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Mr. and Mrs. ring dish

Valentine’s Gift Guide from Shop.PAllenSmith

We have your Valentine’s Day gifts wrapped and ready in the P. Allen Smith shop! Whether your Valentine is a gardener, foodie or just loves nature we have just the thing for them.

“I Dig You” Gift Basket

This gift basket is perfect for your favorite gardener. We’ve hand-selected some of our favorite gardening necessities to satisfy any green thumb. This basket includes a Joseph Bentley Stainless Steel Hand Trowel, “Love Grows” Journal, “Seeds From My Garden” packets to organize your seed saving, and an 8-piece Lambrecht Gourmet Fleur de Sel Toffee. It is creatively packaged in an Arkansas-made peck basket with a handle for easy toting, and wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with raffia ribbon.

I Dig You Gift Basket from Shop.PAllenSmith

P. Allen Smith Candle Collection in Rose

We’ve launched a delightfully fragrant line of candles based on inspiration from my own garden! I love this rose scented fragrance, and it’s here just in time for Valentine’s Day. Be sure to check out all eight scents!

P. Allen Smith Rose Scented Candle

Bubbly and Berries Goat’s Milk Gift Set

Treat yourself, a friend or a Valentine to indulge in a little aromatherapy with this Bubbly and Berries Goat’s Milk Gift Set including handmade lotion, soap and lip balm with a bubbly berry twist. We also have a Rustic Spice fragrance set for those who like a warmer, spicier fragrance.

Goat milk lotion, soap and lip balm

“Love Bird” Gift Basket

This gift basket is perfect for the birding someone in your life. It’s filled with some lovely bird-themed treats including a lightweight pink scarf printed with colorful birds, “Love Sings” journal, little bird letter organizer, and 8-piece Lambrecht Gourmet Fleur de Sel Toffee. It is packaged in an Arkansas-made peck basket with a handle for easy toting, wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with raffia ribbon. Sure to get their feathers ruffled!

Gift basket for bird lovers

Bouquets of tulips, roses and rannuculus in a wire basket

Valentine’s Day Flower Alternatives

Small Vases of Bouquets in a Wire BasketMy favorite gift to give on Valentine’s Day is flowers.  I like the idea of a hint of spring arriving at a loved one’s door just when it seems that winter will never pass.  It’s a wonderful reminder that sunshine and blue skies are on their way!

Whether your sweetheart has a brown thumb or loves to get their hands in the soil you can’t go wrong with flowers.  Although red roses are the classic Valentine’s Day flower, there are so many choices available it’s easy to be creative.  Here are some ideas for you to consider.

Basketful of Bouquets
Flowers are a wonderful way to say I love you.  To make the statement even more personal, why not put together the arrangement yourself.  Here’s a simple gift idea I featured in Woman’s Day that I still use.  It’s a whole basketful of blooms.  The beauty of this present is that the vases can be removed from the basket and put wherever the recipient wants fresh flowers.

  1. Wire Basket of VasesGather enough juice glasses or small vases (2 to 3 inches high) to fit snugly into a basket.
  2. Head out to your local florist and choose your combination of flowers.  Or try my selections of 10 stems each of white and pink mini carnations, pink and red sweet heart roses, red tulips and pink ranunculus.
  3. Make each bouquet by gathering a bunch of the same flowers in one hand just below the blossoms and then trimming the stems to 4 inches.  Wrap a rubber band around the stems to hold them securely together, then push the band up the stems just beneath the base of the flowers.
  4. Drop the bundle into a water-filled vase.  Trim more from the stems if necessary.  Repeat this process for each vase.  Add a ribbon gift card and you’re ready to deliver your one-of-a-kind gift.

Flowering Houseplants, Hot House Shrubs and Forced Bulbs
Solitaire Azalea I feel safe in saying that by February most of us are tired of winter.  Even with the daring blooms of early daffodils, winter honeysuckle and quince, it can be a pretty dismal month.  I suppose that’s why flowers are such a nice gift on Valentine’s Day.  If your special someone has a green thumb, consider giving them a flowering houseplant, hot house shrub or forced spring bulbs.  The blooms will last for weeks and with proper care the houseplants will bloom again and the shrubs can be planted out in the garden.  Here are a few to consider:

  • African Violets
  • Primroses
  • Orchids
  • Cyclamen
  • Bromeliads
  • Miniature Roses
  • Peace Lily
  • Gardenia
  • Azalea
  • Hydrangea
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Paperwhites
  • Amaryllis
  • Hyacinths
  • Tulips
  • Mixed Bulb Gardens
  • Muscari

Rose Bushes
New Dawn Rose Surronding a Window Give the special gardener in your life more than just a single bouquet, a rose bush will provide fresh flowers year after year.  And now is the time to order roses.  Just be sure to be around when it comes time to plant!  Here is a list of some of my favorites:

