Wednesday, December 14, 2011


A Femme's Guide to Improvement: The Plant as Stocking Stuffer

We’re now in the gift-giving crunch zone: whatever the holiday in your life, the countdown has begun. If you’re normal — and I’m using myself as the, er, standard — you're nowhere close to finishing shopping for your nearest and dearest, let alone the in-laws and occasional brunch partners in your life. Another thing that’s true if you’re normal: watching those people unwrap lots and lots of presents, no matter what their size, is one of the highlights of the season. This makes me a big fan of stocking stuffers, especially neat little DIY ones.

This is where you guys come in: crafty ladies, please share your best little gifts with all of us, the better to stuff stockings with. Here’s one from me to get you guys started, inspired by the Ornamenterrarium.

The trend for starter plants in bags seems to be popping up everywhere lately, no? This probably has something to do with the fact that they’re really cute and easily branded, and who doesn’t love a nice bit of brown paper? However, they’re not super useful for those of us without gardens, as anything planted in paper and using water will eventually need transplanting. But Mason jars are just as attractive and provide a slightly more permanent solution to the dirt-and-water-containment problem. You can use any size jar, as long as it doesn’t have a lip at the top (for easier plant removal, if someone does decide to transplant), and any kind of seed. This is especially cute, however, for herbs.

You’ll need:

  • Seeds of your choice.
  • One or several mason jars.
  • Potting dirt.
  • Rope or twine or yarn or ribbon.
  • Paint pens! (I used these metallic ones by Prang.)
  • A hole punch.
  • Tissue paper.
  • Some kind of card stock.

Fill your jar about ¾ full of dirt, put in the seeds of your choice, and top with some more dirt. Crumple up some tissue paper to cover the dirt and keep things from moving around.  Use your paint pens to decorate the lid of your jar. (I like things simple and just painted it silver, but do your thing — make designs, write a name, whatever!) Screw it on tightly.

Cut a little card out of your card stock and punch a hole in the corner. On one side, write the name of the plant you’re giving; on the other, put the maintenance instructions. If you’re doing herbs, here’s a handy dandy website called, what else, HerbGardening.com, that has info on every herb imaginable. Thread your rope/twine/ribbon through the card, tie neatly in a bow, and give to your favorite chef!

Previously: Very, Very Serious Ornaments.

Lucia Martinez reads too many old poems and tries to be a lady.

72 Comments / Post A Comment


One of the best gifts I ever created was for a friend who moved to NY and had her first apartment. I got hinged, wooden box (I think it used to hold wine) put some cloth napkins, 4 small tumbler glasses, 4 small plates, generic cutlery, a pretty tablecloth (really a picnic blanket)and a cheese board with cheese knives. I made a little card that said "The New York Girl's Apartment Picnic Kit."(or something) It was perfect for her because she loved having parties, but did not have any tables or chairs, and everyone ended up sitting on the floor anyway.


@Pimkyn I kind of love this, a lot. someone needs to have a housewarming/move to new york, stat.


This would be a great gift for my dorm-living younger sisters. Hmmm.


I'm going to make a 12 pack for my dad who likes to pretend to have gardens in the garage.


@Janeyvonslainy yes! and you could put them in one of these steel buckets with some gravel on the bottom.


as someone formerly obsessed with Mason jars (let's be real: still obsessed), this is perfection. also, i work at a green living magazine and have been stressing about what to get people obsessed with consumerism/have lots of water bottle angst, etc.

Edith Zimmerman

@tremendous Yes! It is so perfect!


also, those of you in more humid climes might wanna shove some gravel / river stones in the bottom, there, to help with drainage and so the soil doesn't rot.


@liznieve aha! a green thumb! thank you :)


This is so good. A few years ago my cousin gave us herbs already growing in coffee tins that she had glued fabric on. They were AMAZING, but giving new things to care for to people at christmas? They died before I figured out what to do with them.

I'd also put some gravel or similar in the bottom, to help with drainage, if I were doing this. (Plotting who to do this for)


@Craftastrophies yeah, I figured seeds would be better since most people travel over the holidays, right? I was going to plant mine and then realized they'd be dead by the time I got back from christmas in detroit.


I made a Companion Cube for the Boyfriend one year.


It basically sucked up all of my creative Christmas giving for...um...ever.



air plants might be a nice way to give something like this that doesn't require as much work or worry about drainage?

Pocket Witch

@OxfordComma A Companion Cube? Like a Weighted Companion Cube?


