Herbs as Gifts
Herbs are often called the perfect plants, as they combine beauty with usefulness. These plants are used in cooking, medicine and landscaping, but they have other uses that often go unnoticed. Have you ever thought of using herbs as gifts or decorations for your home?
Most gardeners probably have an abundance of fresh plant material on hand that can be used to create thoughtful, original gifts and beautiful decorations. Dried and fresh herbs are also readily found in grocery and health food stores. Nurseries and garden centers carry some herbs in the fall and winter.
Some projects require filler plant material other than herbs. Dried flowers, foliage and other supplies can be bought at hobby stores, floral supply businesses, and some garden centers and nurseries. Gardeners can dry their own plant material for use. “Brown thumbers” can purchase their material or use material from their landscapes or gather native plant material.
- Tools: Hand pruners & hot glue gun
- Location: A place where one can make a really big mess and no one will care (garage, utility room, unused bedroom, even the kitchen.)
- Attitude: A sense of humor because, as with most new endeavors, it may take some practice.
The projects on this page use both fresh and dried plant materials. This list is not inclusive. Use what is on hand. Take a stroll around the yard or woods gathering material. Make a foraging excursion into the wild a family or 4-H club activity.
- Herbs: Artemisias (Sweet Annie, Silver King, Valerie Finnis), rosemary, lavender, bay, thyme, sage, yarrow, mints, scented geraniums, chives, fennel, oregano, lamb’s ears, dusty miller, rose, anise hyssop
- Native or Landscape Plants: Boxwood, eleagnus, holly (berries and foliage), dried native or ornamental grasses, juniper, pine (cones and foliage), ivy, nandina berries, redcedar, hydrangea, sumac, beauty berry, goldenrod, sunflowers, hardy ageratum, rabbit tobacco, black-eyed susan, boneset (eupatorium), and joe-pye-weed
- Other Material: Eucalyptus, baby’s breath, statice, strawflowers, larkspur (These may be purchased at craft supply, florists or other stores that sell dried florals.)
These books include numerous detailed instructions on projects ranging from herbal cosmetics, candles, and wreaths to growing, maintaining and preserving your plant material.
- Gifts and Crafts from the Garden by Maggie Oster
- The Book of Country Herbal Crafts by Dawn Cusick
- Herbal Gifts by Joanna Sheen
- Handmade Gifts from a Country Garden by Laura C. Martin
- The Crafter's Garden by Joni Pritte
Spruced Up Gift Wrapping
Materials list: Package, wrapping paper, scissors, tape, ribbon, hot glue gun, herbs.
Country look: For a simple country look, wrap the package in burlap or a very plain paper such as butcher paper, brown paper bag or newsprint. Choose an earth tone or country print, raffia, or twine for the tie.
Classic look: Wrap package in an expensive-looking material. Fabric scraps from sewing projects are perfect. Remember to turn under all raw edges of the material to give it that professional, finished look. Florist’s pot wrapping foil also works well. Use elegant-looking ribbon, tassels or gold braid.
Herbal Touch: After you’ve wrapped the package and tied the bow, attach the plant material with a glue gun. Dried herbs and other plants can be used, as well as fresh herbs that have coarse or fleshy leaves and woody stems. Fresh herbs that hold up well are sage, bay, rosemary, yarrow, and eucalyptus. Other fresh plant materials that work well for holiday packages are holly, juniper, spruce, pine, boxwood, red cedar, and berries. Dried cones, acorns, nuts and other seed pods as well as dried flowers such as statice, yarrow, larkspur, and roses can be used.
Nifty Napkin Rings
These inexpensive little table accessories are too delicate for everyday use, but can add the perfect touch to a special dining occasion or make a very nice gift.
Materials list: Four inch grapevine wreaths (purchased at hobby store), herbs & other plant material, green sheet moss or Spanish moss, ribbon, hot glue gun.
