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Living gift this Mother’s Day could be cherished more than we realize

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Opinion: Whichever way you choose to celebrate your mom on this Mother’s Day, make it a thoughtful and meaningful expression of your appreciation.

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Brian Minter Cuphea Vermillionaire is an attractive overflow plant in hanging baskets. Cuphea Vermillionaire is an attractive overflow plant in hanging baskets. Photo of proven winners /.Proven winners

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Almost worldwide, the biggest flower holiday of the year is only a week away. We all have a few days to decide what to give to the mothers in our lives. It should be something that makes sense that they will really appreciate.

As we continue to struggle with this COVID-19 pandemic and all of its consequences, a little thoughtfulness will go a long way. A beautiful, living gift could possibly be valued more than we realize.

Given the current trend to bring our gardens closer to nature, a patio container should contain plants that attract and support pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds. Just think of the pleasure of watching bees, butterflies and birds gather nectar and pollen. Finding these types of pre-made crossover containers may be difficult, but you can easily create them yourself.

For sunny locations you will find some pollinator magnets here. Cupheas (the so-called cigar plants) are some of the best tender perennials for attracting pollinators and hummingbirds. I particularly like the Proven Winners, C. Vermillionaire variety, which blooms all summer and into autumn. It is attractive for hanging baskets because of its overflow habit.

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Eryngium, shown here with Centranthus, will attract pollinators to your garden. Eryngium, shown here with Centranthus, will attract pollinators to your garden. Photo by Minter Country Garden /.Minter Country Garden

Adding just a few selected pollinator-attracting perennials to each container can create an adorable look and attract wildlife. My favorites are the new, long-flowering Achilleas (yarrow); Columbine for shade; Globe thistles (such as Eryngies and Echinops); Monarda (bee balm); red crocosmia (loved by hummingbirds); all lavender; Echinaceas; and the new range of perennial Salvia greggii, which are attractive (especially red), long flowering and available in a variety of colors. Try mixing them with annuals for more continuous color display in containers or in the ground.

Many mothers today like to have their own groceries grown in containers on their decks or patios. This trend was made possible by the many new types of vegetables that were specially bred for container cultivation. Herb gardens would also top many culinary wish-lists, especially if they are planted with perennial and biennial varieties that provide fresh green all summer and into autumn. Chives, thyme, oregano, mints, and marjoram are standard dishes, and the many varieties of rosemary are a must. Biennials like curly or Italian parsley would also be a nice touch. Bay leaves add so much flavor to any meat dish, and a bay tree (Laurus nobilis) planted in a larger container would be something special. As with any container cultivation, larger pots mean less maintenance and less watering.

Leafy vegetables like Simply Salad and other gourmet salad mixes can be both colorful and delicious. Swiss chard, especially the Bright Lights series, and slow bolt spinach offer a continuous buffet of attractive, tasty and healthy greens.

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Tomatoes are certainly the most sought-after vegetable, and there are some special features. In large hanging baskets or pots, the overflow cup, the Tumbling Tom and the Tumbling Tom Yellow are among the best options for an early, continuous supply of small, delicious fruits. There’s also a wide variety of bite-sized tomatoes available, such as tried-and-true winners, the tempting tomatoes, good-hearted and old favorites like Tiny Tim and Patio Improved. I think the tomatoes with the best flavor are the large, vine-grown varieties like Sun Sugar and Sun Gold. They grow well in larger containers but need to be staked out.

Monarda is a bee magnet. Monarda is a bee magnet. Photo by Minter Country Garden /.Minter Country Garden

Mothers who enjoy making ethnic recipes might like a container of hot peppers like Basket of Fire, a decorative / edible crossover variety. Bell peppers do very well in containers. The super hots are the Ghost Pepper, Scotch Bonnet, Habanero, Caribbean Red Hot, Trinidad Scorpion, and the hottest of them all, Carolina Reaper. If kids are out, maybe stick with jalapenos.

Patio cucumbers are now vastly improved over the older types. Patio Snacker and Salad Bowl are some of the easiest to pull out with a little grating.

Small fruits growing on mom’s terrace would be a real pleasure. Always carrying strawberries hanging over a hanging basket or tall patio pot are the first choice in this category. A slow release fertilizer like 14-14-14 will make them grow and produce well into fall. There are so many varieties today, both from plants and from seeds. I like Albion and Tristar as plants and Berri Basket, Berries Galore and Berries Hill Montana as seedlings. Proven winners have a unique strawberry series called Berried Treasure with pink, red or white flowers and delicious fruits.

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The reality of high density living today can lead to challenges such as pollution, noise, congestion, and stress. Your mother might appreciate a little more privacy on her deck. With a light pot and soil, nice little trees like a Japanese maple can provide both shade and a little shade on the patio. Adding a few LED lights will make it an attractive evening all year round too.

Mothers who love to cook would enjoy a container of herbal mixes. Mothers who love to cook would enjoy a container of herbal mixes. Photo by Minter Country Garden /.Minter Country Garden

In busy situations, terraces and decks can get very noisy. The sound of water flowing from a small self-contained well is a great way to counteract the noise of traffic and other unpleasant noises.

Scent can add a sense of serenity. Fragrant buddleias (butterfly bush) bloom all summer and attract butterflies and other pollinators. Perfumed heliotropes are among the most sought-after fragrant plants. If you have space problems, move them to other containers.

If mom is passionate about gardening, she would really appreciate a gift card for her favorite garden shop. Subscriptions to gardening magazines are valued year round, as is a season for a public garden (once they reopen, hopefully in the fall). Unique garden art is becoming a big trend. British Columbia’s florist industry has many talented designers, and sometimes a beautiful bouquet or arrangement of flowers makes the perfect gift.

However you choose to celebrate your mother or someone special on this Mother’s Day, make it a thoughtful and meaningful expression of your appreciation.

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Robert Dunfee