There are a number of men in my life who are fathers. This includes my academic "father" who helped me get my degree, my brother who raised a really cool kid and a dear friend who gives hours of his time to kids who don't have dads in their lives. I want to get them something for Father's Day, but what?

It seems that men are harder to buy gifts for than women. Bubble bath or a broach just doesn't seem right for those with a Y chromosome. What can you do if the man you want to give a Father's Day gift to has enough neckties to stretch from here to Phoenix, enough cologne to bathe in daily, sufficient watches, belts, and wallets, and a superfluity of geegaws and gimcracks for the desk? Think outdoors. Think things that grow and develop, just like children do. Think of heading over to your nearest nursery to look into some of these gift ideas.

If Dad likes to cook, consider a gift of a landscape herb - rosemary for example. Potatoes quartered and baked in a casserole with a little olive oil and sprigs of rosemary are sumptuous. For the guy with the grill, he can cut a few rosemary branches or even a few leaves, and toss them on the coals when cooking. Rosemary smoke adds great flavor to red or white meats. If Dad has a gas grill, lay the fresh branches on the grate, and then put your steaks on top. The heat pulls the flavor out of the rosemary and into the meat. The ultimate use of a rosemary plant is to trim larger branches into shish-kabob skewers. Pull the leaves off and save them to toss onto the coals for great flavor.

Rosemary plants are tough - they can take our climate. That's why you see it planted in parking lots and highway medians. Even brown-thumb gardeners will find rosemary easy. The plants are native to the dry rocky slopes of Greece. Once plants are established, they need little water, maybe some extra water in our hot summers.

Cousin to rosemary is germander. I like it better as a landscape plant because germander leaves are bright green, rounded, and glossy, not needle-like. The creeping form of germander stays lower than rosemary and makes a beautiful, lush-looking groundcover. Use germander in cooking much as you would rosemary. It has a slightly stronger flavor, however, so use less.

Society Garlic is a sprightly little plant. Society garlic is so named because you can eat the mild garlic flavored leaves at a high society dinner, and not offend the other diners afterwards with garlic-breath. Unlike bulbs of garlic, the leaves are above ground all year. Available in bright green or a beautiful variegated form, the plants flower in summer with clusters of small violet flowers. Cut a few leaves off anytime and add to salads, omelets or stir-fry. A few fresh leaves also taste great in meat or cheese sandwiches.

Add sound and motion to Dad's garden with ornamental grasses. There are a wide variety to choose from, in a broad selection of colors and leaf types. Grasses come in bright green, lime green, blue-green, purplish or silver. Leaves can be broad or narrow, and can be solid colors, striped or even zebra-striped. Cascading ornamental grasses do well in containers too, if Dad has a smaller yard. Grasses are fun gifts, because they do not require high maintenance. Water, of course, and give them a crew cut once a year when the Rodeo comes to town, that's it. The rest of the time, enjoy the soft soughing sound of the breeze in their leaves.

Of course there is always Tim the Tool Man Taylor's idea of a good gift: tools! There are a number of specialized tools and gadgets for gardening. Not just shovels or weeders, but things dads might not get for themselves, like a high quality, top-of-the-line, pole prunner. Maybe he won't use it every day, but, as Tim says, "Just having a high quality tool on the tool rack makes a man feel good."

The Weather Channel showed skeptics that people are interested enough for a 24-hour television channel devoted to weather. How about a home weather station with a wireless remote readout? The station sits outside, and Dad can read the screen while sitting inside, in his recliner. There are wireless thermometers, rain gauges, anemometers (wind speed), and more. Many are under $30. A decorative weathervane can add a nice touch to the old homestead or garden shed.

Other inside-looking-out gifts from a garden center include all sorts of bird feeders, including hummingbird feeders. Neighbor Chet spends hours watching the variety of hummingbirds that visit his feeders. Just beyond the feeders sits a gazing globe. He says it's fun to watch the doves try to land on it.

Spruce up the indoors with a plant. Well, not a spruce, they need cold outdoors weather, but some other plant. I saw a pot of ficus trees, their trunks braided together around golf balls. For a smaller tree, there are a number of stunning bonsai plants, and even kits available to start your own bonsai. Houseplants make a nice gift, because they help clean the indoor air and make oxygen too. Dad could take his plant to the office, and as long as he waters it once a week, it should survive.

If Dad doesn't like to actually work in the garden, how about a hammock for lying around in? If Dad's lumbago won't let him use a hammock, I saw teak steamer chairs in one garden catalog. Don't feel guilty about buying them, they were made from plantation-grown teak.

Shade is good. A large garden umbrella could shade Dad in his hammock or chair, or while he grills some rosemary shish-kabobs.

Gifts for Dads to enjoy the garden with can come from your local nursery, a garden store, a catalog or online. Spend a little time and get the father in your life something different for this Father's Day.

Jacqueline A. Soule is a botanist and the director of Tierra del Sol. For help planning your landscape, please leave a voice message at 292-0504.


Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) - tree

Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) - ground cover or shrub

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) - tropical grass

Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida) - herbaceous perennial

Mint, Spearmint (Mentha spicata) - herbaceous perennial

Oregano & Marjoram (Origanum species) - herbaceous perennial

Poliomentha, Mexican Oregano (Poliomentha longiflora) -

herbaceous perennial

Mexican Oregano (Lippia sp.) - shrub

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - ground cover or shrub

Sage (Salvia species) - herbaceous perennial

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) - grass-like perennial

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