Simple, Inexpensive And Beautiful Holiday Gifts
Holidays can be delightful, and they can also feel a bit high-pressured these days. My family has pledged not to exchange anything store-bought this year (and some have asked not to exchange anything at all). I totally sympathize with that position, yet I love giving gifts and enjoy making things for family and friends. What to do?
If times are tight, gardeners can find a wealth of free ingredients for holiday gifts right in their own backyards. For example, if you grow rosemary, sage, and thyme, you can easily make pretty, fragrant kitchen wreaths for friends who love to cook. For extra savor and sweetness of satisfaction, you can even use your worst weeds.
Winding Weeds Into Wonders
For the base, strip ivy or bindweed of leaves, then braid several strands together into a 12-inch strip. Fasten this into a circle with ribbon, leaving a loop for hanging, then weave in 4-inch long herb snippets. Tie on a few garlic cloves or dried chile peppers (which of course you made after reading last week’s blog entry), add a bow and you have a handsome, useful gift that will truly be appreciated.
Long-stemmed sprays of rosehips can be woven into wreaths or swags as well, for both indoor and outdoor use. Big, plump rugosa hips make delicious herbal brew that will please your tea drinking friends. Backyard birders can hang their rosehip decorations outside where the birds can nibble up the goodies.
Become A Bird
If you knit or crochet, it’s a snap to make lovely little bird nest-baskets out of ivy and garden twine. For texture, add twigs of Scotch broom and sprays of rosehips on the outside. Fill your nest baskets with cookies or homemade packets of saved flower seeds, add a ribbon, and you have another unique and charming gift.
Big Fat Pine Cones
Children can gather large pine cones and dip them (with help) into melted paraffin wax to make splendid fire starters. Pinecones can also be stuffed with natural (no added sugar) peanut butter, then rolled in birdseed to make edible garden ornaments for wildlife. Tied with bright ribbons or string, they can be easily attached to outdoor trees and shrubs.
Cone-laden branch tips of pine and fir become elegant table top ornaments when stuck in chunks of clay or florists’ foam. Put a fat, colorful candle in the middle, and add twigs of snowberry or berry-filled pods of Iris foetidissima for decorative accents. Place the whole thing in a wide, shallow bowl (Goodwill is a great place to find these for almost nothing) adding some gravel to keep it all stable. These make welcome hostess gifts during the holiday season.
Indoor Table Wreaths
Many nurseries carry wire frames for advent wreaths, with holders for four or more candles. Weave these with 6-inch pieces of fresh cedar, fir, hemlock, salal, and huckleberry, adding clusters of red pyracantha berries and white snowberries. It’s important to use very fresh greens for candle wreaths, since dry ones can catch fire easily. If stored outside and brought in at dinner time, when the candles are lit, table top wreaths stay fresh for several weeks.
Offer A Glimpse Of Spring
Forced bulbs are another simple homemade gift. Cover sturdy small boxes with festive wrapping paper, then line them with heavy plastic sheeting or slip in a clean food container. Fill each box with forced bulbs such as amaryllis or fragrant narcissus, topping off the potting mix with fresh moss.
You can also plant forced narcissus in tall glass vases (Goodwill is again a terrific source), covering the bulbs with pebbles or marbles. This way, the top-heavy bulbs don’t fall over (this works with amaryllis too).
When buying boxed bulbs for forcing, always heft a few to find the heaviest. The bigger the bulb, the more bloom stalks it will have. If you only find smaller bulbs, pot several up together so they make a more impressive display.
Looking Ahead To The New Year
And of course, if you are looking for calendars, take a peek at my colorful 2012 wall calendars. The Organic Kitchen Garden; A Year Of Healthy Living; and The Essential Rose (all $13.99) are all available locally or from Amber Lotus Publishing (see link on this site).