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Herbal Gifts

Homemade gifts and crafts delight the mind and spirit of both the giver and the receiver. Try your hand at some of these gifts and bring an unexpected joy to a friend, loved one or even yourself!

Apothecary's Garden:

If you have friends or family that are 'into' medicinal herbs, this would make a great gift.  Fill 4-inch terra-cotta pots with a selection of Calendula, Thyme, Feverfew, Lavender and Rosemary.

First, use a marker to write the botanical names of the plants around the rims of the pots...then plant the herbs into the pots.  Fill a clay saucer, 14 inches in diameter with clay granules or gravel, and arrange the pots in the saucer. Instant gift!!
Blooming Borage:

There is an old country saying that "a garden without borage is a garden without courage", which refers to the old herbalists' belief that borage has the ability to lift the spirits and gladden the heart. Recently, borage has become an important crop as its oils have been found to be as potent as those of evening primrose and fields of its stunning blue flowers are a more common sight in the countryside.  In addition to their medicinal properties, borage flowers floating in a glass of summer punch have the ability to gladden most hearts. And anyone would be delighted by the gift of a flower-decorated bucket complete with a borage plant. Take a galvanized bucket, 7 inches in diameter, paint some medium-blue borage flowers onto the bucket. Put some gravel on the bottom of the bucket and place the borage plant in the bucket.
Bouquet Garni:

Buy a wooden crate, approximately 10 x 8 x 6 inches....drill two holes in each end of the wooden crate. Thread an 8 inch length of sisal rope through the holes at each end from the outside and knot the ends to secure. With a permanent marker write "Bouquet Garni" on each side of the crate. Line the crate with moss....plant the herbs( small bay tree, thyme, and two parsley plants), using a mixture of three parts potting soil to one part coarse grit. Press in the plants firmly and tuck more moss around. Water thoroughly. To give the crate a weathered appearche, paint it with a mixture of one part seaweed plant food and one part water. This makes a great gift for those who make homemade soups, stews and sauces.
Chef's Herbs

Take an old saucepan, fill the bottom with gravel....and add a collection of culinary herbs in pots.  These are simple, but great gifts!
Live Herbal Wreaths:

Here is another great idea for a gift!  Or, keep for it is a great way to grow herbs after the weather becomes too severe to enjoy them outdoors. You can have the live wreath as a centerpiece by itself or used as a surrounding decoration for a punch bow, fruit bowl or candle. What I do is go to rummage sales or second hand shops and buy different sized plates and round trays. The round trays work well for bigger wreaths, saucers make good containers for wreaths made to surround candles. The plates will be the base for your living wreath. A box-wreath frame(the double-wire type made in two layers), slightly smaller than your plate is ideal. You fill the box from with sphagnum moss, or wrap pieces of sphagnum around a single-wire frame, and the moss loosely with heave thread to hold it in place. For a candle wreath, you can use a macramé ring or a plastic coffee-can lid with the center cut away...the ring base will be completely covered, so it doesn't matter what that looks like. Do not pack the sphagnum too tightly. Gather the herbs, I prefer those with soft stems that propagate by layering, such as the creeping thyme. The base can be supplemented with stems of rosemary, boxwood, ermander, lavender, mint, marjoram, savory and sage. Begin with the thyme, or whatever soft-stemmed herb you have...try to have some roots on the plants. Press the roots or the stem ends into the moss as firmly as possible, winding the herb stems into the shape of the wreathe.  Save the herbs with larger leaves for last and use them as accents. 
If you have small plants, such as basil, chamomile and even violets or small salad burnet, you can tuck their roots, with a small ball of potting soil still attached , into the sphagnum. Small-rooted, scented geraniums work great for me. These plants, will continue to live in the moist sphagnum. When your wreath is the way you like it, fill the base plate or tray with water and set the wreath in it. After a few hours, check it. If the plate still has water in it, but the sphagnum is not wet through, leave it another few hours...if the sphagnum is completely wet, pour out the excess water, and if there's not water in the plate, but the moss still isn't wet, add more.

You can make live wreaths in late October and early November and they will still be lush for the holidays. But, keep the freshly made wreath out of direct light for the first few days. A rooting hormone used with the cuttings as well as frequent mistings are beneficial.  Then, gradually move the wreath under more a sunny window or under lights. At this time apply very weak feedings of fertilizer when watering. Do these things, it will prolong the life of the wreath, because the sphagnum moss is a sterile soil and any rooted plants will have the same requirements inside as they do outside. 

If you have some fresh flowers available you can push the stems in a few inches into the moss.

If you give it as a gift, enclose a tag stating that some things in the wreath will grow and need to be pruned or woven back into the wreath, others will wilt and need to be replaced, and enclose care instructions.
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