Begin decorating by hot gluing a small amount of moss to the top of the grapevine wreath. Hot glue fresh or dried leaves of bay, sage or small sprigs of rosemary, or other foliage to the moss. Decorate only half of the little wreath. Finish by adding a tiny ribbon bow. Pull napkin partially through the wreath. (The decorated half should be on top of the napkin.) Now, repeat everything six times for a complete set.
Fussy Tussy Mussy
These fragrant little bouquets were carried by high-born ladies of yesteryear as a natural deodorizing accessory. Conditions on city streets would have been close to intolerable at times because sanitation was practically non-existent. These genteel ladies would keep their noses buried in their tussy mussies as they navigated through the filthy streets. Nowadays, these little accessories are used to adorn tabletops, dressers, bureaus, mantels or wherever a little floral, fragrant touch is needed.
Materials list: Bridal Bouquet Holder (craft and hobby stores and other stores that carry bridal supplies have these)
Dried herbs, flowers, foliage
Suggestions: Baby’s breath, lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, scented geranium, rosebuds, statice, yarrow, lemon verbena, bay, eucalyptus, German chamomile, catnip, larkspur, artemisia
Floral tape (discount, hobby and craft stores carry this)
Rubber bands, optional
Begin by gathering the material together into a small bouquet in your hand, arranging the plant material as you like. Use the rubber bands, if needed, to help you hold the stems together. When you think you have a nice little bouquet, insert the stems through the bouquet holder and pull the arrangement into place. Wind the floral tape around the stem ends completely concealing them with the tape. If the arrangement isn't pleasing, fill in the holes by adding more dried material using the hot glue gun. Tie the ribbons to the bouquet, leaving the ends dangling.
Swingin’ Herbal Swag
Basically all that is involved is taking a handful of “stuff” and tying it with a ribbon.
Materials list: You can use any dried plant material you wish that has long stems such as:
Iris seed pods
Ribbon (raffia, cord, rope, fabric, or whatever)
Hot glue gun
Assorted dried flowers, fruit, nuts, cones, pods (optional)
Gather the long-stemmed dried material together in one hand, arranging it as desired. It may be easier to wire the bundle together first and then add the bow. Make your swag large or small. Add some finishing touches to the swag by hot gluing some dried flowers, dried orange or apple slices, cones, pods or nuts to it. Tie a piece of wire or ribbon loop on the back to hang. If a bow is unavialable, don’t worry. Just tie the ribbon in a knot leaving the two ends dangling. Now hot glue on a few dried flowers, pods, nuts, fruit or whatever to hide the knot.
Herbally Good Vinegar
Making herbal vinegar is very simple and makes a lovely, useful and quite decorative gift for the cook on any gift list. When giving these as a gift, include recipe cards or cooking suggestions.
Materials list: Fresh herbs, red or white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or cider vinegar (do not use white vinegar - the taste is too sharp)
Purchase fresh herbs from the grocer or yard. Use either combinations of herbs or one herb to flavor the vinegar. Refer to the table at the end for suggestions of combinations of herbs and vinegars. Wash herbs in cold water and pat dry. Make sure herbs are thoroughly dry before packing into large mouth glass jar. Any water left on the foliage will cloud the vinegar. Cover the herbs with choice of vinegar. Cover the top with wax paper and secure with a rubber band. Do not use metal lids because the vinegar will corrode them. Put the jar in an out-of-the-way place for 3-4 weeks. Stir periodically and push herbs down into the vinegar. After several weeks, strain the herbs out of the vinegar and discard them. A coffee filter works well for this. Pour the flavored vinegar into your decorative jars and add a sprig or two of fresh herbs for decorative purposes. Cork, label with a recipe card or serving suggestions and tie on a raffia or cloth ribbon.
Serving suggestions : Herbal vinegar can be used to add zip and flavor to sauces, salad dressings, vegetables, casseroles, gravies, soups and stews. Herbal vinegar can be substituted for sherry or vinegar in any recipe. Experiment by adding a dash of herbal vinegar to your favorite dish.
