I’m not ashamed to say that I’m tempted to browse gift catalogs at this time of year, in spite of the waste of trees they represent. But outside of one or two vendors that cater to serious geeks and are reasonable, many of the “gifts for gardeners” offerings are overpriced and wasteful examples of their kind.
Among the strangest phenomena are the many amaryllis offerings. A reputable bulb company will sell you a single amaryllis (actually hippeastrum) bulb for anywhere from $5-10. However, if you choose instead to select a gift “presentation” complete with one bulb and a nursery pot from a certain holiday gift catalog, you will find yourself paying $27. Choose a ceramic cachepot and you’ll be paying $54. One bulb. The same one you paid $8 for, and we won’t discuss shipping.
As for forced bulbs, the sky’s the limit. It’s a wonderful idea to send someone something that will burst into flower after they have received it, but I would want to make sure they could replant the bulbs if they wanted to and that the gift would really look as it does in the catalog. I sent a lucky bamboo set to my mother-in-law once only to find the glass container was not included. She got two pieces of bamboo and maybe some stones. How impressive.
For a few years, I have been putting together my own bulb gifts and they’ve mostly been successful (except for some of the hyacinths the recipients insisted in keeping in hot, dry offices—they were a bit stunted). It’s fun and nothing needs to be shipped. Though, that’s the one thing I’d like to copy from our catalog friends: their shipping expertise. I’d like to send some ready-to-go hyacinths to out-of-town friends without squashing the emerging bud. Or, the heck with that—maybe I can get into this racket and convince people they need to pay $60 for my top-quality hyacinths in their special Victorian keepsake pots. Shipping not included!