It’s that gift-giving time of year again. And the adage that it’s the thought that counts can be absolutely true. Thinking outside the box store can be a good way to start. Here are a few ways to take your gardening talents and make useful and beautiful handmade gifts for at least some of those on your list.
Wreaths can be made from almost anything. One of the easiest is a succulent wreath. Start by taking short-tip cuttings from any succulents available. To ensure that they don’t rot, harden the cuttings for at least a week by laying them in a cool dry place before inserting them into the damp soil mix. Living wreaths start with a two-piece wire frame (available at floral supply houses). Line the frame with dampened sphagnum moss (also available at floral outlets and some nurseries) and then fill with dampened soil mix (look for one labeled for cactus or succulents). Put the two sides together, and tie with wire to hold the stuffing in. This part might go smoother if you have a partner to hold it steady while you thread wire ties through and twist them tightly. Then poke holes in the moss with a dibble if you have one, though pencils work just fine. Carefully insert small plants or cuttings into the frame.
Once there, they will take hold and continue to grow for many months. Look for different textures and colors of foliage for a rich and complex tapestry effect or stick to two or three compatible types for a more formal or classical look. Start by placing the largest cuttings in place and then work down in size. This way you will have a balanced design. Think in threes for these focal points, or use just one large rosette to simulate a bow.
Other materials can be used to create wreaths. Attach a variety of sprigs of fresh herbs to a florist’s frame for a gift that graces the kitchen throughout the year, while also providing a ready source of those herbs for the cook. Planning ahead will be in order to create decorative and tasty garlic braids or dried pepper ristras (remember this in spring when planning how much to plant). But one or more extra heads of garlic or a pepper or two can be included in the herb wreath.
Living herb plants in handsome containers are also a great gift. Starting cuttings from your rosemary, sage, and thyme plants is simple. Semi-woody cuttings root quickly in damp sand or potting mix. Start coriander, parsley, chives, or dill from seed. Pot up the herbs in small individual pots, or combine two or more in one larger container.
Other winter treats include pots of bulbs that will sprout and bloom to grace the kitchen windowsill or livingroom side table. To have lovely pots of flowers indoors a little earlier than their normal spring bloom time, bring them into a warmer environment ahead of schedule. To ensure success, stimulate flower bud formation with an enforced cold period followed by a warm-up to encourage the flowers to expand and bloom. Put tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and allium bulbs in the refrigerator for a period of time before planting them to result in an early, synchronized bloom period.
Give from the heart and the garden this year.
Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.