Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
November, 2005
Regional Report

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Simple to make, yet attractive and useful, this herb braid is a ready source of bouquet garni for wintertime soups and stews.

Gifts From The Heart

Nothing captures the holiday spirit more than homemade gifts from the garden. I think it's as gratifying to make gifts as it is to receive them. After all, a homemade gift is a gift of time -- your time -- spent thinking of the recipient and fashioning something especially for them. Even on a tight schedule, you can find time to make a few of my favorites (listed below). And with the holidays just around the corner, it's always helpful to have a few ideas tucked away. These are especially useful because one size fits all!

Bouquet Garni Braid
If you grow herbs, you know that when frost threatens, you may need to harvest everything all at once. And you may be wondering what to do with all that delightfully aromatic foliage. In my kitchen we bundle the herbs together to make bouquet garni, which are great for flavoring soups, stews, or gravies. Here's a clever way for you to share them with friends or store them in your own kitchen.

To make a bouquet garni braid, you'll need:
* A collection of herbs that will compliment a soup or gravy, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, savory, or bay leaves
* A bag or bunch of natural, undyed raffia

Making the braid is quite simple:
1. Gather a group of the herbs together and make them into little bundles, tying with a string of raffia. Leave a little extra raffia at the end of your knot, because you'll use that later to attach the bundle to your braid.

2. Make up several bundles. You can bundle each herb type together or try alternating different mixes of herbs for different flavors.

3. Next, you'll start to form your braid. Take a large handful of raffia and gather it together, then loop the end over and knot it to form a hook for hanging the finished braid.

4. After securing the knot, divide the raffia into three sections and braid about 2 inches before weaving the stray end of raffia from your bouquet into the mix.

5. Continue on with your braid for about a foot or so, adding in bouquets every once in a while as you go.

6. When you're satisfied with the length, tie the loose end off with another strand of raffia and trim off the excess.

That's all there is to it! The next time you want to make soups or gravies and want a nice herbal bouquet, just snip off a bundle, drop it in the pot, and you'll be ready for an herbal delight.

Personalized Botanical Bookmarks
I don't think there's anything better than curling up to a great garden book on a cold rainy day, but when the sun comes out and it's time to head outdoors, you'll want to be sure to make your mark ... with a botanical bookmark, of course.

Bookmarks are really simple to make. You'll need laminating sheets or, if you prefer, use a combination of contact paper and stiff plastic. You'll also need pressed flowers and embellishments like seeds, beads, and colored threads.

The first step is to cut your laminating paper into a strip, about 6 inches in length. Then, separate the lamination paper and carefully position a flower, face up, on the sticky side. Write the person's name with a glitter pen, add seeds or a colorful thread design, and press the laminate together. Be sure to smooth out all the air bubbles as you work, then find the center and punch a small hole near the top. Loop yarn into the hole and tie it together with a single thread. And for a final touch, add a decorative bead and snip off the excess thread.

It's that easy. You also can use raffia or embroider the edges. With botanical bookmarks, you can watch your garden grow between the pages!

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