Last updateSun, 30 Aug 2015 2pm

Potted Desert Garden

Consider using your garden for your gift-giving ideas. Plants that you may already have around your yard will make great gifts!

Beyond that: If you are the creative type (and aren’t all gardeners?), you can give gifts that truly come from your heart as well from your garden.

Herb-Infused Vinegar

With the movement toward slow-food and sustainable gardening, making herb-infused vinegar is a wonderful idea that your friends will appreciate, in part because you made it from your own herbs. Below is a simple recipe on how you can accomplish this quickly and easily.

Some herbs that work well include:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

You can also use edible flowers such as the winter flowers of calendula and nasturtium. Consider adding dried chilies or peppercorns.


  • Bottles or jars
  • Lids or corks
  • Vinegar (many recipes use apple-cider vinegar or white-wine vinegar; experiment to see what flavor you enjoy)
  • Your choice of fresh herbs
  • Labels
  • Ribbon, raffia, other decor


  • Sterilize your bottles or jars by placing them in a large pot (without the lids) and covering them with water. Bring the water to boiling and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in the water (after turning the heat off) for up to an hour before using. Use when cool to touch. Do not put cold liquids into hot jars. Add the lids to the warm water to clean before using.
  • Pick your herbs early in the morning and dry them thoroughly, making sure both sides of the leaves are dry.
  • Gently crush the leaves with your hands.
  • Stuff the leaves of your chosen mixture of herbs into the sterilized bottles to a third full.
  • Bring vinegar to a boil.
  • Fill the bottles or jars covering the herbs up to a half-inch from the top of the bottle. Cover with its lid or cork.
  • Allow to cool.
  • When cool, place in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Check by smell after one week to see if you have a fragrance that you think you would enjoy. If it the herbs’ scent is not strong enough, leave in for another week.
  • Once you reach the preferred flavor or scent, strain the vinegar out of the bottle; remove the herbs, and put the vinegar back in. A glass measuring cup with a pour spout works well to accomplish this.
  • Decorate the bottles as you like, and add a ribbon, a label and gift card.
  • The vinegar will last a couple months if stored in the refrigerator.

Cactus Pups

Look around at your succulents and cacti to see if you have volunteers (i.e. plants you didn’t intentionally plant) that have sprung up, or perhaps some off-shoots or “pups” coming up next to the main plant. Each of these can be separated or dug up and placed into an attractive pot to give to a friend as thank-you, thinking-of-you or holiday gift.

You can also propagate succulents such as pencil cacti, euphorbias and many other plants to create new plants. Be sure to let the branch or stem that you have removed from the main plant callous over in the shade before planting it in its new home. Use cactus soil, and add rock or recycled glass to “dress” the top of the soil making an attractive gift.

Floral Bouquet

As a quick, spontaneous gift: If you have a supply of small vases on hand, you can go out to your garden in the morning and pick some flowers and greenery to put in a vase of fresh water to take to a party or on a friendly visit. It doesn’t even need a special occasion to warrant something so simple but hugely appreciated by the recipient. Don't be afraid to add branches from a shrub or even a stem of bougainvillea flowers. It is a good idea to remove any thorns, though!

Shameless Self-Promotion

Last but certainly not least, think of giving my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert. Any desert dweller with even a couple pots will appreciate this monthly how-to guide for their desert garden.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, has just been released. Buy it online at Email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow the Potted Desert at

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