If you're looking for a gift that will nurture joy as well as support the arts and environment, shop at a botanical garden.
Their gift stores pride themselves on such items as local seeds, artwork and food. And any item you buy serves a dual purpose: pleasing the recipient and supporting the gardens.
For Janet Crockett, the director of retail operations for the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden in San Marino, California, the gifts featured in the nonprofit's 5,500-square-foot store tell a story.
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"When Henry Huntington moved to the property, or bought the property, the orange groves were still there,” she said. “So we not only use the oranges to make marmalade, they also use those oranges in the cafe to produce juice. ... It's the perfect souvenir.”
Purchases help the mission
If Southern California is too far away to visit, you can still enjoy the marmalade. The Huntington is one of hundreds of botanical gardens across the country with both onsite and online stores. The gifts featured in botanical garden boutiques can range from locally sourced arts, foods and books to products for all ages that are educational or promote the garden's environmental role. Many sell seeds; some sell and ship plants. You can also find classes, either in-person or virtual, as well as virtual tours.
"The trend I'm seeing is that they are doing more and more of a good job, not just putting logos on stuff but creating proprietary merchandise,” said Joan Thomas, director of external relations for the American Public Garden Association, which has 600 gardens as members, ranging from the pocket-sized to those spread over hundreds of acres.
Most botanical gardens also sell gift memberships, and about 300 have reciprocal deals for discounts or entry at other gardens and museums through a program sponsored by the American Horticultural Society. The society's website has details about reciprocity.
Your purchase from a botanic garden helps these organizations with their mission of research, education, native plant preservation and, in these complicated times, providing a safe place to be outdoors. If there's a garden near you, see if it sponsors holiday events, such as the Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Garden in Huntsville, Alabama.
Meanwhile, if you need a few more gifts, here's a sample of what you can find shopping online from five gardens across the United States, from West Coast to East Coast.
Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden, San Marino, California
Phone number: 626-405-2142
The Huntington's gardens, near Pasadena, spread over 207 acres and include a Japanese house and extensive children's gardens. Besides marmalade ($8.95 for a 10-ounce jar), its shop sells pendants ($35) and earrings ($35) in the shape of leaves from the garden's iconic ginkgo trees. It also showcases the work of toile artist Mariko Jesse, who created an exclusive design based on the Huntington's plants that's featured on products ranging from china tea sets ($150) to fans ($8.95)
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix
This 140-acre garden was founded in 1939 to preserve the desert landscape, so its shop specializes in desert-themed gifts, whether that's a stackable mug ($15) with a watercolor cactus motif or mixed cactus seeds ($2.95) for creating a dish garden. Or you could try the locally sourced foods, like the Prickly Pear Salad Dressing ($9.99 for 12 ounces).
Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
Founded in 1859 and located in St. Louis, this is the United States’ oldest botanical garden in continuous operation. Store director Amy Skrabacz said the most popular online order is the calendar ($10), which is like a 12-month Technicolor tour of the garden at its best. Or order something — maybe the orange curry bars — from Herbal Cookery: From the Kitchens and Gardens of the St. Louis Herb Society ($29.95).
Huntsville Botanical Garden, Huntsville, Alabama
This 120-acre property features a space garden, since it's a neighbor of several NASA facilities, and its shop offers items that are “mission-based,” said Donna Parsons, director of guest services. That means products that are educational, made of natural materials or locally made. This year a Huntsville jewelry company, LJ Sonder, designed the Branch Necklace ($50) for the shop. It comes in gold plate or silver and carries the sentiment, “Like branches we may grow in different directions, but our roots remain the same.” The site's ordering system is a work in progress and for now offers only curbside pickup; to order items to be shipped, contact the shop at email@example.com or 256-830-4447, ext. 221.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami
Phone: 305-667-1651, Ext. 8
This 83-acre garden is named after plant collector and explorer David Fairchild, who was one of its cofounders. Its store is focused on the garden's role in native plant conservation, said Nannette Zapata, chief operating officer. Fairchild's Million Orchid Project engages schoolchildren in a project to propagate native orchid species that are then planted in the wild, she said. In that spirit, the store sells a collection of bowls and tea lights ($40-$280) by artist Emilio Robba featuring silk orchid blooms that look as if they are floating in glass.