I had no idea the Mother's Day gift idea I came up with some 16 years ago would've been such a hit with my Mom. At the time I worked on the first certified organic farm in my state, and I easily spent half of my pay on perennial herbs, flowers and annual vegetable bedding plants. I wanted to share some of my bounty with Mom, so I offered to plant her a special perennial garden along the edge of my parents' sunny front yard. Mom has been into “greener living” for quite some time, so I knew neither she nor my father would mind if I dug up a little slice of the front lawn.

The first in what would become a series of Mother's Day gardens was a roughly two-by-four-foot planting bed next to the driveway. I installed Mom in a lawn chair nearby and provided a running commentary on the plants I selected for her and why. I chose hardy natives including yarrow, bee balm, and purple coneflower because, once established, I knew they'd happily thrive on neglect. And thrive they have.

Even in its first year, the little garden exploded with fragrant foliage and blooms which brought compliments from countless passersby. Mom would thank them and proudly explain that this was her Mother's Day garden. It was the beginning of what would become a cherished family tradition. Over the years the planting bed stretched further down the length of the driveway, and in went black hollyhocks, pot marigolds, blanket flower, and eyeball plants for novelty's sake. When the garden could go no further in one direction, we widened it to accommodate another year or two. Eventually, we would cross to the other side of the driveway to begin planting there, and, now, again, we are starting to run short on space.

Aside from pleasing Mom, the Mother's Day gardens — offering shelter, seeds, and plenty of nectar — have pleased the local birds, bees and butterflies, too. What's more, there's no gift wrapping or wasteful packaging involved, and each year's garden addition means a little less lawn to mow, saving on time and fossil fuel. With another Mother's Day in the offing, I've already got my seeds started.

Story by Susan Brackney. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.