Thursday, November 30 2023 10:22

Planting Holiday Joy

Written by Shannon Montgomery

Give the original "green" gift this holiday season

’Tis the season for holiday shopping! While you’re making your list and checking it twice, be sure to consider the impact your celebrations have on our planet.

Making sustainable choices is important all year round, but there’s no better time to keep the environment in mind than the holiday season. Stanford University reports that household waste increases more than 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, resulting in an additional million tons of trash produced weekly.

While there are many options for eco-friendly gifting (see our December 2022 issue), this year we’re focusing on giving plants — the original “green” gift! Not only do they make beautiful presents, they also provide a host of environmental benefits. Plants purify the air, are biodegradable, don’t require any packaging and don’t need to be wrapped — according to the Clean Air Partnership, around 8,000 tons of wrapping paper (that’s about 50,000 trees’ worth) are used and discarded each year.

Here are some of our favorite plant (and plant-related) gifts, all from local businesses and organizations. As always, consider shopping small and local, which further reduces your carbon footprint and helps support the local economy.

Perfect Plants

Holiday plants from Mostardi Nursery

Kick off your holiday shopping at our area’s nurseries, greenhouses and garden shops. While you’re browsing the rows and rows of dazzling plants, be sure to keep your recipient in mind. “There are several important factors to consider before buying a plant as a gift,” says John Rapini, Green Goods Buyer and Garden Shop Manager at Longwood Gardens. “Consider the recipient’s skill level, their light conditions and if they have the right space to plant it.” Luckily, our local businesses have a wide inventory and experts on hand to help you pick the perfect plant.

Snake plant, jade plant and ZZ plant from Matlack Florist

Stop by Mostardi Nursery in Newtown Square, a perennial favorite since 1976. They have all the classic Christmas flowers — poinsettias, amaryllis, paperwhites — as well as other seasonal greenery, many with festive names. The experts at Mostardi recommend succulents like Christmas cactus and Kandy Kane kalanchoes as well as frosty ferns, flowering helleborus and ardisia plants, plus rosemary and lavender trees.

In West Chester, shoppers have multiple options for finding the perfect plant for anyone on your list. At Matlack Florist, co-owner Clare Mulloy says, “Unless your recipient is a seasoned plant parent, we tend to think the best plant gifts are low-maintenance, able to thrive in low-light environments and can tolerate a fair bit of neglect.” She recommends a snake plant, jade plant — “an attractive, slow-growing succulent that’s known to represent growth and prosperity” — or unique-looking ZZ plant, all of which are both pretty to look at and easy to care for.

Preserved moss from The Green House

At The Green House, recently opened on Church Street in West Chester, you’ll find a variety of plants in unique pots made by owner Peter Giuffre. For those who love plants but struggle to keep them alive, Giuffre recommends preserved moss. “Preserved moss doesn’t need water or sunlight,” he says. “This solves the problem of giving some greenery but with no strings attached.” Giuffre also suggests wood-trough succulent or cacti gardens. “These are unique, low-maintenance vessels that are great as centerpieces on kitchen tables, coffee tables,” he says. “Anybody would love one of these for their house.” As for flowers, Giuffre says, “My personal favorite is red and pink anthuriums. Their blooms last forever.”

Bonsai from The Garden Shop at Longwood Gardens. Photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Still looking for more? You’re sure to find a special plant at The Garden Shop at Longwood Gardens. Manager John Rapini has recommendations for recipients of all skill levels. For those with less experience, he suggests “easy houseplants such as sansevieria, succulents, hoyas and ferns. Tillandsia (air plants) can make themselves at home practically anywhere.”

For those up for more of a challenge, Rapini recommends a bonsai or orchid. “The gift of bonsai is more than just a plant; it’s the opportunity to have a whole new hobby,” he says. “Orchids can also open up a new hobby for houseplant enthusiasts.”

Finally, Rapini says that you can’t go wrong with Planted by Longwood, “a collection of living works of art that are designed and planted onsite by The Garden Shop Design Team at Longwood Gardens. These terrariums and potted plants are beautiful and easy to care for, making them an ideal gift for plant lovers or those looking to add a touch of greenery to their homes.”

Artful Arrangements

Know someone who loves plants but doesn’t have the time — or green thumb — to care for them? You may want to opt for a flower arrangement. Not only are they gorgeous to look at, they require little attention (just add water) and can be composted or dried after they’ve wilted.

Holiday arrangement from Kati Mac Floral Designs

For a beautiful gift that supports a great cause, choose an arrangement from West Chester’s Kati Mac Floral Designs. Over half the employees have special needs, and the business provides them with an opportunity to learn and grow. Partnering with local flower farms, they create stunning arrangements using fresh, seasonal plants. Choose an arrangement with red and white flowers along with pine sprigs for a festive gift that’s sure to spruce up the recipient’s home.

Another great option is Hilltop Flower Co. Their Kennett Square shop offers seasonal bouquets as well as artisan goods for the home and garden. For a unique gift, give a dried floral wreath made with leftover flowers from Hilltop’s wedding arrangements — beautiful and sustainable!

Or, give the gift of flowers all year round with a BloomBox subscription from Kenny’s Flower Shoppe, a Media staple for over 40 years. Get a custom, handcrafted flower arrangement delivered every month, plus a free stuffed animal. Three-, six- and 12-month subscriptions are available.

Memorable Memberships

Alternatively, give the beauty of plants without any of the hassle with a membership to one of our area’s public gardens. Plus, membership fees contribute to conservation efforts, so you can do good with your holiday gifting.

A membership to Winterthur Museum, Gardens & Library includes unlimited free general admission, dawn-to-dusk garden and estate access with miles of paths, discounts in the café and Museum Store, and a free Yuletide at Winterthur house tour, which runs through January 7. Similar benefits are offered at Longwood Gardens and other area gardens.

America’s Garden Capital Passport

Can’t pick just one garden? With 38 public gardens, arboreta and historic landscapes in the region, Philadelphia is America’s Garden Capital, making it a tough choice. Fortunately, you can give the gift of an America’s Garden Capital Passport, along with tickets to participating gardens. Encourage your friends and family to log their garden visits and get their passports stamped, just like an international travel passport. In addition to Longwood and Winterthur, participating gardens include Pottstown’s Welkinweir, Devon’s Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens and Villanova’s Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden. Passports are available for free at participating locations or online at

A Tree-mendous Gift

Help support reforestation through the U.S. Forest Service’s Plant-A-Tree program. For as little as $10, you can plant a tree in a special someone’s name. Your donation will be used to acquire and plant seedlings in a national forest of your choice or wherever it’s needed most. You can then choose from three different certificate designs to download and present to your green gift recipient. Learn more at


This holiday season, reduce your environmental impact by giving the gift of plants. Your loved ones — and Mother Nature — will thank you.

Happy holidays, and happy (green) shopping!