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Gifts for Gardeners Ideas

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Elizabeth McCorquodale creates some easy-to-make, fun and personalised home-made Christmas presents, many using either home-grown or recycled materials

I love making things from scratch, and throughout the year I set aside interesting bits and pieces – pretty jars or bottles, old cutlery, even old cans – that I can use later to make something for someone. Here is a selection of quick, simple and inexpensive gift ideas that can be specially made for just about everyone on your Christmas list, and they only demand a little time and very little outlay, and best of all, they are fun to make and give.

TIN CAN PLANTERS

These are fun and cheap to make, and are a great idea for kids to upcycle as gifts for friends and family, and they can be surprisingly elegant, too.

YOU WILL NEED

  • Empty tin cans
  • Paint
  • Hammer
  • Large nail
  • Labels
  • Ribbon

METHOD

1           Tidy up any sharp edges by gently beating the top inside edge of the can with a small hammer, being careful not to put any dents into the outside edge of the can.

2           Turn the cans upside down and carefully, with as little force as possible, punch five holes in the base of each can with the hammer and nail.

3           Once the drainage holes are made, it is time to decorate the cans however you want – any paint that can be used on metal will work. If you wish to extend the life of these planters, make sure to give the inside of each tin a generous coat of paint, too, to stop it rusting. Try using a selection of bright metallic paints in various colours, or for an elegant, super-matt finish, try using chalk paint in a rainbow of colours. Or for a very trendy effect, apply several coats of matt black paint or specialist blackboard paint, and write a message in chalk on each of the cans.

4           Tie a ribbon around each one, or attach a label with a piece of string. These planters can be as sophisticated or as rustic as you choose.

5           To finish off the gift, plant up each can with a herb or flower of your choice.

GARDENERS’ HAND SCRUB

All gardeners love a good hand scrub to clean and restore their hands after a day out in the garden. Most home-made hand salves use salt or sugar as the abrasive agent, which is much more environmentally friendly than the tiny plastic beads found in many proprietary scrubs. The choice of oil will alter the texture of the scrub, and the addition of essential oils will let you make each jar special.

YOU WILL NEED

  • Medium-sized sterilised jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • Bowl
  • Spoon (to mix up the scrub)
  • Labels

INGREDIENTS

The zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp coconut, olive, almond, or grapeseed oil

1½ cups granulated sugar (or a mixture of sugar and salt)

½ cup gentle dish soap – choose a type listed as being kind to skin

A few drops of essential oil (try tea-tree, lavender, peppermint or rosemary)

METHOD

1           Place the first four ingredients in your mixing bowl and stir together until smooth and thick. If the scrub is too thin, add a little more sugar and stir until it stiffens.

2           When you have the desired consistency, add a few drops of your chosen essential oil, then stir again. Spoon the scrub into a jar, then seal and apply a label.

SILVER SPOON PLANT LABELS

I really love these plant labels. They are clever and fun, and though they can be made in a matter of minutes, and for a few pence each, they are pretty and different, and make a wonderful gift that will be used for years. Letter punches are available from craft shops and online, and are surprisingly useful for all sorts of things; I use mine for leatherwork, pottery, and as simple stencils, and have even used them for imprinting onto fondant icing!

YOU WILL NEED

  • Old spoons (or forks)
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Hammer
  • Indelible marker
  • Letter punches
  • Labels
  • Ribbon

METHOD

1           Hammer and flatten the bowl of the spoons and any curvature in the handle until the spoons are completely flat. The easiest way to do this is to lay the spoon on an anvil or a vice, or any other raised very sturdy solid metal surface.

2           Once flat, put a dot on the spoon to mark the space between each letter of the word using the marker pen.

3           Now comes the fun bit… using the hammer and the letter punches, spell out the words on the spoons by placing a punch between each of the marks and giving it a sharp tap with the hammer.

4           Continue until you have finished all the words, then colour the imprints with the indelible marker, making sure that you fill all the holes.

5           Leave the spoon to dry for a few minutes, then, using your finest sandpaper, sand off all the marker ink, except that which is ingrained in the letters.

6           Continue until you finish all the spoons, then tie a ribbon around them and add a label.

ELIZABETH’S TIP!

If you choose to convert forks rather than spoons, the words are impressed into the handle of the cutlery, rather t

han the business end.

GARDEN IN A JAR

The garden in a jar is a quick, simple and very personal gift that can be tailor-made to suit the culinary fancies or interests of anybody, whether they have a vast garden or just a windowsill. If you have saved the seed from your own garden, so much the better, but if not, this is still a very nice idea that shows you know what your friends and family really like.

The idea is simple: fill a jar with packets of seed which follow a theme. Is there somebody you know who loves cocktails? Then include peppermint and lime seeds for mojitos; cucumber and tomato for Bloody Marys; or cucumber, borage and strawberries for Pimm’s. Do you know someone who is a

lways on a diet? Then how about a selection of really tasty or unusual salad veg, like rat-tail radishes, baby beets, cut-and-come-again salad mixes, exotic basils, mache, French tarragon and rocket? And what about someone who just loves curries? There is a whole bunch of curry spices they could grow from seed, starting with fenugreek, coriander, mustard, caraway, Thai basil and chilli. A children’s garden seed jar might include sunflowers, nigella, quick carrots, giant pumpkins, peas and beans. A jar full

of herbal tea seeds could include anise, fennel, marjoram, lemon balm, lemon grass, bergamot, catnip, borage, thyme and chamomile.

If none of these appeal to you, how about a first-aid garden in a jar, a bird garden, a cut flower garden, a square-foot garden, or perhaps seeds to grow a Roman- or Tudor-themed garden for someone with an interest in history? There is a theme garden to suit just about any penchant or passion. To finish it off, include a hand-drawn sketch of a garden plan and pop it into the jar, then tie it up with ribbon and add a label.

HOME-GROWN HERBAL TEAS

Most gardens have a host of plants that can be used to make herbal teas – lemon balm, rose-hip, lemon and ginger, mint, chocolate mint, chamomile, or even a lovely home-made chai. All you need to do is dry your chosen plant, package it in a jar, or individually in empty tea bags – these are available online or from good kitchen or brewing shops – and then label them up.

YOU WILL NEED

  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Fruit and spices
  • Small jars (for loose-leaf tea) or empty tea bags
  • Cellophane bags
  • Labels
  • Ribbon

METHOD

1           Dry your herbs by spreading them out on a piece of muslin in a warm and well-ventilated place. (Fleshy ingredients such as ginger will need to be grated and dried, and seed pods such as rose-hips will need to be dried first and then pounded in a pestle and mortar. Fruits need to be dried quickly to retain their flavour, or better still, dried in a dehydrator.) When completely dry, place your herbs and spices in sealed jars until you are ready to package them.

2           Make up small jars of the finished tea, or place the tea mix in individual tea bags, either bought or made from little squares of muslin and tied up with a piece of cotton. Package them up in cellophane bags or smart little boxes.

3           Label them up attractively and attach some decorative ribbon.

ELIZABETH’S TIP!

The trick to making really tasty herbal teas is to include double the amount of ingredients that you first think you might need… herb teas are often rich in scent but sadly not in flavour, so make yours different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Seasonal Crafts

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