Horticulture and Nature Gifts by Kelly and Rhonda

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Horticulture and Nature Gifts for the Holidays

"Do you have a plant nerd or 'hortiholic' on your buy-for list this holiday season? Here are some plant gifts that will lead them further down the rabbit hole into the wondrous world of horticulture," says University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup.

  • Make a succulent garden with your own personal touch. Buy a shallow pot that is no more than 3 to 4 inches deep and fill it with high-quality soil mix. Plant three to four small succulents in different colors and textures. Some may grow tall, some may trail and some may just spread. Plant entire root ball below the soil level and give a shot of water to each plant. You do not have to drench the entire pot until the roots have fully grown out. Use small pine cones, rocks, reindeer moss, seed pods, dried flowers, lotus pods, ornaments, figurines, pebbles or sand to dress up the top in order to create the miniature landscape feel.
  • Make a reindeer moss wreath. Reindeer moss is trending in the floral design world for its interesting texture. Reindeer moss is actually a lichen that is dried, preserved and colored. Glue reindeer moss to a wreath form or grape vine wreath and affix with a bow.
  • Place a tillandsia in a clear ornament. These strappy epiphytic plants come in different sizes, textures and colors. These epiphytes "air plants" use their minimal root systems to attach themselves to trees and rocks and absorb needed moisture from their leaves. Needing no soil to survive, they can be hung from the window, perched in small wine glasses or placed in clear plastic or glass ornaments. Air plants grown inside need water twice a week in the form of a heavy misting.
  • Purchase a home hydroponics system for fresh winter herb production. Miniature hydroponics systems can be used to grow herbs year-round. Hydroponics is the production of plants without soil; the roots grow in water. The herbs can be grown in your kitchen in just a few short weeks. The kit comes complete with lights, nutrient packs and seeds. The more times you snip your herbs, the bushier they grow.
  • Acquire a "grow-your-own mushroom" kit. There are many online sources for growing mushrooms at home. Mushrooms require a shady location and to be kept moist, but not wet. If watered correctly, you can have loads of oyster mushrooms before winter is up.

For the nature enthusiast in your life who spends the majority of their summers in the Illinois woods, I would like to share ideas from the University of Illinois Master Naturalist Coordinator, Rhonda Ferree.

Rhonda suggests a vest with lots of pockets or a durable backpack for accessories needed during the hike. Rhonda states, "The accessories required for the outdoor enthusiast follow four roles: to hydrate, protect, reference, and document. To hydrate, bring a refillable, environmentally friendly water bottle with a hook for hanging from a belt loop or bag. Bandannas also make great hydrators. On a cool day, soak a bandanna in cool water and wrap it around your neck for quick cooling. Or even better, try one of the newer cooling wraps or towels.

Protection includes the obvious insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, and sanitizer. Some people also like to use gloves and a walking stick. If you are going to be out for an extended period of time, be sure to bring along snacks and first aid supplies. Finally, a cellphone is a must in the event of an emergency – assuming cell phone service is available where you are hiking.

My favorite hiking accessory is the reference material that I bring along. Depending on the location I might include a map of the area, a GPS device, hand lens, and binoculars. As a plant geek I always bring along a wildflower and tree identification guide, though I sometimes use apps on my Smartphone instead."

Whether you know a hiker or a gardener, these gifts are sure to please them during the holiday season. If you need more information please contact Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension-Livingston, McLean, Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306 or email Kelly at kallsup@illinois.edu.