University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
HOLIDAY GARDEN GIFTS
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Do you know a gardener, either
friend or family member? If so, consider
making at least some holiday garden gifts this season. Making
yourself is a good way to slow
down during the hectic holidays, to have some quality time if making
others (especially with children), and often to save some money.
are in addition to the usual holiday
trimmings such as evergreen roping, swags, and arrangements with
other natural materials.
Although many decorate evergreen
wreaths for the holidays, consider decorating a grapevine wreath with
materials for the rest of winter. You
can either collect grapevines and make the base wreath, or buy one at a
or craft store. Then collect cones which
can be sprayed with glue and rolled in glitter, or spray paint seed
from milkweed. If collecting cones,
rather than buying them, make sure they are dried and open first.
vines and Virginia creeper are a couple
other vines, if you have access to them, that make good wreaths either
themselves or to serve as bases.
If using dried flower clusters,
as from some wildflowers, spray first with a shellac to help hold them
and then use naturally or spray paint.
Some dried berries may be collected too, just make sure that they
poisonous if children are around. Hydrangeas
are common shrubs in many landscapes, and their dried flowers can be
Some of the easiest gifts to make
are to decorate clay flower pots. This
is something I did with my daughter when she was still quite young, but
done even more elaborately by adults.
Gardener’s invariably need more flower pots! It can be as
painting designs, such
as flowers, on the pot with waterproof paints from a craft store.
like to paint the pot with a light
background color first.
For an aged look, paint clay pots
a solid color such as dark green or black.
Then brush or wipe with an acrylic gold or copper paint, diluted half
with water. When dry, the undiluted gold
or copper can be used for small designs, highlights, or trim.
Another pot decorating option, still
quite simple, is decoupage. If using a
clay pot, first seal with a polyurethane or similar paint, so moisture
wick through to ruin your final work.
Next, cut out paper designs, shapes, photos from seed catalogs, or seed
packets, to affix to the sides. Using
either decoupage material, or a white glue thinned with equal parts
water,lightly coat the pot sides. Put
the cutouts on the pot, then finish with a final coating over
Other clay pot decorations, easily attached
with a glue gun, are an endless variety of items from craft stores such
small silk flowers, buttons, reflective shapes, and ribbon.
If you use clay pots already in
gardening, you likely have some broken pieces.
The flatter pieces, perhaps 2 to 4 inches wide, can be painted with the
names of flowers and designs, then glued onto painted wooden
If for use outside, protect with a clear
If using green plastic pots,
decorate with simple flower designs using acrylic paint markers.
Practice first on paper, even with colored
pencils. Using small dots, or simple
lines, in contrasting colors is often quite effective and easy.
Metal cans can be turned into
holders for dried flowers indoors, or candle holders outdoors for the
patio. For luminaries along walks, use
larger cans (I got mine from a local pizza parlor). Remove the
rinse well, then fill with
water and freeze if making a candle holder. The reason to freeze
you can then punch
a design in the side with many holes made by hammer and nail. It
to draw the design on the side
first. Then paint the cans.
stones are a popular and easy gift to make, either using purchased
various shapes (even flowers), or old cake pans. Spray the mold
cooking spray, so the
dried mold can be removed. Cut a piece
of plastic or wire window screen the shape of the mold. This is
to help prevent the cement from
cracking. Mix the cement, pour half in
the mold, add the screen, then fill. Don’t
move the mold until the cement hardens, or it will crack. The
stone can be painted, or designs
such as from leaves pressed into the cement before it is completely
For the birds, an easy gift is to
drill inch or wider holes part way through a piece of log, such as from
birch, about a foot or so long. Then
pack with suet, or a homemade mix of peanut butter and nuts. You can
birdhouses using plans in books and online, or simply buy an unfinished
A project I saw at a country gift
shop, then came home and made, consists of simple wooden tulips.
of an inch thick board, you’ll need a jig
saw to cut a simple tulip design—basically a U-shape with W-shape
flaring V-shape. Drill a small hole in
the base, into which you can insert a sturdy dowel for the stake.
can vary the dowel length from one to two
feet for various heights. Sand all
surfaces, then paint the dowel green, and flowers in bright
colors. I love adding these around
outdoors in early spring, before the real bulbs emerge, and even
with daffodils in large pots.
Another “saw” project is a flower
press. Using wood one-quarter to
one-half inch thick, cut two squares or rectangles, anywhere from 6 to
inches on a side. Corners can be angled
better appearance. Sand cut edges, then
shellac, stencil, or paint as desired.
The boards are held together with bolt and wing nut on each
Inside, place cardboard and white paper
layers, cut to the same shape and size.
Saw small rectangles out of thin
wood, to attach to wooden dowels or craft sticks with a glue gun, to
plant markers. Paint or stencil the
plant name, add designs from stencils or rub-on transfers, then seal
outdoor use with a clear sealant or varnish.
You can use names instead, such as “mom’s garden”, or
for short garden sayings.
Short on time for making gifts? Then buy wooden tool totes or
and paint these. Seed packets, and a
piece of ribbon, can be used to adorn a straw hat. If you collect
seeds from your garden plants,
consider making and decorating your own seed packets for gifts.
some fresh herbs such as lavender, mint,
rosemary, sage, or thyme to sugar to use in cooking and
Gently crush the herbs, add a few leaves or
sprigs to a cup or two of sugar, and let stand in an airtight jar (stir
couple days) for a couple weeks before using, herbs and all. .
Another easy project is to press
various leaves and flat plant parts into wide candles. Simply dip
candle, using tongs, into
boiling water for a couple minutes then lay on wax paper. Press
leaves or plant parts into the
softened sides, then redip in the hot water for another minute to
seal. Being “homemade”, don’t worry if the
ends up a bit uneven.
Hopefully these few ideas will help you come
up with many more of your own. Make a note now to plan ahead for next
collect your own seeds, supplies, containers to decorate, and flowers
to dry for