With fall looming on the horizon, now is a great time to look around your yard and think about holiday gifts. The other day I collected seeds from a forget-me-not that was done blooming for the season.
When dry I’ll put them in a paper envelope and save for planting or gift giving. I gave a card once to a friend who was moving a thousand miles away — inside I tucked a small glassine envelope of forget-me-not seeds. Simple sentiment but unforgettable too.
• Collect seeds: Put together some seed packets for friends. Look for pods containing sweet peas, morning glory, poppies, lupine and mature sunflowers. Select a few and let them dry in a cool, dark place. Do not store seeds in a plastic bag without using a pin to make air holes. I usually just use paper.
Buy some string and a few sheets of handmade paper with pressed flowers or other botanical designs. Put seed pods in small envelopes. Wrap each packet with a small square of paper, and tie with string. Hand write gift cards identifying the seeds and detailing basic planting instructions. Place in a gift bag along with some gardening gloves.
• Candles with scents: Dry some flowers, pressing them between sheets of paper (I use old phone books). Rose petals are nice too.
At a craft store, buy some white candles and a box of home canning wax. Melt four wax slabs in a double boiler over simmering water. When hot, pour into a tall container about 1-inch bigger in diameter than the candles you are going to dip. Dip the flowers or rose petals in wax and apply them to the candle in a random pattern. When cool, dip the entire candle into the container. Make sure the melted wax doesn’t overflow. Allow to cool and repeat several times. Wrap the finished candle in tissue and include a candleholder. NOTE: The flowers and petals must be dried first or the hot wax will lead the color out.
If you develop a fondness for working with wax, find an old double boiler, or an old muffin pan to use for making candles, and other candle making items at the Salvation Army for this use only.
• Leaf stenciled bags: Decorate plain gift bags by laying down a few leaves on top of them and spraying lightly with gold or silver spray. Pick leaves that are flat. Metallic sprays create patterns that change in the light.
• Volunteers: Dig up volunteers, such as pine or spruce trees or raspberry canes, and place them in clean storage pots with some potting soil and compost. You’ll need to cut back raspberries. Store in a cool place until Christmas, watering occasionally.
When the holidays arrive, wrap the pots in attractive paper and place in a gift bag. Include instructions about storing them in a cool place and planting them outdoors during a thaw or covering the roots with dirt in a shallow trench.
• Cooking woods: Grape vines and pieces of apple wood are used to add flavor when cooking over a charcoal grill. In the fall, when the trees go dormant, prune off a couple of sections of wood into 8-inch lengths. Select trees and vines that you have not sprayed. Bundle with twine or ribbon. You could include your favorite grilling recipes, homemade sauces, or grilling tools to make a great gift bag.
Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.