ISSUE 50  |  Feeling Festivus

Gift Guide: 3 Last-Minute DIY Holiday Gifts

December 18, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

If you’re not careful, the holiday season can feel like a race to the finish line. To avoid the frenzy of last-minute holiday shopping, I make homespun gifts. Here are three simple holiday gifts–a fragrant pomander, a pine cone fire starter, and a potted bulb–that use materials you can find easily at most hardware and grocery stores:

Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista.

Above: Gathered together, materials to make three last-minute gifts. Instructions for each are below.

Orange and Clove Pomander:

Above: A fragrant hostess gift.

An old-fashioned pomander in the form of an orange studded with cloves is a sweet-smelling ornament to present to a holiday host and takes only minutes to make. (I currently have one hanging in my bedroom, and it’s filling the whole room with a rich, spicy scent.)

Materials:

  • An orange
  • Ribbon
  • Straight pin
  • Whole cloves (about 50)

Instructions:

Begin by cutting your ribbon into two lengths that fit around the circumference of your orange. (Measure the ribbon using the fruit as a guide and cut accordingly.) Wrap each length of ribbon around the orange in opposite directions to create four quarters, with the ribbon ends overlapping over the orange stem. Using a straight pin, secure all four ends by sticking the pin through both ribbon and orange. 

Using the ribbon as a guide, begin to stick the cloves into the orange rind. Whole cloves are big enough to pierce the orange rind without requiring you to use any special tools. You can arrange the cloves in whatever pattern you’d like. I started by making a straight line of cloves down the center of each quarter and then added a smaller line of cloves to either side. 

After you have the cloves in place, take another small piece of ribbon and thread it underneath the crossed ribbon (opposite from where you pinned the ribbon ends). Tie the ends of the ribbon into a knot to create a loop, and you’re done.

Pine Cone Fire Starter:

Above: Last year I made fragrant fire starters in egg cartons, but you can make even simpler fire starters by dipping a pine cone wrapped in cotton wicking directly into melted beeswax.

Above: Simple materials from the hardware store.

Materials: 

  • Pine cone
  • Cotton wick
  • Natural beeswax
  • Pot
  • Tin can
  • Metal wire

Instructions:

Begin by wrapping the wick around the pine cone; tuck it between the natural layers of the cone. Snip the wick after you reach the top of the cone, leaving about ¼ inch of wick for lighting.

Next, wrap a small bit of florist wire around the very top of the pinecone. This doesn’t need to be done artfully because it’s only meant to serve as a handle for dipping the pinecone into the hot wax.

Next, place the beeswax into an empty tin can partially submerged into a pot of water. Heat the water until the wax in the can has completely melted. (If you’re worried about sourcing beeswax in a hurry, here’s a trick: head to your local hardware store. Natural beeswax is likely stocked among the furniture polishes.) 

After the beeswax is melted, dip the pinecone into the melted wax, using the florist wire as a handle. If you’re only making a few pine cones and don’t want to melt a ton of wax, you can do what I did and tilt the can slightly, while spinning the pine cone, so that the whole thing gets coated. I dunked the pine cone a few times to get it nice and coated, and then set it to dry on a bit of newspaper.

Potted Amaryllis Bulb:

Above: An amaryllis bulb is a lovely thing to give at the holidays because it means a little bit of green come January after the rest of the holiday decorations have been cleared away.

You can give an amaryllis bulb that’s been potted, or you can provide the bulb and a pot so that the recipient can time the planting with holiday travel plans (no one wants to be out of town when the flowers finally emerge!).

Materials:

  • Amarayllis bulb
  • Terra cotta pot and saucer
  • Ribbon
  • Greenery (optional)
  • Instructions for care

Instructions:

When buying an amaryllis bulb, look for a large, sturdy bulb that shows no sign of rot. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the bulb, the larger the bloom. An amaryllis bulb doesn’t mind being slightly root-bound, but you’ll want to provide a large enough pot to give the roots room to grow. To be on the safe side, choose a pot that’s at least 6 inches wide (or has at least an inch or two of space between the bulb and the side of the pot). 

To wrap the gift, tuck a few sprigs of greenery around the bulb to make it stand up straight, and finish with a ribbon tied around the pot and saucer to make a neat package. 

Include a tag with potting instructions: Moisten potting soil before planting. Fill the bottom half of this pot with potting soil and place the bulb on top. Fill the pot around the bulb with soil, leaving the top â…“ of the bulb exposed. Water. Place in a sunny spot. Enjoy blooms in from 6 to 8 weeks. (If you want to ensure that the bulb gets planted, include a small bag of potting soil, too.)

There you have it. Three gifts, 30 minutes. 

Still have a few folks on your list? Browse our complete archive of holiday Gift Guides. Prefer your bulbs in glass? See 10 Easy Pieces: Bulb Vases.