Succulents Before Swine

There are two swine in this story. This cute little planter and myself. You see, I suffer from that typical male character trait of never truly knowing what to get as gifts for my loved ones birthdays. My caveman brain has trouble thinking beyond simple manly gift ideas that women can receive and have a genuine warm smile that will remain when I’m out of range. My stupid and useless caveman reptilian brain. Here’s an illustration of it working at maximum capacity:

Caveman Brain
Jim’s Brain at Maximum Capacity.

My loved ones are very kind and can fake happiness so well when my well-intentioned gift idea is presented to them in a clumsy and unsophisticated manner.

Don’t even get me started on cards. I have no idea why they are important and even less of an idea as to what makes a card a good one. When I receive cards, I don’t know what to do with them at all. And why do we keep cards? What’s their expiration date? Our reptile mind can’t grasp this whole industry. This perfectly sums up man’s thoughts on cards…


We do our best, but often fall short. When it comes to giving gifts, I almost always fall short. Except for gifts for my dog. She’s easy to figure out and every year, her joy is genuine and tangible. Hurray for simple creatures! My current gift giving climate is the perfect storm of an annual panic mode. My dogs birthday if July 7th. My girlfriends birthday is July 8th. My mothers birthday is…also July 8th.

Somewhere around April, the sweat begins to form on my brow and the tiny scratching panic creeps from the depths of my simple stupid brain. It sounds like this: “gurgle, fizz…oh god. What? No, it’s too soon. Whatamigonnaget?? Argghhhh!! gurgle fizz pop.” Then silence for a few days followed by ongoing nagging anxiety and finished off with a rushed panic decision that doesn’t reflect anyone’s wishes at all.

My girlfriend has helped to intensify my clumsy fumbling by stating that she no longer wants “things” for her gifts. Say what now? That removed about a bazillion options from my already scarce arsenal of ideas. She doesn’t want clutter and is actively trying to minimalize her space for what I assume are spiritual reasons. She said that experiences are a good gift idea. so her first gift was the experience of my vacant stare and odd half smile. Last year I took her parasailing which was completely amazing! Check it out…


However, this level of awesome raises the bar a bit too high for my meager income and I have to resist the urge to one-up it every year thereafter out of necessity and self-preservation. This year, money is especially tight so I needed to get a little more creative with a homemade gift. Of sorts.

About eight months ago, my sweet lady mentioned that she wanted to get a mini succulent garden for her downtown studio apartment. This really stuck in my mind because my girlfriend currently has zero plants to care for. The polar opposite to my obsession. We got two fiddle leaf figs a while back; one for me and one for her. Hers has been sitting in my yard for two years now just waiting to be brought home. Needless to say, I feel the need to fuel any interest she has in horticulture so she can get a tiny bit of the bug that got me so many years ago.

About six months ago, while at City farmers Nursery (on one of her many forced nursery outings) we passed by this cute little pig planter. I noticed she was drawn to its adorableness and made another little mental note. You see, if the years activities give me any clues for gift ideas I latch on to them like a tiny life raft in a horizonless stormy sea.

When April rolled around, I began to put my plan into action. And of course, the pig planters were all sold out. Thankfully, the amazing people at City Farmers Nursery were able to track down another one for me in relatively short order. I then scoured several nurseries to find the perfect array of tiny succulents to add to the arrangement. I also added a few cuttings from my own garden to help save a wee bit of the paper money. I let them root for a month and found an adorable little mud house (typically used in bonsai) before adding everything to the elusive pig planter.

It was about mid-May when I finally created this little cactus garden. I had to hide it strategically for a month or so from Nury’s watchful eyes while it took root. No small task as it needed sunlight to thrive. I would move it all the time, seeking spots away from prying eyes that had similar lighting conditions as to not stress the succulents.

Then around the middle of June, which is double-panic time for me gift-wise, Nury shows up to my house with a pot of varied succulents and a planter in the shape of a hedgehog. Boy, she’s so self-sufficient isn’t she!

My mid-June gift panicked heart sank to deep dark places usually reserved for high school flashbacks of atomic wedgies and unrequested erections while walking to the chalkboard. “Well shit, now what?” I thought to myself. I decided the best course of action was to give the gift immediately and pray that a nice dinner was ample enough of an early July celebration.

Again, the kindness of my loved ones is more than I deserve. She accepted the gift with grace and sweetness from this clumsy oaf. So without further ado, I present my present.

Little Pig Succulent Garden 02_Close Up of the Pig Face

Little Pig Succulent Garden 03_Nestled in it's cozy tray

Little Pig Succulent Garden 04_Birdseye view

Little Pig Succulent Garden 05_Side view

Little Pig Succulent Garden 06_Side view detail

Little Pig Succulent Garden 07_Happy pig

I can only hope that the gift was well received. This little guy seems to be happy in his new home and my magnanimous girlfriend appears to be properly sated. On behalf of all the men everywhere in the world, A thousand apologies for years of terrible gift ideas and half-assed attempts at mind reading. It’s not that we don’t love you, it’s more that we are dumb and lack imagination. Now I can focus on Christmas panic mode! Ugh.

13 Replies to “Succulents Before Swine”

  1. You’re the best. And I have good news to report—all the succulents are still alive thus far.

    For Christmas, wishing for a bacon-covered succulent garden…

    1. I will bring home all the bacon! And let me clarify when I say “all the bacon” I mean ALL of it. It won’t be easy and many people will have to die, but anything for you!

  2. I would LOVE the pig succulent gift James. I think your girlfriend is a lucky girl – you obviously care, as you are so concerned to come up with a well received gift. That in itself speaks volumes!!

    1. Aw thanks Sarhn, that means a lot! I’m definitely the lucky one in this relationship though. She deserves more than I’ll ever be able to give. To make up for that, I have to perform seductive dances. It’s exhausting.

    1. I haven’t received a proper letter in years. A billion texts and emails. No letters. It would be nice to bring that back wouldn’t it. Bust out the writing desks! Hone the quills! Huzzah.

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