Cover Story Plant Life Northwest Living Taste Now & Then

Presents for gardeners offer sanctuary from the cares of a troubled world

THIS HOLIDAY season, as we seek respite from earthquakes, riots and terrorism, I want to give all my loved ones gifts of sustenance, warmth, comfort and perhaps even illumination. Bath oil, fluffy throws, furry pillows, books, music — all serve the purpose. But what about the gardeners on our lists?

I've always believed that the sanctuary we find in our gardens comes not through ritual or altars, but from getting out there and working the soil, acknowledging the miracle of it all.

Perhaps some things can remind us of the cycles and rhythms of the garden that we so much miss when Persephone visits the underworld for the winter months (because she made the mistake of eating three pomegranate seeds, her forced annual visit to Hades is a lengthy one). If a garden is as much a state of mind as an actual space, then any of these gifts will help the gardener in your life find rest and renewal. A sampling of the possibilities, as shown clockwise, more or less from left to right in the photo:

Crafted to Last: Wreaths aren't just for the holidays anymore; they bring texture, fragrance and style to the house, indoors or out, year 'round. Those made of rose hips, bundles of lavender, silk roses or pussy willow evoke seasonal change. Made of a skillful blend of fresh, dried and faux materials, it is impossible to tell what is real and what is not. And it doesn't matter. The wild abandon of the heart-shaped wreath makes you think those faux green berries must have been harvested in the midst of a windstorm ($149). That fluffy sheepdog of a wreath in a handsome square shape is crafted of preserved and dyed wild mustard ($110). Both from Lavender Heart, 2812 E. Madison St., Seattle; 206-568-4441.

Showbox on a Stand: A perfect place to display blooming plants, or to overwinter scented geraniums or lemon verbena, this rusted metal and glass galleria case is freestanding. The glass top swings up for easy watering and the sides are open on top to let in fresh air. Since the metal is already thoroughly rusted, it could move outdoors to decorate porch, deck or patio during the warmer months. $498 at Ravenna Gardens, 2580 N.E. University Village, Seattle; 206-729-7388.

Words and Pictures on Paper: While much has been written on the idea of nature as healer and garden as sanctuary, these three books are worth seeking out for their literate writing, unique vision and stunning photography: Julie Messervy writes elegantly of her journey to the heart of gardening in "The Inward Garden: Creating A Place of Beauty and Meaning" (Little, Brown and Co., 1995, $40). "Cultivating Sacred Space: Gardening for the Soul" by Elizabeth Murray (Pomegranate Press, 1997, $35) is a celebration of the garden's sensuality. And the intensity of the artworks in Andy Goldsworthy's oversized picture book, "A Collaboration With Nature" (Harry N. Abrams, 1990, $55) make us laugh as well as marvel over nature's mysterious beauty. From Flora and Fauna Books, 121 First Ave., Seattle; 206-623-4727.

Illuminating Idea: Made in India, the appealingly puffy shape of these lanterns is created when the glass is blown inside the rusty metal armature. Sufficiently sturdy to be used outdoors to light pathway, porch or table, they're also lovely enough to be brought indoors to illuminate a long winter evening. The frosted glass creates an enchanted glow, the green lantern radiates the feel of a woodland, the gold seems to capture sunshine, and the sheen of the white lantern is as silvery as the new moon. The green and white lanterns are a foot high and cost $45; the smaller gold lantern is 9 inches tall and costs $35. At Glenn Richards, 964 Denny Way, Seattle; 206-287-1877.

Naturally Festive: Why is it we rarely think to give fresh arrangements to gardeners? Believe me, no one appreciates a beautiful bouquet more. And while it is true gardeners might be critical of the cliché of dyed carnations mixed with baby's breath, artfully arranged foliage and flowers are greeted with delight. Made exclusively of Northwest materials, this spicily fragrant holiday arrangement includes holly, cedar, pine, rose hips and figs, and costs $50. Martha E. Harris Flowers and Gifts at Madison Park, 4218 E. Madison St., Seattle; 206-568-0347.

Tray Chic: Collections of objects have the most impact when grouped. This metal tray can be used to display beach stones, agates, balls of natural materials or an armload of fragrant potpourri. Generous in size (nearly 2 feet across), it has a lip wide enough to embrace the objects it encircles. In summertime, the tray could sit on the front porch or an outdoor table; in winter it can come inside to hold treasured objects reminiscent of the garden. The tray is made of a steel drum from Haiti, which has been sliced into sections then pounded into shape. $85 at Swanson's Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle; 206-782-2543.

Valerie Easton is a horticultural librarian who writes about plants and gardens for Pacific Northwest magazine. Her e-mail address is Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.

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