In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
November, 2005
Regional Report

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Dress it up: Use whimsical figurines to add a holiday touch to decorative cachepots.

Garden Gifts Need Not Be Elaborate

Handcrafted gifts from the garden are a terrific idea. You could, for example, grow, harvest, and dry your own house blend of herbs, then package it in cute little spice packets complete with exquisite hand-lettered labels.

You could hybridize and grow your own roses, harvest the hips and preserve them for presentation in the form of brightly colored jars of rose hip jelly. Or you could grow a multitude of scented flowers, pick them and dry them and create heavenly potpourri to present in an embroidered linen sachet. Or, better yet, you could weave magical wands of blooming lavender stems tied with color-coordinated silk ribbon. Or you could make greeting cards from your own handmade paper, incorporating seeds, flower petals, and other bits of garden goodwill into the fiber of your notes.

Well, one could do those things ... but if one hasn't already done so, one might need to look ahead to Plan B and possibly even my personal favorite: Plan C.

Giving Starter Plants
I think of myself not as a crafter but as a gardener first, and I do like to give plants as gifts and include a personal touch. This is where a little bit of plant propagation skill comes in handy. If you planned ahead and started early, say, last summer, by now you would have a dandy crop of houseplants all ready to go. You could have rooted jade plants and English ivy, papyrus and Christmas cactus; you could have rooted rubber trees and fig trees, lantanas and bougainvilleas, African violets and fancy-leaved coleus, fittonia and pepperomia.

You could have raised some nice-sized offsets, pups, or babies from your spider plants, bromeliads, and aloes. If you work fast, have a warm greenhouse and some heating mats for gentle bottom heat to encourage fast rooting, and use some rooting hormone to help things along, this might still be an option.

The No-Fail Plan
But even this late in the game you can easily do a little bit of growing handiwork -- or maybe I should call it sleight of hand -- and produce something highly presentable. With a little thought, you can customize your plant gift, too.

Here's my secret. First, select an attractive cachepot. This can be made of nearly any water-resistant material including ceramic, metal, glass, wicker, or wood. Line the bottom of the cachepot with a plastic saucer. (These are usually sold where houseplants are sold, or you can recycle a plastic lid from a yogurt container or something like that to improvise a liner for your cachepot.)

Now find an attractive small plant in its original nursery pot to fit inside your cachepot. For an accomplished gardener you might select an orchid, for someone with a medium green thumb you might opt for a blooming African violet, and for a non-gardener you might offer an easy-care jade plant or an English ivy. Include a little handwritten note providing the botanical and common names for the plant and explaining its basic care. Last but not least, add a pretty ribbon or seasonal ornament to dress up and personalize your gift. Voila!

After all, it's the thought that counts!


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