Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
December, 2003
Regional Report

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Potpourri and pomander balls scent the homes of both the gift sender and the recipient.

Making Gifts for Gardeners

From jam and pesto and herbal vinegars to hot pepper garlands and decorated gourds, the garden provides bountiful ingredients for gifts. I like to make some different nature-related gifts each year, along with my family's customary holiday present for friends -- homemade, buttercrunch candy-coated popcorn (don't ask for that recipe!). Last spring I ordered some small, trailing rosemary plants (which aren't hardy here) that are now ready to be moved into decorative pots for my rosemary-adoring friends. I'm gathering jars for a hot pepper jelly-making session, and I'll include some crackers and cream cheese in the gift package, which are absolutely necessary for maximum enjoyment. And I've packaged some lupine seeds from one of my plants that evoked "must have" interest from one friend.

If you're still looking for a little something to make for a gardener on your list, perhaps the ideas below will provide some inspiration.

Pomander Balls
Citrus pomanders make decorative and fragrant ornaments for the tree or centerpiece, and they last for years.

Oranges, limes, or lemons
Whole cloves
Ground cinnamon
Ground orris root, a preservative (optional; found in craft stores and wherever bulk spices are sold)
Thimble or adhesive tape

1. Push the nail into the skin of the fruit to make a small hole, then push the pointed end of a clove into the hole. Place a thimble on your finger or wrap adhesive tape around it to cushion it as you poke the cloves over the entire surface of the skin. Don't worry if you can see the fruit between the cloves because the rind will shrink as the fruit cures.
2. Mix together cinnamon and orris root in equal proportions, or just use cinnamon. Place the fruit and cinnamon mixture in a small bag and gently shake it to coat the fruit.
3. Set the pomanders aside to cure until you need to wrap or use them. For a hanging pomander, tie a ribbon around the ball, leaving a loop at one end.

Nut Wreath
One year I made small hazelnut wreaths for several friends. As you can imagine, they are very long-lasting.

Straw or styrofoam wreath base, whatever size you prefer
Spanish moss
Glue gun
Hazelnuts or a mixture of nuts, unshelled
Wire; heavy-duty for hanging loop, and thin for securing moss
Cinnamon sticks (optional)

1. If the wreath base doesn't have a wire attached, make a loop with the heavy wire and attach it to the top of the wreath. Attach it securely because the finished wreath will be heavy.
2. Wrap Spanish moss around the wreath frame and secure it by wrapping it with thin wire.
3. Use the glue gun to affix the nuts to the frame. If using assorted nuts, begin gluing the larger ones first, then fill in with the smaller ones. If using cinnamon sticks, glue them on first.

1 cup dried lavender rose buds
1 cup dried lavender flowers
1/2 cup dried orange peel
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoons orris root powder (optional)
2 drops lavender essence
2 drops rose essence
2 drops lemon essence

Mix the ingredients in an airtight container until time to package it in a decorative jar.

Grapevine Wreath
I love the naturalistic look of a grapevine wreath decorated with whatever materials my garden can provide. I've used dried hydrangea blossoms, eucalpytus sprigs (ok, these didn't come from my garden), juniper twigs with berries, winterberry twigs with berries, tiny pine cones, bittersweet vines with berries, you name it. Use florist wire or a glue gun to attach the decorations.

Paper White Narcissus Planter
Pot up some paper white narcissus bulbs in soil or in a watertight decorative container filled with pebbles or colored stones. You can also use a tall vase and place the bulbs at the bottom on some stones. The vase will help prop up the top-heavy flower clusters. I've also placed paper whites in a shallow basket lined with a deep, plastic plant saucer to hold the stones and water. Be sure to keep the water just barely touching the bottoms of the bulbs or they can rot.

Gardener's Gift Basket
What gardener on your list wouldn't love a decorative basket or pot filled with handy gardening items. And they're great fun to put together. Some items to consider are pruners, an ergonomic trowel, hand lotion, seeds, plant tags, paper white narcissus bulbs, and decorative stones.

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