It's a cinch to buy nice presents when money's no object. On a budget? There's no shortage of cheap tchotchkes. But a thoughtful, lovely gift that costs less than five bucks? A limited edition that delivers beautiful blossoms and edible treats you'd be hard pressed to find in a store, at any price? That, my friend, is a rare find.
That's the genius of the Hudson Valley Seed Library; their carefully cultivated, delightfully packaged seeds make an elegant and pragmatic stocking stuffer for anyone who's been wanting to scratch that Green Acres itch, be they in the 'burbs, the city or the sticks. You can also give a gift membership or become a member yourself, which gets you a discount.
But you don't need to be a member to buy their seeds, and anyone can join the HVSL email list to get monthly planting tips and instructions on how to save seeds to replant from year to year.
I scattered a handful of HVSL Bloomsdale spinach seeds in a little city window box this summer, and even with limited sunlight and erratic watering, the planter yielded a nice little harvest of crisp baby spinach. It was a fun, satisfying, effortless flirtation with micro-farming, and it brightened my view in the process.
Memo to Santa, baby: bring me the Baby Bok Choy this Christmas; it's perfect for containers, and boasts an "extreme cuteness quotient," according to the HVSL website. Kawaii alert! I may have to break out those vintage Hello Kitty chopsticks my brother brought back from Kyoto several decades ago for that crop.
Ken Greene and Doug Muller, the co-founders of the HVSL, have been playing Santa themselves this season with their first ever annual seed drive; for each new Facebook friend, twitter follower, or email sign-up, they're donating a packet of seeds to a deserving community garden.
So far, the drive (which ends today) has netted over 600 Seed Donation packs; now, you have till January 8th to nominate your favorite school or community garden. I've nominated Brooklyn's awesome Dekalb Farm, and if you'll take a minute to nominate your own favorite local edible landscaping project, you'll help the HVSL spread the seedy gospel without even buying anything.
But, if you are in holiday shopping mode, you've got 62 art packs to choose from, with 23 new designs this year (see the accompanying slide show for a sampling of some of the latest ones). Orders placed by December 21st will arrive by December 24th, so you've still got time!
Choices include newly rediscovered and lesser known varieties of flowers and veggies as well as the tried and true. The packets feature original artwork commissioned by the HVSL in an eclectic mix of styles depicting all manner of botanical bounty. There's sure to be something for everyone from the farmer wanna-be to the hardcore horticulturalist on your list.
HVSL also offers additional varieties in simple, no-frills packaging, in case your circle of movers and shakers includes, well, Shakers. Overwhelmed by all the tantalizing options and not sure what your loved ones might like to grow? A $25 gift membership will entitle the recipient to 10 free seed packets and discounts on any additional seeds for the following year.
Talk about the gift that keeps on giving! These seeds are cherished varieties of flowers, herbs and fruiting plants that have been passed down for generations; isn't that a lovely thing to pass on to friends and family, instead of flimsy, mass-produced stuff that's destined for the dustbin?
"an excellent Northeast variety with a sweet/tangy taste that's positively celestial...it was selected by Russian space engineer turned avid gardener Mikhailovich Maslov," who named it after a fellow Russian astronaut "who perished while returning from the first visit to the Earth's first space station." source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"Feathery button-size blooms of true blues, whites, and pinks. Also known as Cornflower, the Bachelor Button can reach heights of 3 feet and is a great cutting flower. JFK wore this flower at his wedding as a tribute to his father. Cornflower has also been the symbol of various, mostly progressive political movements. Like JFK, the bachelor on this pack is uniting both politics and passion by donning one powerful flower. source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"This highly evolved goat seems to have moved beyond her appetite to a purely aesthetic appreciation for peas. How? Genetics. The first recorded awareness of heredity through breeding was biblical and involved Jacob's spotted goats. But it wasn't until Mendel picked up a paintbrush that the foundation for modern genetics was born. Mendel used his bristles to purposefully cross-pollinate peas. Later, Laxton built on Darwin's insights to improve garden peas. This painting brings this history to life with a contemporary brush stroke. Our kind of progress!" source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"White flowers give way to green puffs, which hold three new heart-emblazoned seeds, which are a cinch to save. Here at the Seed Library we (heart) these seeds, and plants that climb, and seed pods you can dry. This old fashioned ornamental vine gives us the triple love right back. Known as Balloon Vine, Love In A Puff, and Heart Seed, the paper lantern-like seed pods of Cardiospermum halicacabum (Cardio = heart, sperma = seed) carry three matte black seeds, each imprinted with its own white heart. Who says plants can't show affection to their caregivers?" source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"Stunning flower for the garden or a vase...Blooms reach 24" in height and 4" in diameter at maturity-highly dramatic! "Tiger Paw" represents the claw-like incurving quilled petals, and suggests the White Tiger constellation in Chinese Astrology that symbolizes the west and autumn. Result: This flower crossed the seas from East to West to bring its tiger claw petals to your late summer and fall garden. Let it roar!" source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"Big, flat, parsley leaves on robust plants--a true giant! The most popular herb in the Western world, parsley has a bright, unmistakable tang that unites and amplifies the flavors of any dish. Of Mediterranean origin, parsley is now grown nearly everywhere. In temperate climates it is biennial; with the protection of a cold frame or snow cover, it comes back each spring and can be harvested for about a month before it goes to seed..." source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
"Raw, cooked, diced, fried, stewed, julienned, fresh from the garden or stored for winter, this inter-planetary looking cole crop should be a more familiar sight (not just in Roswell) in American gardens... No, Kohlrabi does not actually come from outer space. It comes from Europe, as do most members of the cabbage family. Rarely tasted by most Americans, its popularity has been quite steady on the other side of the pond since the 15th Century. And it's easy to see why: the flesh is crisp and refreshing and redolent of sweet cabbage, and when chopped and roasted it softens, like an apple, with a flavor and texture that is out of this world. Seeing (and tasting) is believing." source: Hudson Valley Seed Library
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