Just Add Water

A great gift has never been easier.
Ellen Ruoff Riley

This may be an "oh-wow" moment: Take one of these simple ideas and put together a gift that promises a big surprise. You don't need green-thumbed expertise and neither does the recipient. All that's required is a little H2O.

Teachers will love this gift, as will apartment dwellers with minimal space. Choose a container to spruce up a windowsill or office desk. Kids can put them together as easily as adults and will enjoy watching them grow. Here are the things to consider when you shop for supplies.

Containers: Choose non-draining containers with tight-fitting lids. Kitchen storage jars, small canisters, and apothecary-style jars with sealing tops are good options. (The best-bargain award goes to quart-size canning jars.) The tight lid keeps contents secure until the growing process begins. Tall, slender containers suit paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs, providing support to lanky foliage and long stems.

Plants: Ryegrass seeds sprout within several days of adding moisture and offer wispy, fine green blades. Wheat grass (purchase a package of winter wheat at a health foods store) takes between 8 and 10 days to germinate and produces thick, upright blades of grass. Paperwhite bulbs nestle into rocks or pebbles and produce flowers within two to three weeks, while an amaryllis blooms when it is good and ready--there is no predictable timetable.

Assembly: For a container of wheat or ryegrass, fill the container with dry potting mix to 1 inch below the rim. Sprinkle the seeds on top so the soil is completely covered. Put on the lid.

Paperwhites and amaryllis can be tucked among small rocks, glass beads, or aquarium gravel. Place several inches of the filler in the jar. Snuggle in the base of the bulb so only the bottom is imbedded. Add the lid, and it's ready to go.