By Karen Lee Hegre
There are many unique gifts you can create from the bounty of your herb garden....or, create gifts just to indulge your own lover of herbs. Certain herbs have specific associations. Rosemary, for instance, has special significance at Christmas. It is said that the Virgin Mary spread her blue cloak on a rosemary bush when the Holy Family stopped to rest on their flight from Bethlehem and tat since then, some rosemary blooms with a
blue flower in her honor.
Following are some ideas for making some herbal treasures;
If you're looking forward to using the bounty of your herb garden to create craft items, be sure to plant enough bay. Bay leaves are indispensable in making wreaths and other dried arrangements. These herbs retain a green color, and withstand handling and arranging without crumbling.
If you'd don't have a eucalyptus tree...get one. These wonderful, pungent leaves are a staple in wreaths and garlands. There are many varieties of eucalyptus, but look for the leaves shaped like knife blades and the beautiful 'spiral' or 'silver-dollar' varieties in particular. They look wonderful combined with your favorite dried flowers.
Additional favorites for crafts are lavender, which retains its wonderful fragrance even when dried, and such other aromatics as beautiful dusty-green sage and rosemary, with its pine-needlelike leaves.
In addition to collecting dried herbs and flowers from your own garden, plan a picnic and harvest day with friends in the nearest meadow or woods. Every Autumn we go up into the Black Hills where there is a treasure trove of beautiful grasses, bits of bark, berries, pinecones, seed pods, thistles, dried mosses and lichens, wildflowers, evergreen fronds, vines and graceful branches. Many of these materials are available at craft shops, but purchasing them is not nearly as much fun as gathering them on your own. Remember to ask all the appropriate permissions and harvest responsibly. Never dig up native plants or break off branches of living trees. There are plenty of items that can be gathered without causing harm to any living things.
Cover hollow wreath frames of wire, twigs, or dried vines with sphagnum or sheet moss that has been soaked to reconstitute it. (Wear gloves when handling the moss, as it can cause skin irritations.) Once the moss is formed around the wreath, cover it with plastic or florist's tape to keep it damp and in place.
Straw wreath forms are easy to work with and are great for dry arrangements. Bind your chosen items to the form with nylon fishing line, or you can use the florist's pins.
You may want to create a wreath or garland of fresh materials and then let the completed item dry, rather than constructing the adornment with the more delicate dried materials from the start.
Create a living wreath by planting your favorite herb seedlings around a wire wreath from covered with soaked sphagnum moss. Root the seedlings in the moss and attach them with transparent fishing line, then pack another layer of moss over the roots. The moss needs to be sprayed daily to keep the herbs growing. This 'fairy ring' is a lovely and useful addition to a kitchen garden.
For the upcoming winter holidays, add sprigs of your favorite fresh or dried aromatic herbs to pine wreaths and garlands to add texture and color and mingle the scents.
For a fabulous red and green holiday wreath, combine dried sage and eucalyptus leaves, rosemary and tarragon sprigs, holly or bittersweet berries, and dried red chilies. Finish it off with a gold or red bow!
Create a classic herb wreath with bay, chili peppers, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Hang this one in the kitchen so that you can enjoy the aroma, and if you like, pick off pieces to use when you're cooking. Be sure you wire the pieces on rather than using glue.
About the Author
Karen Lee Hegre is a Master Gardener living in Rapid City, South Dakota, where she maintains a backyard wildlife habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation called 'Hegre's Heavenly Half Acre'. Take a tour of Karen's habitat. Each year the Hegres open the gardens to the public, free of charge. Karen grows herbs and makes culinary blends, potpourri, teas and other delectable that she sells in her shop called 'The Herb Cottage.' She is also the moderator of the egroups list Windowsill Gardening where members can discuss growing and using herbs.