Ask Dr. Bleedingheart

Bleeding Heart BlossomsDear Dr. Bleedingheart,

I’m attending a housewarming party for a young couple who love good food and outdoor entertaining. I want to get them something useful and enduring–maybe to help with their garden or to use in the kitchen. What’s new in the world of DIY home and garden products? Or would it be best to go with an old standby?

Thank you,


Dear Giftless,

Ah, yes, the socially awkward housewarming gift.  You bring a nice bottle of wine to someone who has a giant wine cellar, and it’s like delivering a truckload of manure to a dairy farm.  Bring the same nice bottle to somebody who drinks their wine out of a box, usually over ice and sometimes with a splash of Sprite on top, and—well—it’s like delivering a truckload of manure to a studio apartment.  Either way, it’s unappreciated.

But the phrase “outdoor entertaining” is encouraging.  It’s not quite the same as “gardening,” is it?   “Outdoor entertaining,” like “outdoor living,” is one of those trendy phrases that suggests that a person might have a garden, even if they don’t actually do any gardening.

And for those people for whom “garden” is a noun, not a verb, the solution is easy.  This time of year, one simply cannot have too many herbs in one’s outdoor entertaining space.  Go down to the garden center and pick up as many interesting varieties of basil as you can find.  A good garden center will have Thai basil, purple basil, lemon basil, a small-leafed Greek basil, and the regular broad-leafed basil you see everywhere.  Buy a simple clay pot for five to ten bucks, cram all the varieties of basil into one pot, and you’re done. Don’t worry if they’ve already got a herb garden—no one can have too much basil.

Amy StewartAmy Stewart is the author of From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, and the New York Times bestsellers Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Find more from her at Garden Rant.

Submit your own horticultural question to Dr. Bleedingheart by emailing it to: katie [at] algonquin [dot] com

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