  • New Dawn
  • Collette
  • Old Blush
  • Russell’s Cottage
  • Sarah van Fleet
  • LaMarque
  • The Fairy
  • White Meidiland

Good to Know
Make sure the message you send is the right one!  Here are meanings to some popular flowers.
Azalea = First Love
Camellia = Gratitude
Carnation = Fascination
Chrysanthemum = Friendship
Crocus = Cheerfulness, Dedicated to St. Valentine
Daffodil = Chivalry
Daisy = Innocence
Forget-Me-Not = Memories
Gardenia = Grace
Hyacinth = Sincerity
Ivy = Fidelity
Lilac = First Love
Casablanca Lily = Celebration
Orchid = Rare Beauty
Peony = Good Health
Rose, Pink = Friendship
Rose, Red = Passionate Love
Rose, Red and white = Unity
Rose, Rhite = Youthful Innocence
Sweetpea = Lasting Pleasure
Tulip, Red = Declaration of Love
Violet = Faithfulness
Zinnia = Thoughts of Friends

Forcing Spring Flowering Shrubs

It seems like every year Punxsutawney Phil, our official forecasting groundhog, sees his shadow and forecasts an extended winter.  It’s hard news to hear when you are eager to get outdoors and start gardening.

So what’s a gardener to do? One way you can defy Old Man Winter is by forcing blooming shrubs such as quince, forsythia and pussy willow into flower indoors. The process is simple and the results will brighten your home while you wait for spring. Here is how you do it.

As soon as you see the flower buds on your spring flowering shrubs start to swell, clip a few branches to bring indoors. Select branches that are heavily loaded with buds. You will usually find these towards the top of the shrub.

Quince
Once you get the branches inside it’s important to re-cut the ends at a slight angle. Then make a few slits about 2 to 3 inches long around the base. Both of these steps will help draw more water up into the stems.

Put the branches in a bucket of water and keep them in cool dark place for a few days, misting them occasionally. Then move them into a well-lit room and watch as the warmer temperatures coax the flowers into bloom.

Teacup Birdfeeder

Teacup BirdfeederThese teacup bird feeders are an excellent way to recycle old cups and saucers.  And they are both whimsical ornaments for the garden and work great as feeders.

 

Materials:
Teacup and saucer
Drill
1/8 inch ceramic tile bit
1/4 inch masonry bit
36 inch long 1/4 inch threaded metal rod
30 inch long copper tubing 1/2 inch wide
2 stainless steel nuts with 1/4 inch wide hole
2 stainless steel washers with 1/4 inch wide hole
Safety Glasses
Gloves
Marker
Birdseed

Drilling HoleDirections:
First collect your cups and saucers. A good place to look is a resale shop or junk store.

Next prepare your cup and saucer. Mark the center of each and carefully drill a hole through them one at a time. To reduce breakage and frustration, first make a starter hole with the 1/8 inch ceramic tile bit and then widen it with a 1/4 inch masonry bit.

Saucer and CupNow take the 36 inch long, 1/4 inch wide threaded metal rod and screw a nut about 1/2 inch from the top, place a washer on top of the metal nut and then the saucer and cup on top of the washer.

At this point you will have the tea cup and saucer balanced on the metal nut and washer with about 1/2 an inch or less of the threaded rod rising up through the middle of the tea cup.

Adding Copper TubingTake your second washer and slip it over the threaded rod so that it sits flat inside the teacup. Next add a metal nut on top of the washer and screw it down tightly so that the teacup and saucer are secure.

Select the area in your garden where you would like to place the feeder, push the copper tubing into the ground about 2 or 3 inches and then insert the threaded metal rod down into the ground through the copper tubing to give the feeder a finished look.

Suet Cakes for Birds

With the increased popularity in feeding birds, specialty shops have popped up to meet the demand. These stores are basically delicatessens for birds. You can’t imagine all the different foods.

For instance, there is one blend called Birdola. It’s something like a form of granola. And there are several different types of suet cakes. These are basically bird foods mixed with beef fat and other things such as almonds. One variety is actually packed with insects and another is made with papaya and orange.

Now the reason for all the mixtures is that each one offers food appealing to different kinds of birds. But I have an easy to make general recipe you can try at home and it starts with a trip to the grocery store.

To make the suet cakes follow this simple recipe:

Ingredients:
1 pound beef fat
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup corn meal
1 cup birdseed

Directions:
The key ingredient or "glue" that binds these suet cakes together is the meat fat trimmed and discarded by the butcher. Most butchers will be happy to give this to you and some will even grind it up, which makes it easier to use. Other ingredients you’ll need to pick up – corn meal, oats and some peanut butter. I like to use the extra crunchy kind and you’ll also need a small bag of birdseed of your choice.

