Saying “No” to Plants and Decor


I’m a rose, not a running bamboo!  I was a gift most wanted.

When I first began to work for my former boss, she owned a large floor to ceiling bookcase with one shelf devoted wholly to frogs.  It was definitely an interesting display.  Fake frogs of every kind crowded the entire shelf.  In particular, there was a small green metal frog reading a book that I coveted and a stuffed frog—the real deal—playing a miniature piano.  The stuffed lacquered frog gave me the creeps, frankly.

With all of those frogs, I was certain my boss (we’ll call her Sarah) loved frogs.

Sarah, taught statistics (also referred to as “sadistics” by students and Sarah, alike).  Sarah created a 6-8 week-long statistics project for her students that involved jumping frogs and the food they ate.  This assignment was a hit with most of her students and therefore, students often gave Sarah frogs as presents.

Seeing all of those frogs and wanting to make a favorable impression in my first year, for Sarah’s birthday I baked a cake and placed a fake frog on top.  She graciously accepted the frog and added it to her collection.

Many years later I learned Sarah wasn’t all that crazy about frogs.  Not much at all.  However, she wasn’t about to hurt anyone’s feelings so she displayed the frogs in her office.  Those frogs are probably still on display as I write this, and she changed offices three times during the time I worked with her.

I’m using my boss’s frogs as an illustration.  When someone gives you a gift, even if you aren’t crazy about it, even if hyenas and donkeys raised you, you still say “thank you” and accept it graciously. BUT what do you do with it afterward?  Unless you are Sarah with a large book shelf, depending upon what the gift is, you might have a problem.

FYI – The rose above was a gift from Sarah, my boss.

While I’ve received many gardening gifts that I’ve loved like the rose, I sometimes have issues similar to Sarah’s when it comes to certain plants and kitschy garden décor.  Most of my friends, acquaintances, and relatives know I garden, and there have been times I was presented with gifts I’d rather not have.  What to do?  I don’t want to hurt feelings.  It’s not like you can hide a plant in a closet without killing it or maybe that’s what I should have done?

(FYI – No one’s feelings will be hurt in this blog post. The gift-givers are either long gone or aren’t blog readers.)

Plants I’ve never wanted:

I remember when Jan’s nursery went out of business in the economic downturn.  I was sad because I felt I was one of her best customers, and I wanted her business to be successful.  When Jan’s business closed, after all her clearance sales were over and only a very few plants remained, she presented me with a running bamboo.  Ahem.  A running bamboo. I KNOW about running bamboos:  You run from them or they grow right through you.  I really didn’t want a running bamboo and especially not in my cottage garden.

Honestly, I remember taking the bamboo and holding it away from my body as if it were a bomb. When I got home with it, I made sure there was a saucer beneath the pot so it couldn’t slyly grow into the ground through its drainage holes when I wasn’t looking.

I held onto that bamboo for a month or two.  What to do with it?  I thought about not watering it, but then I’d feel guilty.

Ultimately, I took it to a plant swap and when someone asked about it, I was honest.  I told them it was a running bamboo and left all research to them.  By the end of the swap, the plant was re-homed.  Whew!

Currently, I have a friend who keeps trying to gift me with Ruellias.  She has a huge number of them in her garden.  They’re like rabbits and are planning to take over her house.

In any case, I politely tell my friend, “Thank you, but not right now.”  She’s asked me twice.  I think she’s getting desperate. I have a feeling she will ask again.  My plan is to avoid that part of her garden so she won’t think about Ruellias when I’m with her.

Decor meant for other gardens:

A neighbor at my former home gave me a set of flat cut-out metal children to put in the garden.  It’s the thought that counts, and at least they were metal (much better than plastic), but they just…weren’t…for…me.  I decided it wouldn’t hurt me to display them in the front garden bed by the street, and I did so for 3 months.  This was so my neighbor would see them when she drove by until, I hoped, she’d forget to look to see if they were there.  After 3 months, I removed them and she never asked me where they went.  (The children grew up as most children do and were sent to college far from my house.)

Honestly, I’m not a fan of kitschy garden art from China.  Okay, most things these days come from China, but if I can avoid it, I won’t put something from China in my yard, and I try to avoid plastic and resin stuff as well.  It’s just my preference. We’re all different.

Most recently, I was given the fruitcake of stepping stones:  Plastic, tiny, made in China, and painted grey, fluorescent green, and purple.  I was told (but I’m not sure I believe it) this gift was selected especially for me.  It wasn’t my birthday or any special occasion, and I’d not done anything nice for these folks…????…

Actually, I feel fairly confident that the stone was purchased so its wording of “I’m so happy I wet my plants” could be copied onto a wooden sign.  (These folks are making a lot of wooden signs and aren’t great spellers, but then neither am I.)  Still, it’s the thought that counts, right?    What to do with that stepping stone?  I hid it on the ground at the back of one of my beds, and I do use it when I water my passion vine.  You just can’t see it hidden beneath the salvia. Ding!–Perfect solution.

Finally, there is a friend from church who assisted in organizing a garage sale for someone. In the sale was a wire wheelbarrow probably made in China.  My friend was eager for me to see it and told me, “If you don’t buy it, I might because I like it SO much.  If I do buy it, I want to put it in YOUR garden.”  She lives in an apartment.  (My garden?  Why MY garden? It would look much better in her parents’ yard.)

The garage sale took place this weekend.  AND the verdict is still out…I’m afraid to ask her, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon if I’ll be getting a wire wheelbarrow and then I’ll need to come up with another solution.  Of course, if this wheelbarrow in my garden makes my friend happy, then maybe it doesn’t matter so much, right?  Life’s about being good to people and not so much about things.

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