Good Neighbour Gifts From the Garden
Image by Terry Guscott
Turn to your garden for inspiration as you gather goodies for holiday giving
My life – like, I suspect, yours – is always full and busy. Nevertheless, I find nothing as satisfying as completing a creative project. Despite the holiday rush, it’s fun to turn odds ’n’ ends into unusual gifts. You can make it easy with a bit of planning.
Each of these gifts is based on a signature container – as simple as a brown-paper bag or as lucky a find as a wooden harvest tray. As you go about town, visit second-hand stores. Look for assorted glass vases and wine glasses, a simple stoneware tray or cute metal buckets.
Containers in hand, decide on a theme and make a list of items to be added. Visit your local store for jute twine, ribbon, foam balls, calligraphy pens, pretty paper, fabric remnants; next, the farmers’ market for preserved goods if you don’t have your own supply; the garden centre for gloves, seeds, child-size watering cans; and lastly the grocery store for candy, dried fruits, fresh herbs, cinnamon sticks and dried apple slices.
Online sources abound, as well. And, of course, explore your own garden for cones, seed pods, evergreen leaves and berries.
Finally, set aside a few quiet hours to assemble your creations.
Here are some inspirations:
For the teacher
Cider mix tucked into a chalkboard mug decorated with cinnamon sticks, dried apple slices and winter greens partners with a dish of caramels topped with a fresh-picked apple. Caramel apples with hot mulled cider? Yum!
Mix-and-match glassware takes on a new look when spruced up – pardon the pun! – with circlets of evergreens entwined with fine wire. Add a few candles, et voilà, it’s party time.
Scented pillows (top)
Scented pillows are crafted of pretty fabric pockets filled with lavender and rose flowers and fragrant conifers, like cedar and fir.
Fireplace sachets (bottom)
Fireplace sachets are sweet and scented – filled with pinecones, nutmeg and cloves, and tied off with jute, orange peel and cinnamon sticks.
Gardener's pantry box
A gardener's pantry box is a lucky find. A funky old wooden flat or fruit box would work just as well. Complete the rustic theme with a harvest of holiday oranges, beribboned herbs, and rich jams (raspberry and peach with Pinot Noir and cinnamon are shown here). A sphere covered with dried cones (those of our native alder would work well) and a pint-sized watering can add cheer.
Scented candle trio
A sophisticated juxtaposition of natural elements and clean lines, this stoneware tray holds three seasonal candles among white pebbles, a pine cone and a glass ornament. Wrapped in open-weave burlap, the middle pillar holds a simple card. Birch twigs or jute twine encircle those on either side, which are augmented with acorns and skeletonized leaves. Magnolia leaves skeletonize readily – if you have one nearby, look for these little nets among its fallen leaves. Although less common, our lovely native perennial vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla) has leaves with undulating margins that also skeletonize after a bit of autumn weather.
Delicious pastry bundles
A nutty cookie bundle looks special presented on a slate coaster, including a chalked message. The parchment paper pouch and a glass ornament dress up the hazelnuts that accompany your homemade cookies.
The baker's bundle is perfect for young adults who love delicious treats and are still developing a good supply of kitchenware. Tuck dried blueberries and cranberries into the cups of a stoneware muffin pan, and tie on a packet of your favorite muffin mix.
Show off your garden harvest (or support a local pickling expert at your local farmers’ market) by slipping a jar or two into a stoneware serving crock and tying a funky fork and some bay leaves on for good measure.
If you don’t come across glossy red buckets like these, paint your own. Fill them with an eclectic collection of gardening delights: a pair of can’t-live-without-’em coated gardening gloves, pretty seed packets, fresh sage in a mini-terracotta pot, sunflower seeds, and some cloves of garlic from your garden. Add a candy cane, conifer cones and a clip-on bird ornament for extra seasonal spice.
Hostess pots for the table
Nothing gets a good conversation going – and creates lasting memories – like a dinner party. Dress up your table with tiny clay pots (each with a wedge of florist foam) holding azalea blossoms, Japanese holly and conifers. Bundle them up with a whimsical miniature scarf of knitted yarn.