Plant a gift ― and a surprise

This gift keeps on growing

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THREE POTTED GARDENS

Holiday gift giving becomes much more meaningful when the gift keeps on growing. Each of the pots pictured here contains a surprise garden ― whether salad mix, paper white narcissus, or wildflowers. Choose an attractive container from the nursery, plant it with ground covers or flowering plants, then add the seeds or bulbs. Give the pot before seeds or bulbs germinate; with regular water, the plants emerge in a few weeks. Attach a gift card to the pot or basket, explaining how to care for the plants.

TIME: 15 to 20 minutes

COST: $25 to $30

MATERIALS:

• Container (we used a 12-inch-long basket and 16-inch-wide bowls)

• Sheet plastic

• Potting soil

• Plants, one sixpack (or use 2- or 4-inch plants)

• Bulbs (three large) or seeds (one package)

DIRECTIONS

Fill the container with soil. Or line the bulb basket with plastic, then fill it halfway with potting soil.

Salad mix pot

Mix a controlled-release fertilizer into the soil. Plant three or four violas toward the perimeter of the pot. Sprinkle seeds of salad mix onto the soil surface between the plants. Scratch seeds into the soil and water well.

CARE: Move pots outdoors to a sunny spot (protect from freezing) or to a cool, bright area indoors; keep the soil moist. Thin seedlings when they're an inch or so tall (use the trimmings in salads). Harvest individual leaves when they've reached 3 to 4 inches tall.

Wildflower pot

Plant four blue fescue plants around the outside of the pot and one in the center. Sprinkle seeds of low-growing wildflowers between the plants (we used dwarf toadflax and baby blue eyes, but tidytips also work). Water well.

CARE: Grow outdoors in full sun; water regularly to keep soil moist.

Paper white narcissus basket

Plant bulbs several inches apart, so there's room to plant chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) in between. Cover with soil up to the base of the bulb neck. Plant the chamomile. Water just to wet the soil.

CARE: Grow outdoors in bright light. Protect the basket from rain, since the liner provides no drainage, and water only lightly. When flower buds start to open, bring the basket indoors; display in bright light.

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