CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Admitting to the following holiday tradition may cause my family some embarrassment from some friends, and the admiration of others. We watch "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" every year, all of us on the couch, and we laugh at the same bad lines like they are the best comedy this side of "Seinfeld."
The reason I'm making this confession is there's one line that came to me as I started this column: Chevy Chase's brother in the movie, portrayed by Randy Quaid, describes the Jelly-of-the-Month Club present that Chase has received from his boss: "That's the gift that keeps on giving."
One of my favorite gifts "that keeps on giving" is a live plant. Welcome additions for new homeowners as well as for seasoned gardeners, there are many plants to choose from.
Of course, a safe bet is a small houseplant. I love giving varieties of Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii, Schlumbergera x buckleyi, Epiphyllum x buckleyi) because I think they are interesting after they bloom, and they are easy to keep alive throughout the rest of the year.
Mine continually amaze me with blooms at Christmas and often at other surprise times. Purchase a plant with loads of buds and only a few flowers open. It will bloom for weeks. In many families, this plant is passed from one generation to the next. I have a huge plant that graced my mother-in-law's dining room for years.
Another nice gift is an ivy topiary. Available trained onto many forms, such as standard spirals, rings and cones, they will work into anyone's holiday décor and will be a nice addition to any home once the decorations are tucked away. They are happy in cool rooms with bright, indirect light.
TerraSalis has ordered 22- and 42-inch-tall slender ivy cones, as well as many great gift plants such as maidenhair fern, lemon button fern, black rabbit foot fern, rosemary, and olive trees. Other plant gifts suggested by Alison Verey of TerraSalis include the grow-your-own gingko or Japanese maple in a rice hull pot and various blooms in a bag.
I read about a great growing gift for the teacher (or apartment dweller with limited space) on your list. This idea came from an old Southern Living magazine.
"Choose a container to spruce up a windowsill or office desk. Pick a non-draining container with a tight-fitting lid. Kitchen storage jars, small canisters, and apothecary-style jars with sealing tops are good options. (The best-bargain award goes to quart-size canning jars.)
"Fill the container with dry potting mix to one inch below the rim. Sprinkle ryegrass or wheat grass seeds on top so the soil is completely covered. Put on the lid."
Tie on a decorative note with a pretty ribbon that reads, "Just Add Water" and describe what sort of seeds are in the container. Misting the surface every day works well, as wheat and ryegrass require damp (not soggy) soil. In no time, the recipient will have a little bit of summer lawn right there on their desk!
Last year, my daughter and I found miniature cypress trees at bargain prices ($5 to $10) at Big Lots. We put them into little urns and wove cream-colored ribbon through them. We used them at home and gave them as gifts. I'll be looking for those again.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 348-1249.