Seeds are the gifts that plants give freely. As part of the animal kingdom, humans enable some plants to spread their genetic material farther than the fixed-in-place-by-roots life forms could otherwise. To give seeds as gifts is a natural part of the unwritten agreements we gardeners and farmers have with our plant partners: We can share the joy of growing with those we care about. When you give seeds as gifts, however, do it with forethought and with the right intention. Here are three tips for giving seeds as gifts.
1. Send Seeds That Are Welcome at the Destination
Use the USDA Plants Database for a nationwide search of what plants fit which regions and whether they could become invasive pests in your intended destination. Before I mailed jewelweed seeds to my brother as a birthday gift from Kentucky to Washington state, I searched the common name and it brought up two species. Impatiens capensis (pictured below) produces the golden-orange flower I have growing in my backyard. It was given to me as a gift as well, a single potted plant that has spread to fill a portion of the woodland garden encircling the base of our big oak tree. I confirmed the species by clicking on photos in the database. The other species listed as jewelweed is Impatiens glandulifera and the flower of it is pinkish-purple. It is an introduced species and can be weedy or invasive.
I clicked on the species name of Impatiens capensis and a wealth of information opened up. I could see a map of where jewelweed is native, and, luckily, it was safe to send it to Washington state. I zoomed in to see exactly the counties where it grows wild, and I found that my brother’s county is one of them. If you have any question about whether a certain type of seed is allowed to be mailed to the destination, contact a post office in the recipient’s ZIP Code.
2. Know Your Recipient
As with any gift, the more you consider the personality and interests of the recipient, the better. This is even more relevant when you give something that will potentially live alongside that person for at least a season. What are their favorite foods? Are they culinary masters who throw a heaping helping of fresh herbs into every meal, or do they rave about the locally grown watermelons? Do they like to putter in a flower garden and snip fresh blossoms for vases? Do they love to watch wildlife and want to feed songbirds with fruiting shrubs? How much experience with growing plants do they have? Set them up for success by matching your seeds with their skills. For the jewelweed gift, the seeds need no special care and can be scattered on top of soil in the fall, which is the time of year my brother received them. This was a perfect fit for an inexperienced gardener with some wild space around his property. My brother and his wife love to attract beautiful hummingbirds to their wooded property, and this plant should do just that.
3. Provide Information About the Species
Provide some facts about the plants associated with the seeds you send, especially if the person is not an experienced gardener. Jewelweed, for example, is one of those plants that some people really despise because of its proliferation, but it has many positive points. I love it because it is one of the first plants I was introduced to when I moved to Kentucky, and the explosive seeds (which are also the reason its family is called touch-me-not) make it super fun to collect. The plant stems provide a healing gel-like substance that soothes an itch from poison ivy or stinging nettles, which was also part of my introduction to this region. The plant can be used for its antifungal properties, which is good news to those of us with a little athlete’s foot during summer. The plant spreads quickly and fills in gaps, so it’s good for a moist pond bank where it also helps prevent soil erosion. As I prepared my brother’s package, I compiled a list of fun facts about the plant that I knew he would value. Some species on the USDA Plants Database include a handy plant guide. Others just take a little digging to learn what they are good for.
Seeds are amazing little packages full of potential, so share them wisely. Go with your hunch on personalizing a seed gift. I like to imagine the plants are symbols of what you wish to give the recipient. In my case, I gave little jewels that will blossom to attract more gems of the natural world.