2015-12-16 / Gardening Tips / Columns

Gardening Tips: December 16, 2015

Making Holiday Gifts
by Bob Beyfuss

Holiday gift shopping is either a chore or a joy for the shopper, but for some people it is always an unwelcome challenge. My daughter-in-law really enjoys shopping as a fun pastime and she is also really very good at finding bargains. All of us have people on our list who really do not need anything at all that we might purchase for them and they generally will buy anything they really want for themselves. For these people, a homemade gift may be perfect. Making holiday gifts from natural stuff is also a great way to allow kids to participate and create something that is unique. It can also save you a good deal of money!

Before you go outside and start pruning your evergreen landscape trees and shrubs and foundation plants to make wreaths and other items, remember that evergreens cannot grow new needles from bare wood. Be very careful about ruining the shape of these plants. Take only a few branches from the evergreen plants or only a few branches from berry bearing shrubs such as Holly.

Deck the Halls

A homemade evergreen wreath is something that is easy to make and will be enjoyed by almost everybody. You can purchase preformed wire rings of many different sizes that only require you to attach some suitable evergreen boughs onto, add some ribbons or bows and Voila! There are many evergreen trees that you can cut bows from. Our native white pine has very flexible branches that are easy to bend into any shape. Other pines are not quite so flexible but still are easily wired onto a frame. Wreaths made from pine boughs will last for several months usually. Fir tree boughs are perhaps the most fragrant of the local evergreens and they too will last for many weeks. Balsam fir is perhaps the most fragrant evergreen I know if. Wreaths made from red, white or blue spruce will only hold their needles for a week or two and the pointy needles of spruce make them require heavy gloves for assembly. Our local, short-needled hemlock branches are also very flexible, but hemlock branches will drop their needles in a few days if kept indoors. They can be used for outdoor swags though. Door swags require no wire ring and are easily made from all sorts of evergreen boughs.

Another nice homemade gift is a candleholder. These are easily made from a piece of white birch wood that is three or four inches thick and perhaps a foot long. The piece of wood should be cut so that it lies flat or wooden wedges can be cut to fit on both ends to make it lay flat. Drill holes that are the same size as the candles, which are then inserted into the holes. Dress it up with some ribbons and glitter to finish. White birch wood is extremely flammable, especially the bark, so make sure to note that these candle holders are for decoration only! To be on the safe side, use plastic candles with no wicks!

Use Natural Resources to Craft Beautiful Gifts

Other pretty decorations, tree ornaments and table pieces may be made from local natural materials such as the branches of winterberry holly, (this is a protected plant in NY so gather only on private property with permission) other garden holly berries, evergreen cones and dried flower tops. If you grew some gourds this past summer, they can be sanded and shellacked or painted. More talented woodworkers can fashion whimsical reindeer figures from birch logs and twigs or hand carved walking sticks from hickory or butternut poles. One of my most cherished possessions is a hand carved walking stick made by fellow columnist, Dick Brooks. Dick is a talented woodcarver as is Roger Maben, another friend who is artistically gifted in this craft.

This holiday season need not bankrupt a family if they decide to make some homemade gifts from the wonderful raw materials that nature provides for free. If you are “artistically challenged” like me, it is also a good practice to buy some of these items from local people who do have the talent to make them. These gifts actually show more love and thought than simply buying something at the mall. Shopping locally is always a great idea.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2015-12-16 digital edition