@OxfordComma How did you make it?! Because that sounds awesome! I've always been so jealous of the companion cube plush toys you can get in America. Although Angry Bird plushes just came to Ireland so I guess I'll survive for now.
Even if I might have bought one as a Christmas present for my girlfriend a day before she said she had gotten really sick of angry birds.


@OxfordComma wait, what the hell is a companion cube?


@Lucia Martinez I think it's the cube thing from the video game, Portal. If they do toys of it, I sooo want one!


@OxfordComma I would also like to humbly ask if there are directions on how to make a companion cube because if I were to make one for my boyfriend I might break his brain with joy!
Thanks! (also, totally my first comment, so hi!)


@complikitty Ditto, someone fill us in!

RK Fire

@OxfordComma: Was it a triumph? Did you make a note here: BIG SUCCESS?

[thinkgeek.com has some Black Mesa and Aperture Science mugs for sale.. in case you are looking for more Portal related gifts. I am thinking on picking up a mug for my husband.]


@Everyone: It sure was a triumph!

...And it was also waaaay bigger than I intended it to be...

Photo 15

Essentially, I cut 10" squares of grey felt,
stitched them together in a box pattern (picture how a gift box looks laid out flat), stitched on thin pink ribbon, and hand stitched the light grey felt circles and corners after I stuffed the cube.

I hot-glued the pink stiff felt hearts because I'm not *completely* crazy.

We use the Companion Cube for a ottoman.

GlaDos might not approve, but that's okay. It was for science.

RK Fire

@OxfordComma: oh my god, that is seriously impressive! Also, I understand why you're all DIYed out now.

Pocket Witch

@OxfordComma Incredible. It's gorgeous.


@OxfordComma That is so incredible! Amazing. I'm actually attempting my own companion cube for my boyfriend for a present. It will not be as glorious or as snuggly as yours, it will be out of cardboard. Thank you for encouraging me to do this!


@RK Fire @comedy_of_customs @complikitty:


It was actually a lot of fun to make--and he just about died when he saw it.
Seriously, best Christmas gift I've ever made.



I'm terrible, obviously, but every few years when my baby sister announces that she's going to make all of her Christmas gifts, I cringe and hope she doesn't get my name in the gift exchange. I know, it's the thought that counts, but I don't have room in my tiny appartment for another half-melty candle or mason jar covered in decoupage. I do crafts too sometimes, but only specifically selected for a particular person, and if they've told me a boughten thing they want, I'll buy that too, just in case my craft turns out crappy. The thing is, if you decide you're going to make homemade candles to give to everyone on your list for Christmas, you are saying "I don't care what all y'all want, you're getting a damn candle."


@Luckier I am so giving damn candles to everyone on my Christmas list!

For real, I'm thinking of giving homemade stegosaurus or bluebird candles to my family, as stocking stuffers.


@themegnapkin Those sound adorable.


@Luckier Oh man, I hope my family doesn't feel that way!!! I got laid off in July so I can't really afford to do anything but homemade gifts this year. I'm giving each person a tin of homemade cookies, a container of homemade honey-and-Shea-butter lip balm, and a keychain or travel coffee mug embroidered with each person's initials and favorite colors. I would prefer to do a more personalized gift for each person, but supplies / ingredients are much cheaper when you buy in bulk so everyone's getting the same thing.


@koko Okay, I detract my prior humbuggery. Cookies are awesome.


@Luckier Aw, that is Leslie Knope-level gift giving, in my opinion.


@Megan Patterson@facebook I've made you each a portrait from your favorite diet sodas.


I've been giving baby spider plants in small jars as gifts ever since my mama spider plant went all Audrey II and spawned like crazy. You can jostle them out by running a butter knife around the edge and transplant them once they get too mighty.

Roxanne Rholes

@cowboykiller Hahaha, if you gave one to my mother she would be furious inside. She got a spider plant from someone years and years ago, and it spawned all over her greenhouse, but she also can't bear to let it die...so she puts the babies on freecycle. "Those suckers don't know that they're getting into!"


@Roxanne Rholes I got a spider plant for AA Day this year and it's the first plant I've ever not killed and she's given me two spiderettes and I hope we all have a happy, long life together!

Roxanne Rholes

@tortietabbie That's great! You will be the Duggards of plants! Haha.


