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If you are looking for ways for you or your children to provide cheap presents for the extended family, or just like to give gifts that have a personal element to them, then here is a suggestion or two for you.

If you are looking to make a present for the gardener in the family or someone who has recently moved into their own home, someone in a flat or unit, or a person who can't manage a full sized yard, or a family member who loves to cook with fresh ingredients, etc. Then why not consider giving them something from your own garden? Here I am talking about plants that you have divided off from your own garden plants.

There are many plants growing in the average garden that can be divided, or that have naturally self layered themselves. Where you could go along and take a rooted section, pot them up and with a bit of dressing up of the planting container, you could produce a really nice gift for someone you care about.

These plants include many herbs as well as perennials or shrubs and even some trees which manage to send out self-layering branches or suckers from the root system. Some perennials or bulbs will increase their size or number of bulbs over time. Chance seedlings coming up in the wrong place for you, can easily also be used. All of these provide you with an opportunity to cheaply create a wonderful present for someone else.

First things first you will need to obtain a number of pots either plastic ones left over from additions to the garden population, or from someone you know, or you can go out and purchase a pot plastic/ceramic/terracotta etc., to suit your needs. If the person you are giving the plant to is not a real gardener, then you might consider getting a pot with a waterwell in the base to increase the plants' chances of surviving.

Next, you need to begin looking for your plant material, so take a careful look around your garden at the soil level. Check out which plants are showing multiple stalks growing out of the ground. Or those sprawling plants where a branch has leaned over on to the ground and taken root along the branch, maybe one where a branch has become buried under the mulch.

Or one where there is a sucker growing from the soil a short distance from the parent plant. Another possibility is seedlings growing in the garden a distance from the parent plant material. Maybe there is a clump of plants or a big patch of bulbs where you can do some dividing.

Many of these plants benefit from being divided up or being allowed some more growing room in the particular area where you have taken away some material.

Different parts of Australia will have a differing range of plant species, which lend themselves to this form of self-propagation. If you can't find any plants that are doing this in your own garden, why not look at a friends or neighbours garden. Or you could maybe join forces and give a joint present using plants from another family member's garden. Or another possibility is to buy a plant in a pot that has several plants already established in it.

Divide that up before you use half in your own garden, and still have half to repot and give away. Even if you are not confident about your gardening skills you can still pick up cheap plants at the local market, school/church fair, garage sale etc. Repot them into a bigger or nicer pot for a fairly cheap present.

Another possibility is to multiplant a few different plants into a long or large round tub. This will create an instant garden on the move. Some themes you might consider here is herbs, indoor foliage, bulbs, annuals, alpine/rock, cacti/succulent or even patio gardens mixing annuals and perennials.

It is best to moisten the ground around the plant that you are going to work on well before you do the dividing, as this allows you to remove the maximum amount of root mass during the dividing process.

The first step is to divide the clump or cut away the joining branch to make the separate plant available. Then using a spade, fork or gardening trowel, dig as far out from the potential plant as practicable, because this will give you the biggest root mass possible.

Go down as far you believe you need to, (this will depend on such circumstances as size of new plant, species of original plant material, type of soil, other plant or landscaping material around the area, etc.). As gently as you can dig out the new plant. Shake off any excess soil and refill the resulting hole in the ground if necessary.

Prune back the foliage of the new plant to roughly equal size of the root mass, trying to protect some of the new foliage growth. Repot as soon as practicable, so that the roots do not dry out and die.

Another thing to consider is what sort of pot you are gong to plant into; if it is only a plastic pot then you do not need to prepare it beforehand. However if you are looking at painting it, then do this before you get digging.

When painting up pots, you will need to do some preparation work for the paint to stick properly. Plastic pots should have their surface roughened up with a bit of sandpaper. While some terracotta pots should have a primer applied to the outer surface before you paint them. Try not to get primer or paint onto the inside of the planter, because while most wont, there are still some paints which contain chemicals that may affect or contaminate the soil and plant over time.

Other possibilities for decorating up pots include simply gluing on bits and pieces including stones, tiles, buttons, sticks, shells, ornaments, ribbon, stickers and decals, etc. Other ways of decorating up a pot for the initial presentation is to wrap up just the pot (not the actual plant), using either wrapping paper, cellophane, material, a cheap teatowel or even hessian. Hold these wrappers in place with string, ribbon, bandana, scarf, etc.

Other possibilities for adding value to the potplant is to provide some growing information and name tags for the plant/s included. Other little quirks you might add include a personalised name tag, (Hi, my name is David the Diffenbachia . . . ), or a little watering indicator, miniature hand tools, small amounts of fertiliser, pot ornaments, watering can etc.

So as you can see, creating a very personal gift for just about anyone can easily be within the grasp of anyone. Why not go out into your garden and start thinking about what presents you can be preparing for Christmas this weekend.

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