Green, Growing Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Flowers and cards are great, but you can do better.

April 29, 2013

Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and it’s time to honor your mom even more than you do on the other 364 days of the year. But take it from me: Your mom doesn’t need any more stuff! What she really wants is some quality time with her favorite people…and perhaps a day off from her routine chores. If you can make those things happen, you’ve got a lock on Son or Daughter of the Year. Beyond that, here are a few suggestions that will please moms who are tired of finding room on the shelf for another tchotchke, please our Mother Earth by not trashing and polluting her, and save you some pocket green all at the same time.

Cards are probably the most common Mother’s Day accoutrement. If your mom’s online and an active emailer, you can send an e-card instead of adding more paper to the waste stream (yes, it may take years, but eventually your mom does throw out the cards you send her). Or make a card from found items and write a personal note to put inside. Can’t think of anything special to write? Inspire yourself by looking at online poetry and quotation sites, most of which will let you search for mom-themed writing.


Flowers probably come a close second to cards in frequency of presentation on Mother’s Day. And after all, what could be nicer than flowers? Flowers that haven’t been sprayed with toxic pesticides and flown halfway around the world—that’s what! If you have a garden and live close by, make a bouquet from your finest blooms. If not, visit your local farmers’ market and buy a locally grown and organic bunch, or call around to see if any area florists stock organic, fair-trade, or local selections. If Mom is too far away for you to make the delivery yourself, try ordering organic through an online supplier such as, or FTD’s organic and fair-trade selections.

Gifts That Keep on Growing
Flowers are pretty. But a flowering plant lasts far longer than cut flowers. Some living herb plants or vegetable seedlings can be a daily reminder to your mom of how much she means to you, and they’ll help her eat well at the same time. If your mother doesn’t have a garden to plant your gifts into (or even if she does), she may appreciate a window box or container that’s preplanted with herbs, veggies, and edible flowers for her deck, balcony, or stoop. Select a variety of colors and textures, including tall spiky plants and some that will trail over the edges. One of the nicest Mother’s Day gifts my kids ever gave me was a rough wooden planter they built themselves, planted with bright red geraniums and white alyssum. The container doesn’t have to be fancy, and can even be free (a wooden bushel basket from the produce store is an attractive choice). It just needs to be at least 8 inches deep (12 inches or more is even better for most plants) and have drainage holes. You can also buy a ready-made container or planter system such as an Earthbox that makes it super-easy for even first-time gardeners to reap generous organic harvests in a small space.


You can grow just about any edible in a container, but here are some of my favorites: basil (there are many different shapes, colors, and fragrances), calendula (edible flowers), carrots (they have lovely ferny foliage), chamomile, chives, cucumbers (get the bushy type, or provide a sturdy trellis), green onions, lettuce (mix some different colors and shapes), peppers, pinks and carnations (yes, they’re actually edible!), radishes, rosemary (trailing varieties are available), scented geraniums, strawberries (alpine or everbearing), thyme, and tomatoes. If plants or seedlings aren’t available from a local nursery or farmers’ market, plant the seeds and put in some labeled markers. Include care instructions and perhaps an appropriate gardening book.

If Mom’s deck or terrace could also use some privacy, stock a container with some tall plants that will create a living screen (you’ll need to set up a trellis of woven branches or strings to support the plants). Good and tasty choices include runner beans (they produce scarlet or white edible flowers, followed by beans), pineapple sage (gorgeous flowers and pineapple-flavored leaves that can be used for tea), okra (red varieties are especially attractive; both the large flowers and the pods are edible), rat-tail radish (makes small white-to-pink edible flowers, followed by tender, spicy seedpods), and sunflowers (even a single plant makes quite a statement!). For a spot that doesn’t get a lot of sun, plant Swiss chard (different varieties sport white, deep red, or jewel-tone midribs), salad greens, carrots, and beets.

After cards and flowers, taking Mom out for a meal is likely the next most common Mother’s Day ritual. If a meal is part of your family’s tradition, give it a green makeover and take her to a restaurant that buys local and organic ingredients. Or cook up a feast with fresh edibles from your local farmers’ market. For longer-term enjoyment, consider signing her up for a local consumer-supported agriculture (CSA) program (she’ll get a box or bag of farm-fresh veggies every week). Make an agreement with your siblings to take turns bringing her to the farm or picking up the produce and delivering it to her; she’ll get fresh food and a visit. Or sign up yourself, and split your take with her. Check out to find a CSA program in your (or her) area.