The vinegar can be heated to just below boiling and then poured over the herbs packed in the jar. Leave for 1 to 2 weeks, strain out herbs, discard and proceed as indicated above.
Herb Vinegar Combinations
- Red Wine Vinegars
- Thyme, rosemary, oregano
- Basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, mint, bay, dill seed, black peppercorns and whole allspice berries
- Cilantro, hot red pepper and garlic
- Lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon zest and green peppercorns
- Sage, parsley, bay Burnet, borage and dill
- White Wine Vinegars
- Basil, parsley, fennel and garlic
- Tarragon, spearmint, lemon balm, whole cloves and peppercorns
- Thai basil and hot red pepper
- Orange mint, coriander seeds, and lemon zest
- Tarragon, lemon thyme and chive blossoms
- Dill, mint and garlic cloves
- Savory, tarragon, chervil, basil and chive
- Cider Vinegar
- Dill, bay and garlic
- Horseradish and hot red pepper
- Dill, mustard seeds
- Lemon balm and garlic
- Tarragon, chives, lemon balm
- Garlic, basil, whole cracked nutmeg and whole cloves
"Girlish Figure" Dressing
For those dieting, this is a delicious, painless way to do it! Great for tossed green salads. Use different flavored vinegars and herbs for this dressing. Double the amount of mayonnaise or use a 3-ounce package of low-fat cream cheese to turn this dressing into a dip. Use the “regular” ingredients for non-diet.
2/3 cup of plain nonfat yogurt or low-fat sour cream
1/3 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise
2 tablespoons flavored vinegar (your choice)
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (your choice)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or hot red pepper sauce
Whisk all ingredients together in a glass bowl. Let sit an hour before using to allow flavors to blend. Store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator; use within 2 weeks. Yield: 1 cup
Jamaican Barbecued Chicken Breasts
8 green onions, chopped
¼ cup herbal vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 fresh green jalapeno pepper, cored and seeded
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Combine onions, vinegar, oil, soy sauce, allspice, hot pepper, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender of food processor and puree. Pour puree into a shallow dish. Add chicken breasts, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium-hot coals until cooked through, or about 20 minutes, turning several times. Yield: 4 servings
Project for Children
These bath bags are simple for little hands to assemble and make thoughtful gifts. Tie one of these bags under the tap as the tub fills with water. Squeeze the bag or swirl it around in the water as the tub fills. You can just throw the bag in the tub, also. If your child gives these as a gift have them write a little label explaining how it is to be used.
Washcloths (inexpensive type)
Powdered milk (skin softener)
Dry oatmeal (gentle abrasive)
Dried herbs: Lavender, catnip, German chamomile, lemon verbena, lemon balm, mint, rose, rosemary, thyme, basil, sweet woodruff (health food stores carry these)
Have children measure ½ cup of either the powdered milk or oatmeal into a small bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of any combination of the dried herbs listed above. Three tablespoons of one herb, such as lavender could be used. Mix well. Spread out one washcloth and pour the mixture into the center of the cloth. Show children how to gather all edges of the cloth together and help them secure the top with the rubber band or a piece of ribbon. Now tie some long pieces of ribbon around the top. Leave the ribbon ends dangling so the bag can be tied to the faucet and submerged in the water.
Not into conventional gardening? A salad table just may be for you.
With these elevated gardening beds, you can grow fresh vegetables and herbs throughout the year right at your fingertips. These tables work well in small spaces and eliminate the physical demands of an in-ground garden. (Photo courtesy of Carla Moore)
You’ve got a lovely container, and you want to put a plant in it. But if that container doesn’t have drainage holes, you’ll end up with a dead plant. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish/Cindy Callahan)
Although we’re finally into the fall season, it’s still 90 degrees outside across Mississippi. Nevertheless, we all need to start thinking about what we’re going to plant and grow for the eventual cool weather.
Garden enthusiasts and horticultural industry professionals can enjoy the largest home gardening show in the Southeast Oct. 12 and 13.