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Garden Gifts

Sun., Nov. 30, 2008, midnight

Save some money during the holidays this year with garden-inspired presents

If the thought of holiday gift-giving makes your heart skip a beat, you are not alone. This year, the last thing we need to do is blow the budget on store-bought gifts.

A perfect solution is making simple gifts using goodies from the garden or going with a garden theme. Two creative ladies who enjoy doing this are Maralee Karwoski and Cinde Johnson.

This year, Karwoski is giving those on her list attractive containers planted with bulbs that can be grown indoors.

“For containers, I use anything left over from a floral arrangement,” she says. “Variety stores usually have galvanized pots and containers and you can pick up baskets anywhere, especially at second-hand stores like Value Village.”

She fills containers without drainage holes with gravel and those with holes with potting soil. Karwoski selects paperwhite narcissus, amaryllis and tulip bulbs.

Because amaryllis bulbs are so big and heavy, she uses glass hurricane lamps and plants the bulbs deeply. That way, the glass sides will support the bulb as it grows.

“Once the containers are planted, I go to the dollar store and find interesting decorative items to decorate the pots with,” she says.

She also places a covered bonsai wire ring or red-twig dogwood twisted into a ring on top to provide support as the bulbs grow.

This year, Johnson is making herb- and spice-filled fabric trivets and mug mats for gifts. When a hot teapot or mug is placed on them, they release their scents.

“I mostly use whole spices and fill one-third of the trivet or mug mat with brown rice,” she says. “This makes it cheaper to fill them and I believe the rice holds the scents longer.

“I buy my herbs in bulk at Fred Meyer, Huckleberry’s or at Asian markets. You can use dried herbs from the garden and also chop up dried fruits.”

Johnson uses 7-inch squares of fabric for teapots and 5-inch squares for mug mats. She sews three sides of the squares with the right sides of the fabric facing each other, then turns them right-side out. She presses under the open seam and whip-stitches the edges together.

For mug mat fillers, Johnson pairs materials like dried rosemary with rose petals, cloves with dried orange peel, and lavender with allspice. For the trivets, she uses cloves, chopped cinnamon sticks, allspice, orange peel and cardamom.

“When stuffing the trivets or mats, don’t fill them too full or they won’t be stable enough,” she advises. “A half-inch thickness is sufficient for the trivet and a quarter-inch thickness is perfect for the mug mats.”

If you have dried lavender on hand, sachets are easy to make. and since most of us have fabric scraps and ribbon at home, they’re economical. Small sachet bags are the easiest. Just hand-sew or machine-stitch them, fill them with lavender and tie them shut with a piece of ribbon.

Lavender has long been touted for its soothing qualities that can relieve stress and help with sleeping.

Dream pillows, which are placed inside one’s pillowcase and are easy to make: Fold a 5-by-12-inch piece of fabric in half, stitch three sides and turn it right-side out. Lightly fill it with fiberfill batting and dried lavender and whip-stitch the opening.

Many of us make jams, jellies and relishes during the summer to give as gifts. While they’re pretty as-is, you can dress up the jars by making little fabric puff-up lids.

Cut a 6-inch circle of fabric, with pinking shears if possible, and place a couple of cotton balls or fiberfill batting on top of the lid. Set the fabric on top and screw on the ring portion of the canning lid. Embroidered or cross-stitched puff-up lids are even more attractive.

If sewing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. You can use your computer to print up work coupons – gift certificates that promise the recipient a few hours of your time.

For example, Aunt Martha is on your gift list but your budget is tight. If she loves to garden but needs some help, why not give her a work coupon good for four hours of your help?

Homemade note cards are another simple but special gift. With a computer and printer, you can print images onto blank note cards. If you don’t have a computer, glue photographs to blank note cards and create packs of six or eight cards with envelopes. Tie them together with ribbon or a piece of raffia and you’ve got a beautiful, unique gift.

Other simple gift ideas include baskets of herb plants in pots, decoratively painted terracotta pots, herb wreaths, herbal blends for cooking, seeds collected from your garden, divided houseplants, and pouches of herbs for herbal baths.

The possibilities are endless. Just remember that gifts from the garden and gifts from the heart will be much more meaningful to the folks on your list.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via e-mail at


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