Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

Flower Food Gifts

How about making pickled gillyflowers, rose petal jams or jellies or a floral honey? You can do this, pot the mix in a beautiful jar or container and set aside in a cool place for Christmas. By Christmas time, these concoctions will be sufficiently aged and ready to be eaten. You will surprise everybody with a food gift that you made but they will really be intrigued when they see the food is made of flowers!

Pickled Gillyflowers

What are gillyflowers, you may ask? Well, they are a genus of flower that includes the carnation, dianthus or wallflower. These are so delicious they were considered the same as money in days of old, when people would pay their rent in gillyflowers. Today, they are often used in wedding crafts and you often see the pink and white dianthus in a brides bouquet. If you have carnations, dianthus or wallflowers growing in your area then this is an idea you can take advantage of. You could go to a florist and buy them if you wish but foraging is a lot of fun. So once you have a bucket full of carnations, clove carnations, wallflowers or dianthus, here is what you do:

Set aside 1 cup of gillyflowers. Cut off the calyx of each flower (where the flower meets the stem) and snip off the white heel of each petal (where they attach to the bottom of the flower). Thoroughly wash them and then toss them on absorbent paper towels to dry. Tamp them gently now and then as they dry. While the petals are drying, then you should gather up the rest of the ingredients.

1 1/2 cups White Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 stick of Cinnamon
2 blades of Mace
Jars or Containers with Lids (pickling cans or jars are good)

Put these ingredients into a pan and heat slowly as the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mix to a boil. Stir it constantly while boiling, for about 3 minutes and then turn off the heat. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Select the pretty jars you want to use and set them out. Pack each one to the top with the dried fresh flowers. Pour over with the vinegar mix up to the top of the jar so that the flowers are covered in the liquid. DO NOT USE A METAL LID. Close the jar or container up tightly and label. Store in a cool, dry, dark place for giving at Christmas.

Flower Syrup

You can make this up and put it in a glass decanter with a locking lid or old wine bottle with a cork. It makes a great presentation tied with ribbons and bows. The syrup is delicious. It is very easy to make and you can store it now and give it later.

You can make this with any fragrant flowers or herbs of your choice. Good flowers of choice would be lavender, violet, honeysuckle, jasmine or broom, all sweet and fragrant. Gather up one full cup of these petals and set them aside.

Place two cups of granulated sugar into 1 1/2 cups of water in a pan. Set the heat to low and add the cup full of flower petals and stir gently. Heat slowly until the sugar is disssolved and then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Allow it to boil for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, set the pot aside and allow the syrup to cool completely. Once cooled, bottle in the decanter or wine bottle and stop with a cork. This will not need to be refrigerated. You can store it in a cool, dark place until Christmas for giving at that time or you can freeze it in your freezer and thaw it out before giving at a later date. Encourage everyone to eat it up right away. It is awesome with whole grain pancakes.

Floral Honey

This is very similar to the syrup recipe and is just as easy to make. You need a jam or jelly jar or a pickling or canning jar. Any one will do and the lid can be metal. If you use locking canning or pickling jars you can store this honey in a cool dark place until Christmas. But if you choose to use less secure containers like decanters with stoppers or old drink bottles with corks then you should make this later in the year, like sometime in late November for giving at Christmas. You can store it in the refrigerator to slow any deterioration that may occur.

Start with gathering up a cup of fragrant flowers. I recommend rose petals, carnations, lime flowers or scented geraniums. Select two jars for making the first step of the recipe. Pour 1/2 lb of Honey into each of these jars. Use any Honey you like, although Organic Honey is the best. Divide this cup of flowers into these two jars, one half cup each. Use a mix of the different flowers if you can. Stir them into the Honey and seal the lids of the jars.

Place the two Honey jars on a trivet inside a cooking pot or pan. Fill the pot or pan with water up to the necks of the jars. Bring to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, lower to medium heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, remove from the water and set aside to cool. Leave in a cool, dark place for a full day (24 hours).

Heat the jars again in a pot of hot water (not boiling) just until the Honey liquifies. Run the Honey through a strainer or a cheesecloth to strain out the flower petals. Pour the clean Honey into small, clean jars with tight lids. You can decorate the final product by placing a single small flower on top of the Honey in the jar or by dropping a flower into the center of the Honey before locking the lid. Label and store in a cool, dark place for giving as gifts.

Beauty Gifts

These are not as tricky as you might think. Making your own perfume or toners from fresh flowers is never going to cost as much as the store bought stuff and the freshness of it cannot be surpassed in quality. The most important part of this is the container or jar that you choose to put your quality homemade mixtures into. This is the presentation that actually seduces us into paying big money for average and even poor products on the shelves. If you can make a quality presentation of your product everyone will not only be impressed, they will want more of it. Any beauty product manufacturer will tell you that packaging is 3/4 of the product’s public image and can make it a hit or a flop with the consumer. So give some thought to your presentation. An antique perfume bottle is the very best choice for your homemade potions but a clean, quality cosmetic jar or bottle is also a good find.

