I’ve been thinking about how different the holidays may look for most of us this year — if you’re used to having a large gathering and this year it’s pared down to just a few, you may find yourself much less stressed and with a little extra time on your hands, hallelujah! I’m thinking this might be the perfect opportunity to do one or two of those things that the Martha Stewarts of the world always seem to have time for, but you never do: Special desserts, candles on the table, centerpieces and wreaths (more on those two in my next column!) or maybe a little holiday cheer in the form of flowers for a special family member or neighbor. No, I’m not talking about pre-made floral arrangements (although you could buy flowers and create one). I’m talking about purchasing a few inexpensive bulbs and forcing blooms, just in time to make someone’s holiday extra special.

Most bulbs can be forced and there is a wonderful article at hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/forcing-bulbs that discusses forcing all types of bulbs. I’m thinking more of those fast growing, traditional Amaryllis and Paper Whites. You can get them everywhere this time of year, pre-planted and packaged in a shiny box — not that there’s anything wrong with those as a gift, but I’m thinking take a little smidge of that extra time you might have and plant those bulbs in a pretty dish, plant pot or unusual container from a local thrift store and deliver a beautiful gift (for not very much time or money!) that someone is going to be ever so thankful for (this website offers step-by-step very simple planting instructions: hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2011/11-16/forcingbulbs.html).

You can also buy bulbs from your local florist or garden center and online at most of the popular shopping and grower websites, which should arrive in plenty of time to plant and blossom just in time for holiday delivery! I can’t think of a better project to involve kids in. So many valuable lessons to be learned here — science, patience, nurturing, caring and the best gift of all, giving.

If you have specific gardening or pest questions, you can submit them online to the OSU Hood River Extension, Columbia Gorge Master Gardeners virtual Plant Clinic at extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/hoodriver or by phone at 541-386-3343 ext. 38259. Master Gardeners are a great source for research-based information. Remember to provide detailed plant or pest problem information, as well as your preferred method of contact.

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