Garden gifts that keep on giving, growing

Gifts from your garden or garden themed gifts will be appreciated now and throughout 2018.

If you are giving a plant, think beyond the familiar but delicate poinsettia and consider the Christmas cactus that will bloom in coming years with minimal care.

The ultimate low-maintenance choice would be bulbs. The amaryllis will progress from a dormant bulb to a spectacular bloom in only six weeks.

Prepared hyacinth bulbs will fill your home with fragrance as will paper white narcissus bulbs. These bulbs can be planted in soil or anchored in water with pebbles.

You can share the bounty of your garden with preserves, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, vinegars or even wines. Be sure that they are well sealed, labelled and dated.

Herbs are also a popular choice, whether fresh in small pots or dried and packaged.

Include labels and recipes or suggestions for their use.

If you have gathered seeds in your garden, consider sharing them. This year, I have plenty of scarlet runner beans, hollyhocks and poppies.

Be sure to pack seeds in paper envelopes, with collection dates and planting instructions listed.

Pressed or dried flowers have many possibilities.

Consider pressing a few flowers and leaves from houseplants such as African violets, geraniums, orchids and ferns. These pressed flowers can be used to decorate candles, notepaper or cards or arranged into a picture.

Gardening books make great gifts. Sara Williams, Hugh Skinner, June Flanagan, Lyndon Penner, Laura Peters or Rob Sproule are well-known horticulturalists and authors. Check out the newly released Trees for Northern Landscapes, a father-son collaboration by Wilbert G. Ronald and Philip S. Ronald of Jeffries Nurseries.

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens by Sara Williams and Bob Bors is another good pick.

I wish you all a joyful holiday season with an old Irish blessing for the new year:

May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,

May the sun warm the land,

May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,

And late summer find you sstanding in fields of plenty.

Lorna McIlroy is a retired educator and horticulturist in Grande Prairie, Alta. Contact:

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