Holiday gifts bring joy, and few presents make gift recipients as happy as fresh flowers. Long winter days and evenings can drain a person's energy, and vibrant, sweet-smelling roses, jasmine, lilies and other winter blooms light up the pleasure centers in the recipient's brain, brightening the home and counting among the most adored presents of the year, especially if you choose the right vase the recipient can use again and again.
A twist on the potted flower gift is the gift of bagged or potted flower bulbs. Each bag of a dozen or so earthy bulbs contains the promise of spring's return, brilliant color and blooms to be cut and displayed in the home. Flower bulbs quickly are becoming a top gift choice for this reason; they become a gift that keeps on giving.
Beyond the eco-fabulous virtue of local flowers and bulbs, today's holiday gift givers say that they fulfill the highest priority: They're inexpensive. According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, two-thirds of American consumers say the economy will affect their holiday budgets, and the average holiday gift budget is down 3.2 percent this year per shopper. That makes the ultra-affordable flowers or bulbs a top choice for affordable and crowd-pleasing gifts.
But before you give what looks like a vase full of dirt -- explaining that there's an exotic flower bulb buried in there, so water twice a week and wait -- keep in mind that you can make your floral gift look as if you spent three to five times your actual outlay, and invest a bit of personal effort in the presentation.
"I loved the gift of narcissus that my niece and her husband gave me last year," says retiree Corinne Stevensen. "But it was a little too obvious that they had just stopped in at the grocery and picked up a $5 potted flower in that telltale brown plastic pot, with a sticky spot where they had scratched the price tag off."
A successful gift is always given with a little bit of creativity and personal attention, so here are the top tips for giving flowers or bulbs as holiday gifts this year:
--Give potted flowers rather than bouquets. Bouquets are nice, but if you're going to a holiday party or family holiday dinner, the host or recipient would have to stop what he's doing, find an available vase, cut the stems, put them in water, etc. A pretty potted bunch of flowers works far better in hectic holiday time.
--Choose a simpler pot. Skip the neon-colored, patterned, glazed or "busy" flowerpots and select instead a neutral color or one that you know suits the recipient's home color scheme. Ideal neutral colors are sand, brown and sage green.
--Go with glass. Visit your local craft store, such as Michaels, to get a very pretty, deceptively inexpensive glass vase in a circular or square shape, for less than $3 in many cases. These are the same simple glass vases that party and wedding hosts stock up on for their modern, elegant centerpieces, and they not only make the perfect holder for your floral gift but also are reusable.
--Dress up plastic pots with fabulous foils. Garden centers and supermarket floral sections may have these shiny wraps affixed on their flowerpots already, but it's quite easy to take a sheet of foil paper in your chosen shade -- e.g., winter white with silver stars, light blue, festive red, jewel purple -- and wrap it around the base of your pot, tying it with a length of raffia or braided color-match cord.
--Give bagged bulbs a label makeover. Leave that info-packed label sheet on your bag of bulbs -- the recipient will need the details for smart planting -- and print a holiday-design sheet of your own on your home computer. Tape your label to the package, and add an inexpensive round bulb planting tool and some cute gardening gloves; your gift is ready to go.
--If you're giving an exotic bulb that already is planted in a pot, take a few extra steps to make what looks like a pot of dirt look special. Insert a holiday label with the plant's ID and a photo in the top of the pot, and wrap the pot with a velvet ribbon and bow.
--Let kids decorate terra-cotta pots. If they're giving flowers to grandparents or others, let the kids paint holiday designs and messages on the pot or affix stickers to it.
--A surprise holiday gift trend: giving a basket of fresh red rose petals for the recipient's use in a later romantic evening, for sprinkling in the tub or using as table or display d?cor.
--Winter's in-season flowers: amaryllis, anemone, bell of Ireland, buttercup, camellia, Casablanca lily, cosmos, daffodil, forget-me-not, holly, jasmine, narcissus, orchid, poinsettia, rose, stargazer lily, star-of-Bethlehem, sweet pea, tulip.