Okay I know it's July but they say Christmas comes earlier every year, and this year, as usual, most of us will be wondering how to get through the long shopping expeditions as well as stressing over the bank balance.

Not necessary! Give friends and family potted herbs to grow in the kitchen or plant outside. the following Spring. Herbs are always welcome as they are practical and attractive in the house as well as in the garden. Earn loads of Brownie points in the kitchen by adding fresh mint leaves to new potatoes!

At this time of year, you can often find herbs and small shrubs in garden centres at reduced prices. Make sure they are healthy though. Even the un-reduced plants aren't particularly expensive.

To save even more money, use your own plants. Take cuttings from healthy shrubs now, push cut end down into pots of fresh compost and keep warm and watered so that when you give them away as presents they are growing well and developing roots. I bought an aloe vera plant last year that has so far produced 8 new plants and the original is still growing well!

The best herbs to give as Christmas presents are perennial such as:

Aloe Vera
Lemon Balm

Look around for different varieties. For example there is a new hybrid mint that smells like chocolate, and would be perfect to garnish an ice cream dessert.

Some herb varieties differ in the colour of flowers or leaves. Rather than buying the first one you see, check for healthy growth. If the plants are drooping or have brown leaves, discard and find a healthier one. The idea is you want to keep them alive and kicking until Christmas, after that they are their new owner's responsibility!

Keep the plants on a windowsill or warm bright place in the house and don't let them dry out. If you have to re-pot them, make sure the new pots are well-drained and use fresh compost to give them a good start.

Then all you need to do is buy a pretty container. Clay pots can be hand-painted with a simple daisy design and sealed with a clear varnish. Tie a bow round the pot and you have an instant Christmas present, that has taken you months to grow!

Author's Bio: 

Linda Gray has written a number of books on home and garden themes and runs a popular blog and Facebook page: