Gardening: Wrap up an experience for your loved one this holiday season

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

If you’re a last-minute holiday shopper who resorts to gift cards to restaurants, big boxes and clothing stores for the seniors on your gifting list, I have a suggestion for a little something different – a mystery trip. 

I’m a huge fan of mystery trips and other “experiences”. I don’t remember who gifted me what over the years, but the times I spent with my loved ones – the experiences, remain embedded in my memory and my heart. 

My daughter invited me on a mystery trip as a birthday celebration about a year after my gardening pal, my late husband, Hank, died.  She said,  “Pack a bag; we’re off on a weekend getaway.” Our destination was the Chicagoland  Garfield Park Conservatory that was hosting one of the first Chihuly in the Garden  displays. I was so blown away we returned for a second look the next day. That was more than 20 years ago, but it remains a fond memory. 

A visit to the Belle Isle Conservatory in January is the perfect cure for the after-holiday blues.

An invite to take a mystery trip, even a short one,  is something to look forward to, especially for folks who no longer drive long distances. It could be an event such as a garden walk, because it’s always fun to see what’s growing on the other side of town. Look for listings of special events on the Michigan Gardener website beginning in the  spring (  The good thing about a spring mystery trip is you have plenty of time to plan it. 

A trip to Belle Isle for anyone whose roots are in Detroit is a treat any time of the year.   A visit to the Belle Isle Conservatory in January is the perfect cure for the after-holiday blues. (  Then there is the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and the  Aquarium.  

A gift certificate, especially one “artfully” created by the grandkids with pictures included, may be the most treasured gift of all. And what can the kids give?  How about help with spring cleanup in the yard or straightening up the garage?  Filling and toting flowerpots when they are ready to be planted and creating flowerbeds for those whose time doing heavy garden chores has passed is a priceless gift. 

I remember my elderly dad commenting one spring, “ Hey Nance, when are you going to plant my pot ?”  His “pot” was a small wrought iron stove that came out of the old farmhouse our family renovated and cared for the next 70-plus years. It was an hour’s drive for me and he’d make dinner. It was more than just a planting; it was an experience for both of us. 

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at