A $400 tomato-scented candle and ‘Dirt’ cologne? Really?

Erin Schanen

No matter how much I’d like to be one of those people who makes notes throughout the year of gift ideas for family and friends, I am but a mere mortal who, in the throes of a panicked gift-buying season, ends up scouring online gift guides that claim to know the innermost desires of the people I hold dear.

And I know I’m not alone. That’s why I was intrigued by a New York Times “plant-based” gift guide that purported to have the answers for gift-givers buying for anyone who loves plants, a number that exploded during the pandemic as more people found a new gardening hobby.

As a “plant person,” I feel qualified to weigh in on gifts that people who love plants would appreciate. In fact, I buy for quite a few “plant-based” kindred spirits. And that’s why I’m telling you that most of the suggested gifts on this list should be avoided at all costs.

The first item that caught my eye was the ugliest pair of shoes I’ve ever seen — gardening clogs made from recyclable hemp plastic in a color that could be called “cardboard box.”

There are also a pair of candles on the list. Candles, by the way, are what you take to a white elephant party, but these aren’t even well suited for that. The first is a candle that looks like a fennel bulb, which isn’t terrible since it falls under the “quirky” category. But since it is sold out, gift-givers will have to resort to the other option on the list — a candle that has the “high-intensity fragrance of tomato leaves that evokes the fresh, verdant aroma of vines just before they burst into fruit.”

I don’t know a lot of people who like the smell of tomato leaves for any reason other than that they signal that a fresh tomato is coming. The largest size of the tomato candle will run you $404 (this is not a typo). For that kind of money you could buy a complete indoor growing setup to grow actual plants so you can enjoy that “verdant” scent AND have tomatoes.

Speaking of scent, you can also pick up cologne called “Dirt,” made to “smell exactly like the dirt from fields around the Pennsylvania family farm belonging to our founding perfumer.”

Gardeners, of course, know a better way to capture that scent — simply skip the shower after a hard day of digging in the garden. And if that’s not to your partner’s liking, you can use the $75, one-pound block of charcoal soap, also on the gift guide, to clean up.

Not all the ideas in the “plant-based” gift guide are bad. There’s a nice watering can and a kitchen compost bin that is handy to hold food scraps in until you get them to the compost pile.

But if you’re shopping for a real gardener, I’ll let you in on a secret. They only want three things: plants, garden tools or a load of compost that they don’t have to move themselves.

And, unlike a $404 tomato-foliage candle, there’s zero chance that they will burn your house down.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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