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Craft: Herbal Gifts for Christmas

A Herbal Gift

by Terry Seed

Paying off the credit card from your gift buying for Christmas? 

Cut costs for this Christmas and plan ahead with handmade gifts using herbs and flowers from your garden.

Christmas is inexorably on its way, once again and the list making and searching for that ‘something special’ will begin.  It seems that everybody has everything they want or need these days and yet we all still want to ‘give’ to show we care for those we love, after all ‘Christmas is a time for giving’.

Christmas can become a very expensive time of year, however, there are many ways to still ‘give’ without excessive expense.  In the days of old most of the family would create and make gifts using whatever they had around the home, in their pantries and from their gardens. 

A lot of people are now returning to the ways of our grandparents, trying to live a life less dependant on materialistic values and more focused upon family values.  Making your own gifts throughout the year and in the lead up to Christmas can become a special time for the whole family as well as the receiver of the gift. 

A lot of love and effort goes into making your own gifts and this heightens the gift giving and receiving experience.

I make many of my own gifts and products for personal use from my herb and flower gardens, gathering and drying many flowers and herbs from my garden throughout the year to create different smelling potpourri.  Making potpourri is a scentual experience for both the giver and receiver and a reminder of the Christmas spirit throughout the year.

Christmas Potpourri

Step 1: Dry your chosen flowers, petals, herbs and fruits

This can be done either on a low heat in the oven (with the oven door left ajar), on a low temperature in the microwave, in short bursts, checked regularly, hung upside down in small bunches, protected from dust with newspaper cones or paper towels, spread out on newspaper and covered with another sheet or dried in a food dehydrator/dryer. 

I use a lot of roses, rose petals, rose geranium, clove scented white dianthus flowers, cinnamon sticks and powder, cloves, rosemary, nutmeg, dried orange peel, focusing on the red, green, white, golden type colours, I also add other coloured petals and herbs for visual and scentual appeal.  You can choose from what you may have growing in your own flower and herb gardens and what you have in your own pantry.

In a crock pot or large, wide mouth jar, I place all of my ingredients and then add some essential oils such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, orange, benzoin – either crushed crystals or oil (a fixative). orris root - also a fixative, these help to ‘fix’ and keep the scents of the flowers, herbs, oils etc. used, do not panic if you do not have benzoin, orris root powder will work on its own too. 

Shake the mixture every few days and smell it, if you feel you need something else, you still have time to add to it, provided you ensure you thoroughly dry the added component. 

When you decide its time, depending on how busy you are just before Christmas or when the gift is due, place the potpourri in decorative containers, small decorated jars, organza bags, baskets with a decorative cover or a store bought potpourri holder.  Wrap in cellophane and tie a decorative bow at the top and/or glue some dried flowers and cinnamon sticks on the top.  The result is a lovely home made gift that smells of Christmas. 

Pressed Flower Cards:

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I also make my own pressed flower cards, I press flowers and leaves throughout the year either in an old telephone book and have bought myself a microfluer (a microwave flower press) for quick pressing. 

For Christmas, I have found the little round flowers of the wattle tree make excellent looking boorbals, bracken fern for little Christmas trees, elderflower or alyssum for snow or smaller tree decorations, stars can be made from any white, yellow, star shaped flowers like jasmine. I have also used natives and wildflowers growing on our property to good effect.

You can purchase pre-folded cards and envelopes at different craft shops and special background papers too.  I find modgepodge an excellent glue to work with and it can also be used as a sealer.

Only the tiniest bit of glue is used to adhere the pressed leaf/flower to the cardstock/paper dependant on the thickness or size of the plant material, generally, less is best so the design dries quickly, you do not want your dried, pressed flowers and leaves to re-absorb moisture, the quicker you can get them covered and protected and airtight the better.

I protect my cards with an iron on vinyl laminate I use to buy from Spotlight.  This is now getting difficult to find and I will have order it from interstate or overseas. This is just my personal choice, there are other protective coverings you can use, you can purchase ‘peel off’ sheet laminate from specialty paper shops or simply cover with the clear school book covering. 

Care must always be taken in all stages of the pressed flower card making particularly when the protective cover is applied.  Whichever method you choose work slowly and carefully, removing any air bubbles. 

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These are just two examples of gifts that can be made from home, there are many others like scented pomanders, soaps, bath bombs/salts, lotions and potions, perfumes, jewellery, etc.  Buy yourself an aromatherapy book and learn from the experts how to create beautiful fragrant gifts and products.

For gardeners you could pot up some red and white petunia’s, make up a garden basket gift set of seeds collected from your own plants and/or bought seeds, hand garden tools, a gardening book etc.  You can also pot up a herb garden for the kitchen windowsill using a few small pots or a larger, longer one, potting mix and a variety of cooking herbs.

Those that like to sew or knit can create many soft toys incorporating dried lavender into cuddly bedtime, soft toys. 

Dare to get creative using whatever talent and abilities you have, be willing to experiment and have a go.  You will find you get a lot of pleasure from making your own gifts and most people really appreciate the ‘e for effort’ and love that went into it.

© T. Seed 2010

About the Author: Visit Terry's website at www.camelotherbalenterprises.com.au

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