To prepare this recipe melt one pound of beef fat over a low heat until it is in liquid form. Remove the saucepan from the stove then mix in one cup of peanut butter, one cup of rolled oats, one cup of corn meal and a cup of your favorite birdseed. Then pour the mixture into a form, any disposable container will do, and let it cool and solidify.

Once cooled fit the suet cake in a wire cage or net bag and hang it in a tree branch you can see from a window. In a few days, you should be able to see some fine feathered friends enjoying this home cooked meal.

Pinecone Birdfeeder

Pinecone Bird Feeder Making these natural ornaments is really simple and it’s a project children can enjoy participating in as well.

Materials:

  • pinecones
  • creamy peanut butter
  • yarn, ribbon or wire
  • paper plates
  • scissors
  • butter knife
  • bird seed

 

Directions:
Cut a length of yarn or ribbon to hang the ornament.

Wrap the wire or ribbon around the pinecone near the bottom so that it catches under the "petals."

Attaching Hook to Pinecone If you are using ribbon simply tie it into a knot to create a loop. With wire you can make a hook shape similar to what you see on a Christmas tree ornament. I like to use wire because it gives me a sturdy handle to hold onto while I add the peanut butter and seeds.

Next scoop some peanut butter onto a paper plate and pour some birdseed onto a separate plate. I use a light colored seed such as safflower because the ornament will show up better on the tree. Safflower seed will attract cardinals and chickadees. But you can use standard birdseed or a mix to attract other visitors to your garden.

Rolling Pinecone in Seed Now using the butter knife pack the peanut butter between the crevices of the pinecone and then sprinkle it with seed.

I find it easier to do all the peanut butter work first, wash my hands and then follow up with adding the seeds.

Once you’ve made the cones it is time to hang them on a tree. And I always like to hang them near an existing feeder. The birds just seem to be a little more comfortable in going to their new food source. And you can also place them close to a window of the house so children can enjoy watching them feed from indoors.

This is a good way to spruce up your garden for the holidays and help the birds. It’s also a great way for kids to learn a few lessons from the garden.

Lemon Eucalyptus Potpourri

I like to make this simple citrus and eucalyptus blend because its fresh, light scent is a great way to brighten my home any time of the year.

The materials used in this potpourri are readily available at any crafts store.

Potpourri Materials:
eucalyptus leaves
cedar shavings
dried ginkgo leaves
dried lemon slices
essential oil of lemon grass

Gift Packaging Materials:
4″ clay pot
clear cellophane wrap
tape
raffia
scissors

Directions:
Potpourri
The first thing to do is dry your lemon slices. You can do this in either a dehydrator or in the oven. To dry the lemon slices in your oven set it on 175 degrees F, place the slices on a wire rack and let them cook for about 4 to 6 hours.

Next mix the foliage together in a large bowl. Eucalyptus leaves are a nice choice because they hold up for a long time and I like to use the seeded variety because it has berries, which adds a nice touch. And ginkgo leaves are a favorite because of their shape and color. For a little textural contrast, add some cedar shavings.

Mix in the lemon slices with the foliage and to carry on the citrus theme, toss in some dried lemon balm leaves. I gathered leaves from my garden, but if you don’t have lemon balm readily available, mint leaves work just as well.

Gently blend all of this together. Now, to make the aroma last much longer, give your potpourri an extra boost with essential oils. These are concentrated fragrances from flowers, herbs and spices. You can buy essential oils at crafts stores or health food stores. Since this potpourri follows a lemon theme with the aroma and color of this blend, you may want to choose a citrus scented oil such as lemon or my favorite, lemon grass.

Adding the essential oil is sort of like baking chocolate chip cookies. If you want to increase the flavor, add more of the essential ingredient, chocolate chips. Only with this, you just add more oil. To make this blend extra lemony, add about four drops per double handful of the potpourri. Then toss the leaves and cedar to make sure that it is distributed evenly.

If you decide to give your potpourri as a gift I suggest you package it in a simple clay pot to give it a fresh from the garden look.

First cover the drainage hole with a piece of tape so that the leaves and eucalyptus berries won’t drop through. And then fill the pot with potpourri. A nice touch is to place a bottle of the essential oil on top for refreshing later.

For wrapping, just pull some clear wrap up around the pot, tie it at the top with raffia and accent it with some greenery. You just want to make sure that the potpourri is completely dry so it doesn’t cloud the plastic. What a perfect gift from the garden!

Making Beeswax Candles

In spite of the growing commercialism of the holiday season, I still find gift giving to be one of my favorite traditions. In an environment where it is so easy to go overboard with purchases, I think that the best presents to give and receive are the simple, homemade ones. There is just something about spending an afternoon creating gifts to share with friends and family. And if you pick an easy project that you enjoy, it is a great way to relax during what can be a very stressful time.

