HOST AND HOSTESS gifts? Of course you can take a nice bottle of bubbly, but that’s hardly creative—or memorable. Here’s a list of possibilities, inspired by the garden, that don’t require, you know, any actual gardening. Bonus: Everything is available without budging from your desk chair!
One can get lost for hours in the field that is Terrain.com. A nifty gift would be their Little Living Tree, a miniature Norway spruce that would illuminate any corner with tiny battery-powered lights and raindrop ornaments of some sparkly material, possibly plastic but maybe glass, they don’t say. The two-foot-tall (or so) tree costs $88, arrives potted and might live to celebrate another holiday if you give it a little water.
The Smithsonian’s online store has three sweet bud vases on sale for $8.99 each—so act fast. Hand-painted in blue on a white ground, one is round, another has a flared edge, and the third resembles three stacked bubbles called gourd-shaped. Pretty on their own, even more charming with a flower or a sprig of greenery and a bow.
Nettleton Hollow is a favorite resource for glittery birch branches and fresh curly willow branches. A few weeks after sitting in a vase of water, the tall, coiled willow branches three or four feet tall will be covered with tiny green leaves that continue to develop into a gorgeous arching display. Five branches in bloom are a fantastic sight. Nettleton Hollow will send you 10 bunches of 10 or $97.50, plenty for yourself and gifting.
Trader Joe’s always has a selection of itty-bitty pots of flowers, so cheap it’s nearly impossible not to stick one or several in the bag with the brie. For a modernist centerpiece, mingle tapers, tea lights and flowers in the Museum of Modern Art’s $70 Stumpastaken candleholder by Swedish designer Jonas Torstensson. It’s made in Sweden of recycled aluminum, making it perfect for your most ecologically correct friends.
For the not-so-correct, but time-pressed, consider paper placemats by Vicki Sawyer, for Hester & Cook. There are numerous designs, including doves and owls and ducks, but my favorite is “Backyard Party,” a quirky lineup of assorted birds in leafy crowns on a black background—a quick and surprisingly elegant way to jazz up a holiday table, no ironing needed, and you just toss them when dinner’s over. $26 to $28 for 30 mats at various retailers and online at Blue Sky Environments.
When was the last time we had snow for the holidays? With a projection lamp, you can stage snow showers all winter, indoors and out. Put one in the garden and look out at the flurries, or set it in the dining room for a buffet blizzard—think about your flaky friends and relatives in Florida. Available in most hardware stores and, need it even be said, from Amazon.
Speaking of lights, the Restoration Hardware catalogue twinkles with options, including glitter-encrusted faux branches, their lacy limbs prewired with warm white LED bulbs. RH offers an elegant 6-foot-long Aspen Sparkle Garland for the mantel ($49) and a dazzling 18-footer ($115) strung with 180 lights for the banister.
I had a dreadful time looking for a white feather boa strung with tiny white lights; I guess I have to do it myself. But I could be pacified with a bunch of peacock feathers. The ones offered by Amazon are ethically sourced (they shed their feathers naturally several times a year and grow new ones), with 20 30-to-35-inch feathers per bunch for $19.51 (don’t ask me, I don’t set prices).
Over the years we’ve painstakingly collected bejeweled and feathered birds and shimmery butterflies for the Chanukah Bush, the mantel and the staircase. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that one can now go on Amazon and create a fantastic collection in a few minutes, but one can (and one will). They come as a garland with eight butterflies for $20 at Amazon, but you can use them to ornament that boring bottle of wine.
I know a few people who don’t like paperwhite narcissus; that would not be me. The deliciously decadent scent of these little bulbs is in inverse proportion to their unassuming size. Deliver a handful in a paper bag or amp up the special by popping them into a silvery cachepot by designer Bunny Williams, $69. By the way, paperwhites always seem to be sold nested in rocks, but potting soil is just fine.
Trumpet-flowered amaryllis bulbs are another possibility for that cachepot. Scentless but spectacular, the bulbs flower in shades of pink, red, bi-colored and pure white. White Flower Farm offers an amazing 70 varieties, starting at about $18—available in burlap bags, baskets and a variety of handsome containers. (We show the $69 “Napoli.”)
Or just go with a basic red bulb offered by Target. Their unnamed variety red amaryllis in a jolly red metal pot goes for $12.99—buy it online or in stores.