In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
December, 2006
Regional Report

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Gerber daisies add holiday red to a centerpiece.

Gifts from the Garden

The holidays are upon us, and for many this means a lot of hectic rushing around to find the "perfect" gift. Instead of joining those frazzled ranks, take time to enjoy your garden and share its bounty with the gardeners on your list. And for that matter, share gardening's stress-reducing qualities with non-gardeners who could benefit!

Fruit and Nut Baskets
The twist on this traditional gift is that you harvest from your own trees. Fill an old-fashioned farmer's bushel basket to the brim with fresh-picked citrus or a smaller basket with pecans or almonds. Tie on a festive ribbon and "From My Orchard" tag. Consider adding a juicer or nutcracker to the package. Tip: Taste-test citrus for sweetness before harvesting. If not at its peak, attach an IOU to the basket, promising to fill it when your variety is ripe. In December, some varieties of navel and Arizona sweet oranges, mandarins, tangelos, grapefruit, lemon, lime kumquat and limequat are ripe or ripening.

Pot 'O Tea
Fill an attractive ceramic plant pot and saucer with various packaged herbal tea bags. If you are really organized and already have dried herbs from your garden, you can create your own herbal teas. Mints are especially tasty.

Kids and Cloves
When I was a kid, we stuck whole cloves in styrofoam balls, pinned a ribbon loop at the top, and voila -- an aromatic tree ornament. Depending on what was in the "ornament box," we added other glittery bits of sequins, beads, and ribbons. I can still remember soaking up that heady clove fragrance. Update the ritual with your kids by using a fresh orange picked from your tree. Tip: Buy cloves from a natural foods store that sells herbs in bulk.

A Red Garden
Poinsettias are traditional, of course, but there are other red flowers available that would show you put a little imagination into it. Also, these annuals can be transplanted into the garden after the holidays. (Although I've seen some large poinsettias growing outdoors in "just right" microclimates, I think they are too fussy for many folks to keep alive.) Plant a small container with one plant, a larger container with several for a bigger splash of color. Look for gerber daisies, geraniums, chrysanthemums, petunias, begonias, dianthus, pansies, and snapdragons.

A Healthy Jar
Everywhere one turns, it seems these unusual fruits are being touted for their health benefits. Their red skins are also perfect for a natural holiday display. Fill an oversized, upright, clear glass jar or vase with the fruits to showcase their color. Add sprigs of rosemary, such as 'Goriza' with its long stems, for contrasting green as well as fragrance.

Culinary Containers
Give avid cooks, or folks with resolutions to eat healthier, a container filled with fresh herbs. Stand-bys such as thyme, oregano, marjoram, and sage are always useful. For the barbecuing fella on your list, rosemary is a great choice for the grill. 'Goriza', 'Barbecue', and 'Spice Island' are varieties with nice flavor. Or if your favorite chef is into Asian cuisine, consider lemongrass, Thai basil, or tiny hot peppers. Tip: Lemongrass spreads tall and wide, so it's best for someone with the space to transplant it outdoors.


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