh fruit looks like the luxury it is when it’s hand-arranged and nestled into a simple, raffia-filled box.

PHOTO: Floral arrangement.

This colorful and long-lasting arrangement includes evergreens, carnations, and cranberries.

PHOTO: Fruit basket.

Fruits are arranged on a bed of fragrant rosemary for this simple seasonal basket.

Grandma Agnes’s Recipe

Fond memories of her family’s Iowa farm inspired horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg to follow her Grandma Agnes’s easy recipe for crabapple pickles (leave the stems on!). An extra handmade touch: cards decorated with leaves from daily walks in her neighborhood this fall.

PHOTO: Recipe 3x5 card.

Grandma Agnes’s original pickled crabapple recipe—a family heirloom.

PHOTO: Pickled crabapples.

The finished product

A Handmade Breakfast Treat

So bountiful was the apple harvest at the Garden this year that staff was invited to help harvest—and to take home a box of the fruit. Assistant horticulturist Leah Pilon turned the opportunity into a sweet treat: wonderfully smooth and flavorful apple butter to give as holiday gifts.

PHOTO: Apple butter in a Ball jar.

Leah Pilon’s homemade apple butter even has a handmade tag.

Chill Out

It took customer support manager Karen Angel four to five hours each to hand-crochet cozy cotton/wool neckwarmers that she’s gifting friends and family with this year. An interesting stickpin or piece of jewelry serves as a “close” to each piece.

PHOTO: Lilac crocheted neck warmer.

A stickpin holds this beautiful crochet work in place.

PHOTO: A bar of handmade soap wrapped with a twine bow.

Handmade soaps delight the senses.

Handmade Candles & Soaps

Like many handcrafters, economics drove exhibitions manager Courtney Quigley to teach herself how to make candles and soaps when she was in college: “I was young and broke!” she explains with a laugh. Her deliciously flavored soaps (scented with coffee beans, cocoa, ginger, or orange slices) and soy candles are, of course, all natural.

PHOTO: Photo of boy and his mother making cookie cutouts.

Gabe Hutchinson documents “the year in review” in photo albums.

The Gift of a Labor of Love

For many of our staffers, gardening isn’t their only passion. Assistant horticulturist Gabe Hutchison is also a terrific photographer, who’s turned the notion of “family photos” into a deeply personal, meaningful effort. Each Christmas he begins a year-long series of photos of his son, documenting family occasions, visits, and everyday life. As the next Christmas nears, he assembles the past year’s work into a handmade photo book for each grandparent (and a few lucky relatives), documenting the family’s interactions with his son, and presents those precious books as gifts at the holiday.


©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org