Let the garden be your guide for gifts, party favors

Posted Thursday, Jul. 24, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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There is no gift more special than one you’ve nurtured in your garden. Whether for hostess gifts, shower favors or tokens of love at a time of illness or grief, something beautiful and useful from your garden shows heartfelt appreciation and can inspire new beginnings for the recipient.

Don’t worry if you don’t have that little piece of earth in your urban dwelling or if you haven’t had time or space to plant rows of herbs, fruits and vegetables this year; we’ve got some ideas for gifts whose supplies must come from a local garden shop.

Great garden gifts are all about how you wrap things up, and those all-important details don’t have to cost a fortune. Sometimes, you can just recycle what you already have.

Having basic supplies like tissue, twine, burlap, card stock-grade papers, a hole punch and rubber stamping gear on hand will help get a garden gift package out pronto, but keep these garden gift ideas in mind for all occasions.

For new beginnings

Seeds can be found in local garden centers or collected from plants that are ending their growth cycle. I love to share my coriander seeds with people so that next spring, they can enjoy fresh, bountiful cilantro in their tacos as much as I do.

The plant flowers after the coriander has matured, and seeds will follow. The plant is generous, with hundreds of seeds for the taking. Once they dry out, rub the stems to remove the seeds. I like to do this over a colander or tray to clear off debris. Let them fully dry on paper towels and stow them in a cool, dark place.

I also grow and dry lavender to do the same thing. Sage is another wonderful dried herb to bottle as a gift. You can combine herbs to make special combinations.

I like to keep small condiment bottles, vintage salt shakers or spice bottles for later use. Even old glass Coke bottles can hold seeds. Remove any unwanted labels by soaking in dish detergent and let dry. Fill with dried, crushed herbs or seeds.

If you don’t have the bottle’s top, or can’t use it, use brown paper and a rubber band.

Use twine or a small rolled paper to give the recipient a recipe or ideas for how to use the seeds or herbs. If you are giving seeds to grow, include instructions and tie them to the bottle.

Go wild and buy bulbs

Sometimes you can buy seeds for wildflowers or other garden flowers or vegetables in bulk. Bulbs also make a great gift. Look for those that can be planted in the next season. So, fall seed or bulbs to plant now. Here are more ideas for pretty seed or bulb presentation:

• Gift bags in velum papers, burlap or mesh or small brown lunch sacks make great ways to package up something special. Pick up small bags as you see them so you have something to grab when you need a gift.

• If you don’t have ribbon, cut a small rose or two just before a dinner party and attach it to the bag with twine.

• Consider buying a large quantity of glassine bags. You can embellish the frosty-white treat bags with ribbon or twine and fill with seeds, bulbs or herbs. These make nice gifts or favors, and if you have them on hand, you can fill them as you harvest things from your garden. They are good for storing seeds too.

• Need a little more in the gift? A bag of garden seeds or bulbs with a delicate pair of garden gloves attached makes a pretty presentation near a plate at a daytime luncheon. Stores like Target and Lowe’s and local garden centers have beautiful options. This idea also makes memorable party favors for a small gathering of friends.

Instant garden caddy

If you have an old tool chest tray or caddy, don’t get rid of it. If you see old toolbox trays that have been separated from their tool chests at garage sales, snatch them up. Look for industrial metal trays and totes with a nice big handle.

To clean up a tray, spray with an enamel-based paint for metal surfaces in a shade that is pleasant for the garden. Let it dry and, with a permanent marker, write a note to the recipient on the bottom of the caddy. Sign and date it.

Fill it with tools and supplies that would make a great garden gift. Paint wood handles to match the tool tray. Add a large ribbon for presentation.

Coffee-filter flowers

I was sipping coffee and wondering how to package up a few small succulents that I bought from the garden shop as party favors when it hit me that coffee filters could make a flower around the tiny, hardy, easy-care plants.

Take a small succulent (which you can find at home improvement stores for less than $3) and set it inside about 10 white basket-style coffee filters.