This project for making beeswax candles is nice because there is nothing to it and a pair of these beautiful tapers tied with a raffia bow makes such a nice gift.

All you need are sheets of beeswax and wicks. You can purchase these supplies at craft stores, bee keeping supply companies or from an online source. To find an online source I had the best luck by searching using the words “candle making,” “wax sheets,” or “beeswax sheets.”

I like to use the honeycombed wax but you can find it smooth as well. Sheets are also available in a wide range of colors. The cost for an 8″ x 16″ sheet will run you about two dollars.

Determine the size wick to purchase by the diameter of the candles you plan to make. Most sources will have a chart or recommendations to help you pick out the right wick. Wicks come in flat braid or square braid. For the most flexibility, you may want to purchase a range of wick sizes.

Buy enough wax and wick that you will be able to do a few test runs and of course, keep a few candles for yourself.

To get started warm the wax in the sun until it softens a bit or you can heat it by placing it on a towel lined cookie sheet in a 250-degree oven. It just takes a couple of minutes for the wax to soften and become pliable.

Determine the height of the candle you want and cut the sheet accordingly. Next cut a piece of wick about 1 1/2 inches longer than the height of your candle. Place the wick 1/8 of an inch from the edge of the wax sheet. Crease the edge of the sheet over the wick and press firmly so that it is well sealed. Now gently roll the sheet tightly, making sure the ends are even. When you have created the diameter desired, use a utility knife to trim any excess and a warm metal spatula to seal the edge. Trim the wick down to about 1/2 inch on top.

To increase the diameter of a candle, simply roll the first sheet with the wick as described, then line up the edge of a new sheet with the unsealed, outer edge of this candle and begin to roll again. Continue these steps until you have the diameter you prefer.

It’s amazing how popular candles have become particularly around the holiday season and to think, the essential ingredient here is from our friend, the honeybee.

Lavender Fire Starting Bundles

This is a project that adheres to the philosophy of waste not, want not. After pruning your lavender plant, why not put the stems to good use? These dried lavender bundles help get winter fires started and sweeten the air.

Materials

  • Dried Lavender Stems
  • Raffia
  • Gift wrapping tissue cut into strips
  • Paper clip

Instructions

  1. Gather lavender stems in a bundle.
  2. Wrap a tissue strip around the middle of the bundle. Use a paper clip to temporarily hold the strip in place.
  3. Wind raffia around the tissue strip and tie to secure. Remove the paper clip.
  4. When you are ready to start a fire, place the lavender bundle between the logs in your fireplace. Fire can be a fickle mistress, so be sure to use caution and common sense when lighting the lavender bundle.

Good to Know: Pruning Lavender

Lavender benefits from a light pruning every year to keep the plants full and bushy, which means more leaves and blooms to harvest. You can cut the plant back in spring, summer or very early fall. I generally do this task right after the flowers fade because it will help promote new bloom. If you cut your plant back in fall, be sure to give yourself time before the first hard freeze. Cold temperatures will kill resulting new growth. Remove about a third of the height of the plant. Avoid pruning back into woody stems where there aren’t any leaves growing because the stem won’t survive.

Lavender Fire Starting Bundles

Three Ways to Prolong Valentine’s Day Roses

Did you receive roses for Valentine’s Day? Lucky you! Prolong the love with these three ideas.

When Your Roses Arrive
If your roses came prearranged, simply place the vase in a spot out of direct sun and away from heat sources.

For unarranged roses fill a vase with lukewarm water and add a floral preservative along with one teaspoon of bleach to keep the water clean. Remove any leaves from the stems below water line. Under running water, re-cut the ends of the stems at a slight angle. Place the flowers immediately into the vase.

Every few days replace with water and recut the ends of the stems.

Giving Your Roses a Second Life
Pull the freshest flowers from the bouquet and reuse them in a new arrangement. Buy flowers from a local florist or market to complement the colors of your roses. For red roses try purple, orange, and golden yellow flowers. If you receive salmon roses, add chartreuse, blue, and cream. Pink roses look great with burgundy, lavender, and cream blooms.

Cut the rose and flower stems to about 8 inches long. Grab the entire bouquet as close to the base of the blooms as possible. Wrap a rubber band around the stems to hold the arrangement together tightly. Place the bouquet in a low vase filled with fresh water, floral preservative and a few drops of bleach.

Preserve your Memory
As your roses fade, remove the petals and place them in an open weave basket to dry. Purchase other ingredients from hobby or craft stores to create your own personalized potpourri. I start with a base of pre-packaged dried flowers or potpourri to create a colorful mixture. With an eyedropper add some rose oil to the potpourri and toss gently to refresh the fragrance of the flowers. Place the mixture a bowl or basket where the aroma can be enjoyed.