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?
Follow Kerry Trueman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kerrytrueman