(HOST) This year, commentator Henry Homeyer wants to give his young grandchildren a gift that’s green and growing.
(HOMEYER) This holiday season, I’ve been busy with shopping, parties, and scurrying around like that mythical battery-powered bunny that never stops. On a recent snowy afternoon I paused to think about the gifts I’ve received during my life, and about ways I can give back to others. The gifts I mean are not material things, but gifts of time, of knowledge and love.
I was lucky enough to have a grandfather, John Lenat, who was a wise man – and a good gardener. He was a tailor who came over from Germany about 100 years ago and may never have gone to high school. But he spoke several languages and could make people smile in any one of them. He was a gentle and loving man. He never asked me to weed, but gave me jobs in the garden I enjoyed, like stirring the manure tea and ladling it onto the tomatoes. Grampy taught me the value of a good compost pile and a sun-ripened tomato, and he made me a life-long gardener.
I hope to impart that same love of gardening to my grandchildren, George and Casey Jeanne-Marie. George, who is in kindergarten, started gardening three years ago. He loves to eat carrots and cherry tomatoes, so that’s what we’ve grown. One year I built a little raised bed garden for George, and he planted purple carrots in it. George not only loved the carrots, he won a blue ribbon with them at the Cornish Fair. That was a good start for a young gardener.
So what can I do now? Well, we’ll plant amaryllis bulbs together. Amaryllis are big, dramatic indoor flowers that send up tall stalks and bright colored flowers in the course of just a few weeks. And they’re essentially foolproof. Grocery stores and garden centers sell them in kits, and I’ve gotten one for George and one for his sister, Casey.
The kits come with a little compressed disk of coir, an alternative to peat moss, that’s made from coconut fiber. Put it in a bowl with a couple of cups of warm water and it quadruples in size in just a few minutes. This is fun for a kid.
The bulbs are about three inches in diameter – which is much easier for a child to handle than carrot seeds. It needs to sit with at least half of the bulb above the soil line. I’ll guide the kids and they’ll plant them just right. And when they bloom, I think they’ll be thrir pride and joy. I bet they remember those first big blossoms when they’re my age.
Call me a Luddite if you wish, but I don’t like video games, robots and battery powered toys that make loud noises. I understand that my grandchildren like them, but I’m doing my best to introduce them to the joys of gardening. And I know that Grampy, if he’s watching, will approve.