Floral Soap

You can wrap this up in colorful foils for Christmas giving. Tie them with satin ribbons and label with a sticky. Here is a great recipe everyone will love.

First of all, choose your scent and color. For instance, Rose soap should be pink or red; Lemongrass or Saffron soap should be yellow; Elderflower or Honey soap should be cream colored and so on.. you get the idea. The flower is truly your choice because almost any flower will make a great soap. If you have a garden full of spent Roses or vases with dying Carnations, then these could be the ones you will want to use. Check the parks and open areas in your neighborhood and find the flower that appeals to you. Now I will show you how to make a basic soap recipe out of those flowers that will be suitable for giving as gifts. This recipe will make on average one bar of soap. You can double it up for each extra bar of soap you want to make.

Once you have chosen the flower and color, the next step is to find the molds. You will have to decide on a certain shape and size and may do this based on available molds. Popular cheap and easy molds include gelatin and dessert molds, yogurt containers, candle molds or small foil baking pans lined with plastic. Cupcake pans are also useful. Other ideas include sculpting molds, toy molds (for sand or clay modeling), tiny dessert bowls, baby food jars, snack dip containers and just about anything else you can find. Actual soap molds are hard to find and often expensive but it’s up to you. Just remember that if you choose something metal or lined in foil to cover that metal or foil with plastic lining. Plastic wrap will do.

So once you’ve chosen your flower, the color and the molds, you can just get started making soaps. Start by chopping up the petals of the chosen flower and set aside about 4-5 tbsp of the chopped petals. Obtain and set aside a food coloring of your choice. Put about 1 1/4 cups of water into a large glass bowl. It has to be a glass bowl. Very carefully stir in 4 tbsp of Lye. Use a wooden spoon not a metal one. Stir until it dissolves and then set it aside to cool. The Lye will heat up spontaneously while stirring it so it will take a few minutes to reach room temperature.

While the Lye is cooling, put 3 tbsp of Coconut Oil, 3 tbsp of Sunflower Oil and 3 tbsp of Olive Oil into a pan. Slowly heat the oils on low heat until the reach about the same temperature as the Lye. This is best tested by putting one hand under each pot and seeing it the heat is about the same. If you are unsure, use a glass thermometer in each pot. But the hand test is usually accurate enough. Once you are sure they are about the same temperature, pour the Oils in with the Lye, stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring while adding the Oils. Pour in the food coloring and the fresh chopped petals at this point. Beat this mixture with a wire whisk (do not use a blender or mixer) and watch it carefully for a change in texture from a thin, shiny liquid to a thicker, more opaque substance. It should be thick and solid in color.

At this point, speed matters. Swiftly pour this substance into the mold(s). This should be done as the mixture becomes thick and opaque. Stand the soap(s) on a wire rack or other cooling surface and place in a warm, dry place. Leave the molds there for 24 hours or for as long as it takes for the soap to harden. Once it is set, you want to remove the soaps from their molds and wrap each bar in wax paper. Set them aside again for two to three weeks so that they will harden completely. Check them from time to time over several weeks and once they are hard enough they can be wrapped or packaged for gifting. A great idea that some crafters use is carving or shaping after setting. You can take regular round or square soaps and carve them into interesting shapes like the flower shapes shown in the photo above. If you are handy with carving or whittling you will like this idea and the results are really impressive.

Floral Cold Cream

For making cold cream that will be luscious and fragrant you should pick really fragrant flowers. This would include Roses, Scented Geranium, Clove Carnation, Lemon Balm, Juniper, Lavender or Mints. These herbs and flowers are scented enough to make a cold cream pop. If you want it to have a cooling effect, add the Mint no matter what flower you choose. If you want it to have a warming, spicy effect then go with Clove Carnations and Juniper. Lavender makes the richer, most luxurious and most fragrant of all. It’s up to you.

Start by making a floral influsion with the flower you have chosen. You do this by using Distilled Water (not from the tap) and filling a medium sized pot with the water. Add in handfuls of the flower petals, cleaned of the calyx and heels. Just the petals. Load the pot of water with them, until the pot is full of flowers that are covered by Distilled Water. Simmer until the water has reduced by half. Now strain the water through a seive or cheesecloth to rid of the flower petals. Add this water back to the pot. Fill it once again with handfuls of flowers until the pot is full of flowers that are covered with the left over water. Simmer until this is reduced by half. Keep doing this until you are left with 1/2 cup of floral water. It should be very fragrant. Make sure you strain all of the petals out of the water and you are left with a dark, clean water.

