Garden of Giving

Giving opportunities abound in our lives.  From the time we were born to the end of our garden paths, we are blessed by giving.  I know you’ve all heard it said, “it’s more blessed to give than receive,” so no doubt, the garden and gardeners are covered up in blessings!  Besides the wonderful food that the garden provides, nourishing and sustaining us, there can be many other gifts  that come out of the garden.

Having a garden falls into the category of necessity.  And to most gardeners, it is a labor of love.  So to me, that is just a double blessing, doing something you love and having an opportunity to share.
This time of year a whole lot of giving is going on.  So maybe this is a good time to think about things that we may have in our gardens that can be used as special gifts, or of things we may want to add to our gardens for that purpose in the future.
Gifts From The Garden
First, there is the obvious gift of food.  Who doesn’t need that? This may be something that can be fresh from the garden or something you make, like pickles, jams, jellies, chutney, relish, sauces or dehydrated foods.  Items grown in the garden may be used to create gifts such as wreaths, dried flower arrangements, potpourri and fresh flowers.
Herbs can be used in many ways to create wonderful gifts.  From just a pretty container of herb teas or dried herbs for cooking, to herb flavored vinegars, oils, breads or butters, herbs are great gifts.  (I’m making your mouth water about now.)
My favorite flowers for dried arrangements are roses, hydrangea, oregano flower, garlic and onion seed heads and the seed stalk of the yucca.
Make some herb, stem fire starters with a new role for an old roll.   Let me explain.   You’ve probably heard of making a fire starter using a toilet tissue roll filled with dryer lint.   I dry a lot of herbs, and once you strip the leaves off the stems, you have a lot of stems.  They smell really good also, just like the herb.   So I wrap the tissue roll with twine used for baling hay, then I put the herb stems all around it tie a bow with more twine around the center of the roll to hold them on.   They look pretty in a basket by the fireplace.
Now, of course, we should also give thought to gifts for gardeners.  Not everyone you know would appreciate a truck load of rich black top soil, mulch, chicken, cow or horse poop, but that’s what Tom, my husband, says he knows he can always get me that will make me happy.  He says he can stick a bow on it and he doesn’t have to worry about size, shape, color or if its shiny enough.  Sometimes though, he throws on a few special rocks to top it off.  Oh, that’s even better!  Who needs bows when you can have rocks, especially those little shiny ones he gives me.  Easy shopping for him, and yes, I love those gifts!
But just in case you need a few ideas, there are a multitude of things out there that gardeners are sure to love, from seeds, plants, pots, gloves, handy hand tools, pruners or a folding pruning saw for fruit trees and roses.  For the rose gardener, give a pair of gloves with puncture proof gauntlets.   Other perfect gifts include a garden apron, a garden tote bag, water resistant garden shoes and a hat, garden plant markers, tomato towers, bamboo stakes, trellises, garden signs, flags, lights and all kinds of garden art.  Also consider a square foot raised gardening bed, a pocket hose and water cans.  A garden washing and drying station, a bench and table, a fence, a wagon or wheelbarrow, a potting shed and a garden shed would also top most gardeners’ wish list.
Ready or not, winter is upon us.  I prefer to get my garden all cleaned up before it is too frosty outside.  However, I still have some clean up to finish.  So if you need, as I do, to get out and get in the dirt before the ground freezes, just bundle up on a sunny day to get it done.  Then maybe finish up with a hot cup of herb tea (such as lemon balm, lemongrass, oregano, Echinacea or elderberry) to power up your immune system.
*Get rid of any plant debris left.  Remember to leave the seed heads on coneflowers, asters and black-eyed Susans to help feed the birds in the winter.
*Add to the compost anything without pest or disease.
*Pull out any winter weeds, add to compost, but take off all seed heads!
*Give evergreens a good soaking if they are dry going into winter.
*Put any garden beds to bed for the winter that don’t have a cover crop or winter crop.  I loosen the soil in these beds with a hoe, add some compost and other amendments, such as lime, that might be needed, work them in and smooth the soil.  Now cover this with whatever organic matter you have, such as straw, newspaper (with something on top of it), leaves or wood chips, 3-6 inches thick like a winter blanket.  Then when winter comes to an end, pull back that mulch and you’ll find your soil is rich and crumbly.  Some of that organic matter decayed over the winter, and the earthworms were busy aerating the soil with their tunnels and fertilizing it with their castings.  It also helped to conserve soil moisture, prevent erosion and lessen frost penetration.  So getting these things done now will actually help to get the garden going and planted earlier in the spring.
*Mark where you planted perennials and bulbs.  You think you will remember in the spring, but guess what, maybe not.  It can be hard later on to remember just what’s where.
*Mulch perennials and roses after the ground freezes.
As long as the ground is not frozen, you can plant trees and shrubs.
Let The Flower Power Show Begin
Beauty and vibrant color in flowers fill December with cheer.  Look for plants like the poinsettia, amaryllis, cyclamen and Christmas cactus.  They will put on a colorful show for months, and, in some cases, years.  I have several Christmas cacti that are over 15 years old and are still beauties.  The poinsettia comes in a spectacular range of colors to enjoy.  Place it in a bright spot away from drafts, water when the soil is dry, but not to the point of wilt.  If your poinsettia comes with a foil wrap, remove it so it does not sit in water.  The amaryllis I think is so elegant; I love it as a centerpiece.  These are all easy care, and remember, the flowers’ power will give you lots of cheer and lift your mood.
The Greatest Gift
Life is a gift, and there’s no greater gift than giving one’s life for another.  I do think the garden helps us understand some of the wondrous miracles of that great gift.  Hope you have a good, giving time in the garden.

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