In the Garden | Penstemons will brighten your landscape

Mary Fran McClure

“Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming!” My daughter and son used to chant that when they were little. The excitement usually began sometime around the middle of August and lasted all the way up until the bitter end.

Every week or so, they would ask me for a count on the number of days that were left until the fateful moment when they could run to their presents and tear the wrapping paper to bits.

It may seem like a long way off but if you intend on creating holiday gifts with any of the treasures from your garden, then now really is the time to start. Here are some ideas on ways to incorporate a little bit of summertime into your winter celebrations.

For those of you who grow lavender but never put it to good use, this is your year! Here in Central Washington, we tend to take lavender for granted. It is easy to grow and easy to come by. It is so prevalent and ubiquitous that we frequently don’t even bother to harvest the plants that may be living right out our front door. So why not take advantage of this abundance and spoil your friends and family far away with some lavender sachets, soap or bathtub tea? DIY lavender gift ideas are easy to come by on the internet. The nice thing about many of these crafts is that you can harvest your lavender past its peak (Like now!) and the projects will still be a success.

What about the herb garden that has threatened to take over your planter box? That is a holiday gift just waiting to happen! You need to cut back those herbs anyway so why not take the time to dry them properly and create a few custom herb blends in the process. You can even sneak a little spent lavender into this project and can create your own herbs de Provence.

Dry some oregano for your mom who loves to make fresh pasta sauce. Dry some chives for your dad who loves eating baked potatoes. Dry some mint so that your kids can make tea after they have finished playing in the snow. Everyone loves dried herbs. Not sure what type of blend to make? Be creative! If you think a combination tastes good together chances are that someone else is bound to agree.

Did you grow a large bed of Calendula this summer? In order to keep Calendula blooming, it needs to be dead-headed regularly. Collect those blossoms and use them to create salves and balms. Calendula products are great gifts for people who suffer from chapped and cracked skin. Recipes are plentiful online and easy to make.

What about all those extra peppers that you can’t seem to eat? Dry those too! Pepper wreaths and stringers are lovely and tasty. You can also use your dried peppers to create custom meat rubs for that friend who loves to barbeque.

Finally, there is that staple of harvest style gift-giving: fruit butters, jams and jellies.

I have yet to meet a fruit that doesn’t make a great spread. As with the lavender, not everyone is lucky enough to live near such an abundance of fresh fruit. Share this gift with those who live far away by making an assortment of small-batch home-made jams. I always loved decorating the jars I sent my grandparents with a little circle of fringe-cut gingham fabric to cover the lid (held in place with hot glue) and a pretty ribbon around the rim. It was my way of saying ‘I love you’ from 2,000 miles away.

Let your green thumb take the lead this holiday season and, as always, happy gardening.


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Eron Drew is one of four columnists featured.