A Few Ideas for Giving Trees as Gifts

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Cedar and pine trees add color all year round.
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A European Hornbeam is more tree than bush, although it looks like a large shrub.
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Pink dogwoods not only add color to your yard, they provide shade for a relaxing turn in a swing.
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Make tree planting a family affair, and let the children help.

Finding a truly lasting and meaningful gift for a loved one in our consumption-driven world can be a challenge. Does your youngster really need that latest piece of plastic junk? Does the man who has everything really need one more something? This year, give a gift that will honor the recipient for years – a living tree.

Trees make beautiful and enduring gifts that keep the joy growing long after chocolates have melted and flowers have wilted. A tree can be a symbolic gift for a milestone occasion such as a child’s birth, a new home, or an important birthday or anniversary. Donating to a reforestation program to plant a tree in someone’s honor is also a thoughtful and meaningful way to memorialize a loved one.

Trees may well be the ultimate in green giving; they are sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable, and they have a negative carbon footprint. Trees improve air quality, capture storm-water runoff, and provide shade to reduce energy costs. They absorb noise and reduce stress, and they even have been shown to boost the economy. A living tree more than offsets the environmental impact of packaging and wrapping paper associated with more traditional gifts. From a personal and practical point of view, a tree makes the ideal gift – even for someone who doesn’t have a backyard.

Selecting the perfect tree

Fruit trees, such as apple, pear, apricot or lemon, provide an additional bonus in the form of delicious homegrown fruit. Adventurous friends and relatives might enjoy something more exotic, such as guava, pawpaw, or the South American cherimoya, a custard apple that gives thin-skinned, soft fruit with a sweet pineapple-banana flavor. If a larger tree is impractical due to space limitations, consider a dwarf version, which can be grown in a pot. Dwarf citrus will grow happily on a sunny patio or deck, as will many other varieties. Just remember that your beautiful gift will lose its appeal if it withers at the first frost, so make sure to choose an appropriate tree for the recipient’s location.

If good looks are your thing, try giving a flowering tree to provide seasonal color to a backyard. Consider a vibrant pink dogwood, a weeping cherry that looks like a spring snowfall, or a stunning gold Tulip Poplar. Other trees such as the Autumn Blaze Maple or the Autumn Purple Ash offer summer shade followed by a show-stopping display of fall foliage. Don’t forget that flowering trees eventually drop their blossoms, so consider the maintenance involved, especially if the new owner isn’t in good health.

If your loved one has a large backyard or some land, the variety of trees available is limited only by growing zone and personal preference. Your local nursery should be able to offer recommendations for the most appropriate tree to give.

Buying a tree

A tree from a local nursery comes with expert advice on care, hardiness and size when fully grown. Many nurseries deliver, although it’s always more fun to hand-deliver a gift, particularly if you opt for a sapling or a potted tree.

For friends and relatives who don’t live nearby, companies such as Eternitree (www.Eternitree.com, 866-654-7127) ship gift-boxed saplings, along with a personalized gift booklet and care instructions, anywhere in the United States.

Seeds of Life (www.SeedsOfLife.com, 800-880-4662) offers a range of saplings, larger trees and kits containing everything needed to grow a tree from seed. The kits make good gifts for children, helping them learn about plant care and allowing them to watch their own tree as it grows.

Some people just don’t have the luxury of space. For city dwellers, or someone confined to their home or a care facility, other options are available. By donating to a reforestation program, such as the Arbor Day Foundation (www.ArborDay.org, 888-448-7337), you can have any number of trees planted in honor of someone who may not have room for the real thing. Trees for a Change (www.TreesForAChange.com, 707-508-9262) plants gift trees in U.S. National Forest areas destroyed by wildfire, and the organization sends your loved one a personalized certificate made from 100-percent recycled paper, or a paperless e-card, plus access to online photos of the tree as well as directions to its location.

With all these available options, you can get creative with your gift-giving. A longtime Peter, Paul and Mary fan might appreciate a greatest hits CD along with a lemon tree; a Norway Spruce might give a Beatles fanatic her own Norwegian Wood. A bird feeder is a lovely gift made even more special with a tree from which to hang it, and a book of soup recipes becomes more meaningful if the bay leaves can be picked from a potted Bay Laurel. However you choose to give a tree, it’s a gift that will keep giving – and growing – long after the celebration is over.