There's nothing more meaningful to give a loved one than a plant or a tree

Cornus controversa variegata or the wedding cake tree. Ideal as a gift for a newly married couple, perhaps?

Every family has a particular time of the year don’t they, a particular month or two when nearly all the birthdays and anniversaries happen. 

We’re coming to the end of ours at the moment and I can’t think of a nicer or more meaningful gift to give than a plant. 

The gift remains and when you look upon it or tend it you are always reminded of the occasion and the person who gave it to you. 

I remember on my sister’s first wedding anniversary I gave a present of Betula papyrifera, the paper birch for the paper anniversary.

Now the tree is many years older, stronger and more mature, as is their union I am happy to add, and when I visit and admire the tree going from strength to strength, I am always reminded of that happy day now long since passed and many of the visitors also long since departed. 

A quick search online to see what plants are recommended for birthday gifts will all steer you towards roses. 

I’m not sure why roses have become nearly synonymous with gifting but there’s one named now for nearly all occasions: rosa ‘Birthday Wishes’, r Happy anniversary’, r ‘Golden Wedding’ and many, many more. 

Of course there is nothing to say that the gift has to be a rose and if you put some thought into it you can come up with the ideal gift for nearly any occasion. However do be careful that what you give will suit and not outgrow the garden. 

Not quite as serious as gifting a puppy or other animal, but giving something that will grow into a large tree to someone with a small garden isn’t the thing to do. A tree is something that commands such presence that the choice of species should be left to the owner of the garden.

I’m really not good on picking up on subtleties during the year and no matter how blatant a hint has been dropped, if its not written down in a format similar to a letter to santa I’m unlikely to choose the right gift. 

However, if you pay a bit more attention than yours truly and if you know the person and that they have a favourite plant then that can prove a very thoughtful gift.

If you are buying a plant as a gift there are a few other things to bear in mind — the name of the person you are giving it to and a quick search online, or chat with a knowledgeable gardener will bring up a few suggestions.

Though I am still struggling with a plant for myself, (I don’t fancy being remembered by the saxifraga or tulip ‘Peter Pan’ though I do like the rhododendron ‘Blue Peter’), another great facility with which to find a plant with a particular name is to use the RHS Plant Finder online.

Simply type in the name that you are looking for and if it’s available, it will not only bring up the name of the plant but also where it is available. 

Now it’s obviously British-based and so many of the suggestions will be British nurseries, but many of these will deliver to Ireland. Or you can just find the name and source them at home.

And in terms of the nature of the occasion, many plants are named specifically to mark life events such as the beautiful white flowering camellia ‘Silver Wedding’. 

Nice plants to give to someone when they are getting married are exochorda ‘The Bride’ and also the stunning Wedding Cake Tree, Cornus contraversa ‘variegata’ but do bear in mind that this tree will slowly develop into a very large specimen.

When someone has passed on, it can be nice to plant something to remember them by. 

Again, roses jump to the top of the list here with varieties such as ‘Remember Me’ but look at maybe planting some rosemary too, which is the plant of remembrance, or perhaps an olive tree which symbolises peace and is said to bring good luck to a garden.

On the other end of the scale what nicer occasion to mark than the arrival of a newborn with either narcissus or dahlia ‘New Baby’ or perhaps fuchsia ‘Celebration’ or if the garden is big enough, (and please do consult with baby’s parents and the garden owners first), planting a suitable tree to mark a birth I think is one of the nicest things of all to do. 

The child’s life can be marked with the tree, which will invariably turn up in family photos over the next number of years where the development and maturity of both can be admired. 

Considering the time of year of the event, it would be nice for the plant to be in bloom each birthday or anniversary. I also think it’s lovely to plant white flowering plants to commemorate christenings and communions. 

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ and spiraea arguta are two that won’t disappoint for flowers in early summer, communion time. White penstemon and phlox will bloom during late summer and beyond. 

It can be difficult to ensure a plant will behave itself and flower on a particular day but if you opt for a plant with a long flowering period you should be covered. Hydrangeas for example, will provide colour from July through October.


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