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Spending a fortune on expensive gifts for your friends and relatives doesn’t always equal thoughtfulness. With a little time and care you can grow beautiful potted plants, and show you were thinking of them long before now. If you have a sunny windowsill, make the most of it by growing flowers, herbs or something your loved ones will really appreciate. And really, any time of year will do, so here are some tips and ideas to get you started.

What to grow

Start by growing an assortment of flowering plants, handy herbs, and attractive ornamental plants to ensure there’s something to suit all tastes. Then start asking questions. Find out their favorite herbs to use, favorite colors (for flowering plants) or what they plan to grow in their very first vegetable garden. You can save money by taking cuttings or bulbs from your own garden.

Flowering plants. For pretty, colorful flowers, begonias, geraniums and miniature roses will serve well. You can grow them all through the winter months in a bright, warm room. A browse online will lead you to other flowering plants that thrive in a sunny interior. You can also nurture spring flower bulbs, such as hyacinth, crocus, and narcissus, through the winter, ready for the season. There will be even more choice in the light, summer months so that you can provide for your friends’ summer birthdays with a riot of color.

Herbs for the kitchen. For herbs, you could choose lemongrass, mint, parsley, and oregano, among others. They will all be happy by a window or under a skylight in a warm, bright room. Parsley, thyme, and basil are also easy to grow indoors, with plenty of natural light. Check indoor growing websites for more examples.

Ornamental plants. Exotic plants will probably prefer your cozy room to the chilly outdoors, even if daylight is a little limited. Caladium, or “Elephant’s ear,” is one such plant, and produces strikingly patterned purple-streaked leaves. Asparagus fern is a delicate, feathery plant that grows quickly indoors and will grace any room. Perhaps invest in a miniature fruit tree, too, such as the calamondin orange tree, which is said to be easy to grow. Use the fruits or stems to create new plants for future gifts. You can find more ornamental plant varieties on appropriate websites, along with guidelines for growing.

Light, warmth, and soil

Different plants have different needs, so remember to add plant care instructions on an accompanying card. For most plants, they’ll need a warm room with plenty of daylight. Use good quality garden soil or potting compost mixed in.

Presenting your plant-gifts

Take give-giving up a notch by decorating a plain planter/pot with a few painted-on words, polka dots or some other fun design. Then shroud the whole plant in a whirl of bright wrapping paper, a home-made label and a beautiful bow.

Your plants will make ideal gifts for birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other events. And every time you give a home-grown plant you’ll be showing them what’s in your heart.

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Cathy Burnett
Cathy Burnett

I love this idea and I am going to start doing this during this new year. Thank you!

Oh, we are all about…

Five of the Best (Free!) Things to Do in Paris

Winter may be your only time to travel, but it is also a great time of year to avoid crowds and the high costs that come with being a tourist. And despite its expensive reputation, Paris is a diverse modern city with a variety of delights to see – even in winter. Whatever you’re into, a memorable trip to the French capital doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Go ahead, call up your farm sitter and plan your trip using our suggested list of things to see and do. Check the weather, pack your bags accordingly and you’ll be sipping on mulled wine and shopping in no time, or bringing in the new year with parades, fireworks and champagne!

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The world famous Notre Dame Cathedral is a stunning example of some of Europe’s finest Gothic architecture. While it costs to climb the 422 tower steps to see the incredible view over Paris, the rest of the cathedral is free to enter.

You can also appreciate the architecture at a leisurely pace via a walk along the Seine or from the park at the rear of the building. Notre Dame is an iconic symbol of Paris and is generally considered essential viewing by most visitors to the city.

Parc du Champ de Mars

Stretching out southeastwards from the base of the Eiffel Tower, the Parc du Champ de Mars offers visitors a free alternative experience of the tower by avoiding the costly lift to the top. Named after the Roman god of war, the park was formerly used as a marching ground for the French military but now provides unparalleled views of the Eiffel Tower for tourists and locals.

Take a picnic and some drinks and relax in the shadow of one of the world’s most recognizable and well-loved structures. There are very few places in the world that rival the view looking up from the Parc du Champ de Mars.


The streets of Paris are a warren filled with chic and interesting delights. Take a stroll around the district of Belleville to experience the rebellious and multicultural culture and history of its people. Grab some lunch in Chinatown and then visit the spot where Edith Piaf is thought to have been born. The vibrant history and atmosphere of Belleville is found on every street corner and splashed across many walls in the form of sensational street-art. When you tire of district’s lively streets you can take a break in the Parc de Belleville to take the weight off with a lovely view of the city.

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Situated at the base of Montmartre hill in the 9th arrondissement, the Museum of Romantic Life is dedicated to the life and works of writer George Sands and painter Ary Scheffer. The permanent exhibitions are free to enter and offer a well organised and fascinating look into works of the Romantic period.

The museum is set in Scheffer’s picturesque former home and visitors can enjoy a bite to eat in the charming garden cafe in the warmer months. For a romance themed getaway in the world’s most romantic city, a stop at the Musée de la Vie Romantique is the perfect way to kill a few hours.

Canal St-Martin

The tree-lined Canal St-Martin is the ideal place to take a stroll or to watch boats potter by on any stretch of the 4.6-kilometer canal which was constructed under the orders of Napoleon I in 1802. The canal’s quaysides make for a perfect chill-out spot all through the week, but especially so on Sundays when they’re closed to cars.

Locals and visitors can be found relaxing along the edges of the canal enjoying a drink and a bite to eat, so it’s a great place to soak up some authentic Parisian atmosphere at zero financial cost. The canal stretches across much of the city, so it can be used as an idyllic thoroughfare to and from many places throughout Paris.

Contrary to some opinions, the varied and impressive history of France’s number one city can be experienced without paying a small fortune. The city’s world famous landmarks can be viewed and the streets can be explored without breaking the bank. In a city known around the globe for its culture and sophistication, the savvy traveller need only spend a little time planning ahead of time to enjoy all the tremendous attractions Paris has to offer for little or no cost. The city of love is a lot more accessible than you think!

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