(Family Features) - Some of the best holiday gifts I've ever received were handmade items from the garden. They weren't elaborate, but they were meaningful. I was touched by the gift of a centerpiece of dried flowers, grasses, and seed heads collected from a friend's garden. I still use the herbal vinegar, packed with fresh herbs, from another friend's garden. I appreciate the extra time and energy they put into making these gifts for me.
So when thinking of the right gift for a family member or loved one who enjoys the outdoors and gardening, consider some of these homemade ideas.
Sure, you could buy a beautiful ceramic glazed flowerpot, but wouldn't a hand-painted one be a more personal gift? Terra-cotta pots are now available in a range of sizes and shapes, and they are usually relatively inexpensive to buy. Use acrylic paint to decorate them. If you aren't confident in your painting skills, you could use a stencil instead. Another idea is to use leaves or fern fronds and "stamp" an image onto the container. Just paint the leaf and press it against the pot to transfer the image. You may want to prime the pot first with a water-based primer, and once you are done decorating, finish it off with coat of clear varnish to protect it.
Garden Note Cards
You can turn your favorite plant and garden photos into note cards to give away during the holiday season. First, make color copies of your best garden photos. Purchase blank cards and matching envelopes, then cut out the photos and use a glue stick to attach them to the front of the blank cards. If you have photo-editing software, you can scan these images into the computer and play with them to create some cool special effects.
Another option is to glue plant material, such as leaves, grasses, flower petals, or ferns, onto a piece of paper and photocopy this collage to use on the cards. Sometimes simpler is better. A few well-placed grass seed heads can make an elegant and tasteful image.
Use your own homegrown herbs to create special cooking mixes. Consult recipe books for common herb combinations, or go out on a limb and make something unusual. Include a recipe card with the blends. For example, consider mixing sage, rosemary, and thyme for a cream cheese dip. You can even purchase exotic herbs and spices to make a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves for mulled cider, or make your own curry with coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cardamom. Taco seasonings are popular. Use a blend of homemade and purchased herbs, such as chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne. You can purchase herbs and spices in bulk at most natural foods stores.
Whatever homemade gifts you make from your garden, they will surely be appreciated as gifts of love during this joyful season.
For more tips and garden information, visit www.garden.org.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association (www.garden.org) and Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.