Put a small piece of paper about the size of a business card just next to the plant’s pot, but inside the first filter. On the card, write brief care instructions and a note to the recipient.

You might need a friend to hold the papers up around the little plant while you tie twine around the base of the filters. Tightly wrap as much twine around as needed, then hot-glue in a craft paper flower (found at craft stores like Michaels) or tuck in a rosemary sprig.

Next, pull out the papers very gently so that they resemble flower petals. Do this gently and the succulent plant will become the center of a white, snowy, delicate paper flower. These look lovely when on or near plates at a luncheon and are a great way to give something that will grow in your friends’ and family’s gardens or homes.

Boxes with botanicals

We all have small boxes that once held specialty foods, jewelry, soaps or other small gifts. Set a few aside to use for seed packets, herbs, bulbs and other small garden gifts. Paint the surface with craft paint and add ribbons or twine.

Make a box more special by adding botanicals that you have grown. You can press pansies and dry rose blooms to have a supply of gift box accents year-round. Press flowers between blank, white pages inside a heavy book. Set the book aside and come back to a page of pretty pressed flowers in a month or two.

Dry flower blooms in a flower-drying silica gel, which you will find at the craft store, or hang them upside down in a dark, cool closet. Tip: Dark red roses will dry in a black, goth-style color, so it’s best to use lighter-colored roses for drying blooms without silica gel.

These can be glued onto a box to make gifts more personal. Fill the boxes with packaged seeds, gloves, floral-scented candles and herbs.

I love to box up pineapple sage, mint, lemon balm, verbena and lavender just before a party or gathering. Write on a small note instructing that 3 teaspoons of fresh, crushed herbs or 1 teaspoon of dried, crushed herbs in a tea-infuser ball will make a wonderful tea mix. A snap-style mesh tea ball infuser is easy to use and will fit into a small box with the herbs.

Also, consider adding a few pressed flowers to stationery to make special invitations or thank-you cards. A textured paper is a wonderful backdrop for pressed flowers. Homemade bookmarks using pressed flowers make lovely gifts with a classic book you want to share with a friend. Experiment with pressing flowers in your garden.

Make an herb posy

A posy is a collection of herbs or flowers that make a delightful bouquet. They look great on a place setting as a party favor or can make wonderful gifts. Part with an old or new garden hand tool and fasten fresh, harvested herbs onto the handle using garden twine or ribbon. If it’s a group of herbs to deliver for a tea blend, add sugary rock candy as a pretty accent that can be used to stir the tea when steeped with the fresh herbs.

Harvest herbs right before the gift-giving so that they look beautiful and their essence is the most fragrant. When they dry, they are very usable, but deliver them fresh so their colors are vibrant and their scents are in the air.

Add a paper gift tag describing what herbs you’ve harvested and how to use them.

Posh and vintage pillows

A ribbon or twine-bound bundle of vintage embroidered pillows that you found at an estate or garage sale make a lovely gift for a friend.

Tuck in a small garden book or magazine and a garden-themed or homemade pressed flower card to suggest that the vintage pillows be used in the garden when the weather is nice. They must be brought in for protection from the elements, but when they are outside, they mark that it’s time to be in the garden that day.

Fresh flower presentations

Cut flowers can be the best garden gift of all.

There’s nothing more pleasing than a few hydrangea blooms in a simple vase. The scent of gardenias can fill an entire house — drop one or two in vintage liqueur glasses. Roses can also fill a room with fragrance. Drop them into an old enamelware creamer.

Think of unique containers to use with your home-grown flowers. Try using vintage spice boxes and bottles, simple baby food jars, enamelware creamers, tea boxes, or other containers that have character. I’ve also tinted old condiment bottles with a glass stain.

Painted terracotta pots can hold cuttings from plants like mint and lemon balm that take off fast and are pure fun. Craft paint is fine to use, as long as you put a polyurethane clear coat over it.

Another idea: Adhere bark from a fallen or dead tree onto a small plant pot. Wrap twine all around the bark to keep it in place. This can look stunning on a tablescape or as a single gift.

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