Add 1 tsp of Borax (yes, the laundry booster) to the floral water and warm slowly so the Borax dissolves. Once the Borax has dissolved, set the pot of water aside. In a small saucepan, begin melting 6 tbsp of purified white Beeswax. You can find Beeswax in health food stores and craft shops. Once it’s melted, pour in 1 1/4 cups of Almond Oil. This is a cosmetic quality oil and you cannot substitute it. You can find Almond Oil in health food stores and craft shops. Stir the Oil into the Beeswax, stirring constantly. As soon as they are blended and smooth, start pouring in the floral water. Once everything is blended in one pot, remove it from the heat and continue to stir it as it cools. The mixture will thicken. If you wish to add any essential oils or additional fragrances, you should do it now. This is not necessary, it is merely a matter of choice. The mixture should thicken quickly and as soon as it is creamy and thick, it is ready. Spoon it into the containers or jars you have chosen and seal up the lids. You can store it this way until ready to gift it. Because you use Distilled Water in this recipe you do not have to store this in the refrigerator. But I can be stored there by the user if they want a cool effect when using it.

Floral Toner

There are several different floral toners you could make for gifting. It depends upon the skin type of the recipient. Toners are easy to make. If you can make a floral influsion, you can make a quality toner. A simple blend of rosewater and glycerin is a great blend for dry skin. Just mix up 40% Rosewater with 40% Vegetable Glycerin and 20% Distilled Orange Flower Water and bottle it up. Again, choose a nice bottle or container and label it for gifting. This is for your older freinds with dry skin. You can find all of the ingedients in health food stores.

You can also make toners for young adults with oily skin. Simply boil a cup of fresh Marigold petals in 2 1/2 cups of Distilled Water. Boil it down to the amount you need for the bottle or container you have chosen, strain the flowers out and simply put the water in the bottle. This infusion is a gentle toner and cleanser for young, oily skin.

For greasy, difficult skin with acne and blackheads, you can make a toner of floral vinegar and Distilled Water. Put a cup of fresh flowers into 2 1/2 cups of White Wine Vinegar. Boil it down to about 1/2 cup of floral vinegar. It will be dark and aromatic. Strain out the flower petals. Add 1 tbsp of this vinegar to a half a cup of the Distilled Water and bottle up. Write the instruction on the bottle “shake before using”. This is effective on really greasy skin.

Bottle the toners up in something nice that is easy to use and apply. Pumps and perfume spritzers are great ideas for bottling up toners.

Household Gifts

Floral Pillows

This is another great project that is easy and inexpensive. People love floral and herbal pillows even if they don’t buy them. They always love getting them as gifts. They are one of those things you don’t have to use or do anything more with after recieving it. You can just toss the pillows on the sofa, the bed, the dog bed, even, and just live. And they make your living space smell fantastic.

The very best type of floral pillow to make is a Lavender pillow. These can be used as sleep pillows, too, because Lavender encourages relaxation and sleep. The things you need for this project include fabrics of your choice, something to stuff your pillows with, a pair of hosiery, old or new and fusible webbing. The hardest part of this project is cutting the pillows into the shapes you want. If you just go with squares, this is the easiest. It gets trickier when you try to make circles or other shapes. But it’s up to you. If you can sew you can do just about anything you want. I made my recipe for people who do not sew because I am one of those.

Cut out the fabrics into the shapes you want the pillows to be. If you are doing squares, which I recommend unless you are really good at this, simply fold the fabrics in half and cut through them to create two sides of the same size for each pillow. Once the squares are cut and they all match in size, then lay them out for fusing. You do this by laying one fabric square face up and another fabric square on top of this one face down. The colored sides of the fabric should be facing each other in the middle. You should see the backside of the fabric facing up. Use a roll of thin fusible tape about 1/4″ wide. Cut the webbing tape in strips long enough to run along the edges of the pillow between the two pieces. There should be a strip of fusible tape along three sides of the squares, under the top layer of fabric. There should be one side that does not have the tape. Now, just iron the three sides. After ironing, the fabrics will be fused and all you do it turn them inside out. There should be three fused sides with one open side after you turn them rightside out. If you cut the squares evenly you should have a nice square pillow.

Once you have made all of the pillows you want to make, now it’s time to stuff them. You can do this with pillow stuffing you can buy at the craftshop or you can stuff them just about anything. Old clothing that has been washed and shredded makes a good stuffing that will last for years. Fabric beads or peanuts are also good. So once you have the materials you want to use, stuff the pillow until it’s a little more than 3/4 full.

Gather up the lavender flowers. Take out the hosiery and cut out the feet. Push the lavender flowers into the stocking feet and then glue the ends together. Make sure to stuff the feet just enough so that they lay flat when laid down. The foot full of flowers should not be like a ball or a lump that will be felt if someone lays on the pillow. Just stuff the feet enough to fill them while laying flat. Push them into the stuffed pillows.

The last thing you will do is glue velcro strips into the last length of the pillow. Make sure to tack them down tightly and that the velcro won’t pull loose or come undone. This allows the owner of the pillow to change out the stuffing or the lavender flowers for new and wash the pillowcase if necessary. It gives your homemade gift real longevity and utility.