@cowboykiller You want to swap some spiderettes with me? I am also being overrun, but that way we could expand the spider gene pool in our respective apartments.


ohh crafts time! with some patience, you can definitely make some anthropologie level shit.
1) Michaels has wooden birdhouses, boxes, everything you can think of, that you can decoupage with a little mod podge. Use some high quality art papers or pages from a vintage book to decorate and it won't have that high school collage look. Seal with MATTE resin, varnish, or spray (gloss looks cheap).
2) a thift store vase/mason jar of paper poppies. You can find flower-making kits at paper source, or look up a "recipe" at craftster.org. Again, if you do these with high quality art paper or vintage paper, they will look anthropologie-esque, not construction paper sad trombone.
3) A succulent garden in a pretty thift store bowl or pie plate or whatever. Home depot has mini succulents for $1 each. Use ones of different heights and colors for the best look. Cover the soil (use a dry sandy soil, not miracle grow) with some pebbles to make it look profesh.


@christonacracker oh, and you can make pretty lanterns by wrapping oragami paper cones around a string of christmas lights, or stuffing chirstmas lights in a set of mason jars. OR make mason jar hurricane lanterns with cheap candles. huzzah!


@christonacracker I LOVE the wood odds and ends section at michaels. one year I got my mom a foot stool and used my wood burner (erm. yes, I have one) to decorate it with a dandelion still life, and then varnished it. she still uses it.

Hot Doom

@christonacracker The lights in a jar! So, my best friend's DIY gift shtick is to shove little fairy lights into empty wine bottles, as a wee, twinkly booze lamp. It makes me say "Huh?" and "oooh" all at once, but it' a good way to work wine bottles into the decor of a place.


I do this with paperwhites/narcissus every year! Sometimes if I'm Thinking Ahead (ha ha) I plant them in soil or rocks in a jar around Thanksgiving and give them then--that way the person gets to see the plant grow. They bloom within 5-6 weeks so it's perfect timing for Christmas! And it's still fine if you don't get around to it until December--makes the holidays last longer.

I hadn't thought of doing this with herbs! I'll switch it up this year. Thanks Lucia!


Botanical rubbing calendars! I did this last year and everyone seriously loved it. It takes some thinking ahead, but it's so worth it. Collect flowers/leaves all year and press them between the pages of a thrift store dictionary(or, you know, google and order the pressed flowers like I did), get some tracing paper (or rice paper, but it can be pricey)and some colored pencils and go 5th grade science field trip on the pressed flowers. It's best to use flowers/leaves appropriate for the month. Then just fill out the calendar for the next year (maybe highlighting special dates like birthdays & anniversaries important to the person) then hole punch at the top, layer it over some natural or white (or really any color) butcher paper and ta-da! Martha's instructions are better(she even has a calendar template, of course) http://www.marthastewart.com/268940/the-art-of-botanical-rubbings-plant-cale .
Do it! People truly do love it. I was so surprised at the reactions.


@Wondajules is it terrible that I want to be the queer martha?


@Lucia Martinez Absolutely not. I want to be the non-queer, non-tiny-dog-having, under-30 Martha. She's not just crafty, she's super bitchy about it. Do you have her crafting encyclopedia? It warms the cockles.


@Wondajules I don't have it! also I think this is the year I stop aging. 29 forever!

Valley Girl

Mason jar crafts <3 I saw this beauty on tumblr today:


@Valley Girl AND THEN YOU COULD FILL THEM WITH THINGS. like candy or sewing kits. <3 <3 <3


@Valley Girl Holy mother of Santa Claus, I AM SO DOING THIS!!! Thank you!


@Valley Girl WHAT. YES.


@Valley Girl EPIPHANY: I'm going to do this with plastic DINOSAURS! I am stupidly excited/motivated about this.


@QuiteAimable That is the best idea ever.


@Valley Girl Love this. I have made "trophies" before by getting Barbie naked, and spray painting her gold. I think that will now be combined with the jar. Awesome. Thanks.

Hilary FG@facebook

One year I got my sister a pretty cosmetics bag and filled it with the essentials for not ruining her clothes: lint brush, mini sewing kit, suede brush, Tide pen, sweater shaver, etc. It was cheap and I know she still uses it!


@Hilary FG@facebook ...I might have to do this for my little brother. and put it in a dopp kit or something.


@Hilary FG@facebook
Dear Santa,
Hi! How are you? How are Mrs. Claus and the elves? Hope the reindeer are doing well!

As you know, I've been a (relatively) good girl this year, except for all the spilling on myself and what not. For Christmas, I would like a pretty cosmetics bag filled with essentials for not ruining my clothes. Oh, and some new, unruined clothes, please.

