What fun I had last week. I gave myself a holiday present, a visit to our local garden nurseries to see and learn what's new in holiday decor.
Any doubts that the Lowcountry is behind the times vanished as I listened to designers and knowledgeable sales ladies explain what this is made of and how that works on your door, your tabletop or your Christmas tree.
At the Bluffton Green Thumb garden center, showroom designer Gretchen Adams walked me around the two floor-to-ceiling trees designed by Donna Lynch, which display unusual ornaments. Many are nature inspired; one tree with birds nesting, bird houses, huge pine cones, wooden owls and reindeer. The coastal tree was decorated with hand-painted shells, starfish, turtles and alligators.
I fell for this new-to me-door-decoration: Instead of a wreath -- how about a basket? Using ivy up, in and around the handle, the basket has a hidden hole in the center, in which a flowering plant is placed. The one I came away with had a red cardinal on the top. The baskets can be made to order in terms of size and decorations. There's a selection of orchid plants with a fun idea: grass coming up in the pot from grass seed scratched into the soil. For fairy garden gardeners, there's a selection of unusual accessories.
Bluffton Sunshine Garden Center is well known for its variety of flowering hanging baskets and their large selection of decorative urns and planters, fountains and birdbaths. There's a selection of hand-painted Talavera vases from Mexico, a great gift for a special friend. Decorative baskets are made to order, an original and outstanding basket is done up with flowers, vegetables and herbs. All sorts of table toppers, your choice, can also be customized.
The citrus trees at Sunshine are just the right size for gift giving. There are Meyer lemon trees and my personal favorite: kumquat trees. Both varieties can be container grown. Our kumquat in a pot is 3 years old and stays small, despite the heavy load of fruit that it produces.
The Bluffton Garden Gate is featuring "all natural" for the holidays with the customer choosing a burlap bag and what all to put inside it. Choose a cotton garland, a fragrant potpourri, decorative soaps, ornaments that look made of old world metal, unusual birdhouses. Their big sellers this year are their natural wheat spray wreaths, and the glass globes 6 to 8 inches in diameter that are filled with native plants.
Lisa Kiggans is the go-to see person at The Greenery garden center on Hilton Head Island. Lisa can be found at the Antiques and Collectibles shop that features gifts in all prices. The girls at the garden centers call them "pickup" gifts, those items that you buy last minute for those you almost forgot. One of the best-selling items here is their herb-cutting scissors. I have one and don't know how I ever got along without it. Also new this year are the reasonably priced scarves in silk, some with ruffles and polka dots. For indoor gardeners, there's the interior European Planter Garden, made like you want it, with a collection of flowering or green plants. If you so desire, you may bring your own container.
Found here also are popular books for special friends or family, such as Pat Brannon's "Magnolia, Porches and Sweet Tea" or David Lynch's "Finely Feathered: The Marsh and Lagoon Birds of the Lowcountry."
For all of us who need a last minute gift or two; these garden centers are open all day or part of today, Monday, and Tuesday. Best to call ahead to make sure of the times.
Sixty-year master gardener and environmentalist Betsy Jukofsky has spent three decades on Hilton Head Island learning the peculiarities of Coastal Lowcountry gardening.