13 Growing Gifts for the Green Thumb
For Your Mom
Count on your mom rejoicing when she sees and smells this clementine tree (available from South Carolina-based fast-growing-trees.com). Place the original plastic pot into another plastic planter to prevent leaks. Then slip it into a brown kraft paper bag with the edges folded down. Top the soil with reindeer moss and ornaments. String ribbons and bells around the pot as you like. Clementine trees need full sun and are best kept indoors until spring when flowers start to bloom. Fruit begins to ripen in fall.
Touch Test: When to water? For small potted trees, place your index finger about 2 inches deep into the soil. If you feel moisture, it’s too soon.
This gift is as educational as it is beautiful. These arrangements may be for the teacher, but the whole class can watch the paperwhites grow right before their eyes. Fill glass bulb-forcing vases with water, place the paperwhite bulbs on top, and tie candy cane-striped ribbons around the necks for gifting.
Think Ahead: Give paperwhite bulbs earlier in the season so the recipients can enjoy watching them grow throughout the month of December.
For Your Sister
A bare amaryllis bulb always looks nice with pretty packaging, but the real wow factor of this gift is watching it grow. Fill a clear plastic bag with pebbles (available at garden centers), place the bulb on top, tie the bag with a sparkly ribbon, and put it in a gift box (like this one from Paper Source). To water, remove the plastic bag from the box and fill to the top of the pebbles. She can place the container in a sunny spot and enjoy seeing this seasonal stunner bloom.
Kick Start: Keeping the pebbles wet at all times is the key to growth. This will stimulate the root system to begin the blooming process.
For Your Grandmother
Bring a cheery arrangement as you travel over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house this holiday season. This container is easy to assemble and easy to care for. Plant four to five paperwhite bulbs in a terracotta pot filled with soil. Top the soil with sheet moss and bright citrus. (We used kumquats, but other similar fruits work fine.) Tie a sprig of fresh greenery and spirited message like “Noel” with pieces of burlap twine.
Choose Your Scent: ‘Inbal,’ ‘Ariel,’ and ‘Nir’ paperwhites have milder smells than other selections.
For Your Supper Club
Hosting the supper club in December? Pick place cards that double as party favors. Find mini poinsettias in assorted colors at your local garden center. Keep the plants in their original plastic pots, and slip them into decorative votive holders. Gently attach name tags to the stems using ribbon, and set one at each place setting.
Color Blocking: For an easy alternative to this table setting, stick with everyday white dishes and linens, and use only red poinsettias.
For Your Book Club
Your fellow bookworms will appreciate paperwhite bulbs wrapped in passages from your favorite novels. No tearing required: Photocopy the passages so your books stay intact. Choose bulbs with green shoots, and wrap them up with ribbon or twine. Add a note with planting directions and care instructions.
Care tip: If your paperwhites start to become too leggy or tall, stunt their growth by watering them with a mixture of 1 part vodka or gin to 7 parts water.
For Your Garden Club
There’s no better present for a group of green thumbs than an olive tree seedling. (Find these portable plants at easternleaf.com.) Place one or two saplings into a burlap pouch, and finish with a ribbon and a gift tag. Pair with a small bottle of olive oil or a jar of cocktail olives they can enjoy while waiting for the tree to grow.
Growth Charts: Indoors, a potted olive tree grows to about the size of a bonsai tree. Outside in USDA Zones 8 and 9, it can reach 25 to 30 feet.
For Your Coworkers
Bring ornaments to life with this new take on a terrarium. Air plants are available in a range of shapes and sizes at garden centers, and you can find hanging glass-globe terrariums on amazon.com. Fill the bottoms of the globes with pebbles, and place air plants on top. (For a tropical look, put them in seashells that are large enough to hold their roots.) Add a sprig of red holly berries for a festive touch. They can be hung from decorative ribbons in a spot that gets full, indirect sunlight.
Water Wisely: Soak air plants weekly in water for one to two hours, and lay flat to dry. Or mist thoroughly in containers three to seven times per week.
For Dinner Guests
Amp up a holiday tablescape with festive place cards that double as party favors. We used vintage teacups (you can find similar ones at thrift stores) and then filled them with gravel. Place the paper white bulb on top, and tie on a name tag to the sturdiest stem. Pick flowers that are just starting to bloom so guests can continue watching them grow at home for weeks to come.
Lighten Up: Insufficient sunlight can prompt leggy growth, so paperwhites grown in dim rooms may require staking.
For the Hostess
Gift the holiday hostess a mini tabletop tree she can place in small spaces that need an extra dose of cheer, like the powder room or guest bedroom. Keep the lemon cypress (left) and myrtle (right) topiaries in their original containers, and place them in birch pots (available at home-goods stores). Decorate the topiaries like Christmas trees with battery-operated mini string lights and ribbon. Fill the bases of the containers with fresh cranberries and petite pears (find them both at grocery stores) to finish the cheery look.
Make Them Last: Remove plants from birch pots before watering (when soil is dry). Let containers drain in the sink, and then return to pots.
For Your Mother-in-Law
Impress your mother-in-law with an elegant holiday centerpiece she can’t wait to show off. Fill a widemouthed glass container with fine gravel, and nestled bulbs into the pebbles. Add water until it reaches the bottom of the bulbs. Spray-painted branches support the paperwhites as they grow. Wrap the container in a glittery gold ribbon for the final touch.
For Your Neighbors
Deliver cans of freshly potted herbs like rosemary, dill, and parsley for holiday cooking. Drill holes in the bottom of a tin can for drainage. Remove the label; spray-paint can white. Once dry, lightly sand to create a patinaed look. Fill with potting soil; add an herb. (Find ready-to-plant herbs at Trader Joe’s or garden centers.) Attach labels with ribbon.
Warming Spot: The cans should be kept in a sunny area in the kitchen during winter and then planted outside in beds or containers in spring.
For Open House Attendees
Set up a serve-yourself potting station where guests can package their own party favors. Fill a paper sack with a scoop of gravel and a bulb, and they can start planting when they return home.