Love, Bebe xoxo

Roxanne Rholes

Can I go off-topic and ask a question here? How do we feel about Oxfam and Heifer Int'l style donation gifts? I feel like no one would every say it in real life, but there's got to be a group out there who think it's a cop-out. But I really want to buy one for someone! I can't decide!


@Roxanne Rholes I think it depends on the recipient - if it's someone you know will be into it, who doesn't want/need/expect a material gift, it's great. If you're not so sure, I'd say you'd do better just donating to those organizations yourself, and getting the person something else.


@Roxanne Rholes I feel like if you accompany it with a small, tangible something--a nice scarf or gloves, a box of nice chocolates--it's the perfect gift for people who are interested in developing economies or charitable things. totally not a cop-out.

Roxanne Rholes

@Lucia Martinez @Bebe Thanks for the advice! I don't think this person is expecting a gift from me, but he's a member of my boyfriend's family and he always gets us free tickets when the choral society he's in has concerts. I found on the Oxfam site "a song" gift, and the idea is that you're funding programs that teach little kids healthy disease prevention habits through music. So maybe I will go for it and find a cute little coffee mug or something just to say "it's not that I just wanted to shop for you without leaving my house!" Haha.


@Roxanne Rholes I did this one year for a friend who loves marshmallow Peeps - gave her a box of those and bought a flock of chicks from Heifer. I was seriously considering it again this year for a different friend but instead getting a share in a pig and a nice sausage from the shmancy Italian grocery I have a Groupon for...


@cowboykiller that is BRILLIANT.


@cowboykiller I would LOVE that gift simply for the irony of buying a share of a pig in a developing country accompanied by fancy sausage.


@Roxanne Rholes That's actually very thoughtful, since you're tying it into something he clearly loves! I really only think it's a cop out when it's like, "You have everything, I have no idea what to get you, so I gave money to something I support without really thinking about whether or not you are interested in it."


@Clare @cowboykiller This is totally random (and apologies for bringing work into fun), but if you're going to fund Heifer (which is a good organization! not wanting to criticize them here!) it's worth looking at what animal to send to which places. We ran into some issues in Cambodia, where we were working with some of their same beneficiaries, and people were so proud of (and responsible for) their pigs, that the pigs sometimes ended up eating better nutrition than the families. Chickens, on the other hand, are better scavengers, reproduce faster, and therefore much easier for a family to keep/feed/turn into some extra cash. Goats are also good, because they will eat anything pretty happily, and they give milk.


@cowboykiller I love the peeps! I got my brother half-shares in a water buffalo through Heifer a few years ago, and had a t-shirt printed with a picture of a water buffalo on the front and the phrase "don't make me call my water buffalo" on the back. He loved it!

The Widow Muspratt

@Roxanne Rholes
If you pair a small gift with the donation, consider getting something from a website like Ethical Ocean or Pure Citizen.


@Ophelia Chickens are also great because in addition to providing eggs (and eventually meat), they are GREAT for growing vegetables - they eat the insects that could damage plants, and their crap is insanely good fertilizer.


@Roxanne Rholes I just had a gift exchange with one of my buddies. His black cat died earlier in the year, so my friends and I sponsored a panther via WWF in his name. He got a big panther plushie + info, and really, tearfully loved it! Like Bebe said, as long as there's relevance, it's a lovely gift :)

Atheist Watermelon

I have a "black thumb" (that is, I kill all plants in the vicinity no matter how much I try to keep them alive- I once killed a cactus! go me!) so it would never occur to me to inflict a plant upon someone else...


One of my coworkers just gave everybody super-adorbs ornamenterrariums. It is fogging up. How do I make it stop doing this so that I can keep enjoying my super-adorbs ornamenterrarium? Not being able to clearly see the eensy little mouse in the teensy little santa-hat popping out of a tiny little gift box that decorates mine is making me terribly unhappy.


Probably the best idea I had was to paint shot glasses for all my friends. It didn't take very long, it was fun, and relatively cheap. Much better than the year I decided to knit my besties fingerless* gloves (by glove four I was like MY FINGER JOINTS HURT I HATE YOU ALL ANYWAY). This year, it's probably just going to be donations on people's behalf to the ASPCA.

*And not like some of the lazy gloves you see around, but ones w/ actual finger holes, just abbreviated.

Post a Comment

You must be logged-in to post a comment.

Login To Your Account