Think outside the gift box when it comes to Christmas presents, says Jean Vernon.
It’s that time of year when you can’t sit and watch the telly without adverts for extravagant gifts, ridiculously expensive toys, gadgets and perfume; all in the name of a religious festival. Somehow that just doesn’t compute for me.
Even more alarming is when you discover that around 50% of Christmas presents end up in landfill within twelve months.
So I’ve been giving a lot of thought about how to give at Christmas without joining the consumerism driven madness that it has become. Choosing presents that won’t end up in landfill and don’t contribute to this frenzy of gluttony and greed.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune; in fact you can create a range of ‘gifts’ that cost very little indeed.
The most precious gift you can give is your time. So offer your loved ones a day trip out together, some time helping them garden, a session of cooking for them to fill their freezer or how about a personally delivered, baked and presented afternoon tea.
Share your knowledge and enthusiasm and gather together a group of neighbours, friends or family and run a workshop doing something that you love and sharing your passion and joy of the subject.
Plants are a fantastic gift. We’ve all got plants in our gardens and greenhouses to share, whether it’s cuttings from your garden stalwarts, or seed grown plants that you’ve sown, grown and nurtured. You could buy a plant but sharing what grows well in your garden with your personal knowledge and experience goes a long way too. Make a little tag – From my garden to your garden. It’s a thoughtful spontaneous gift that works well whatever the occasion.
Share your seeds. We often don’t sow the whole packet, so why not get your seed order in early and then split the packets to share at Christmas? Or save seed from some of your favourite plants and share those too? You can use small envelopes with hand written labels to make them into attractive packs. Make a little seed hamper up of garden saved favourites and some of your other good garden doers. It’s a lovely, thoughtful and cost effective gift. Or if your recipient isn’t a confident gardener, then give them a promise that you will grow the seeds for their garden and deliver them in the spring after the frosts.
If you need to treat someone to something special, then why not sign them up for a course? Or give them a course voucher so that they can choose a subject they would like to explore. It’s a present that doesn’t need wrapping and doesn’t need posting and can be as personalised as you like. My Garden School offers a good range of horticultural inspired classes via video tutorials and with one to one tuition from a variety of experts. www.my-garden-school.com
Gardeners love books and they make fantastic gifts. Personally I can’t bring myself to read on a tablet, there’s nothing quite like turning the pages of a beautiful book. You don’t have to buy new books, a little foraging in second hand bookshops or online can turn up some fabulous, good as new books on every subject imaginable. Sure a glossy, signed first edition is a delight, but keep your options open, shop early and you never know what you will find. Part of the fun is in the search.
If you’ve got a gardener to buy for it’s easy, opt for National Garden Gift Voucher or garden gift token that they can spend on plants and seeds and things for their garden of their choice.
Birds – One of my favourite gifts to give young and old are bird feeders and bird food. These sentient creatures bring a garden alive; it’s a great present – wild pets. You care for them, you feed them and water them and in return they choose your garden to raise their young.
Hundreds of thousands of square miles of wrapping paper get used and junked every year. Recycle good, clean paper. Use fabric offcuts to wrap small presents and be creative in your wrapping. Simple brown paper can be dressed with offcuts of recycled gift-wrap. Or why not make the wrapping part of the present. Eden’s Papers are sheets of seed tapes sown together. Once the present is unwrapped the wrapping paper can be sown and grown and shared.
Be honest, what happened to all those Christmas cards you received last year? Recycled is one greener option, but many are simply thrown in the rubbish adding to landfill. Re-use last year’s cards as little handmade gift tags and recycle or reuse the rest of the waste card.
These days many festive messages are sent via email saving vast amounts of postage, paper and time. How many do you really need to send? Wouldn’t it be nicer to phone the recipients for a chat? Arrange to visit them or meet for a coffee or plan a trip out in the spring. Of course your great aunt in Australia will expect a card, but what about the rest?