Make a boxwood centerpiece for your holiday table. Prune your own boxwood or buy a bunch - or case - of branches at a garden center or market. You'll need one block of floral foam, which has been thoroughly soaked in water and placed snugly in a small container. To set the height of your centerpiece, insert one straight branch in the top of the foam. To set the width, push more branches into the base of the foam. Work your way up the block with small branches, creating a pyramid shape as you go. In no time, you'll have a beautiful boxwood "tree." Add ornaments, lights, berries and bows, if you like. Boxwood can last for several months if kept moist. (See http://tinyurl.com/73ursvz or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mhiz1Q-EU6k)

Check out plant growing systems. They're available in garden centers and box stores now. Or consider making your own. You could even make this for that special someone on your holiday list. (See http://tinyurl.com/crpxpl2). Be sure to buy low-energy garden lightbulbs; they'll save you money, in addition to nurturing your cache of indoor plants.

Stock up on indoor gardening supplies. Pick up some peat pots and growing trays, along with "soilless" growing medium. This is typically a mix of peat or coconut hulls, perlite, vermiculite, sometimes ground hardwood chips and/or compost, that provides better drainage and aeration for indoor containers than field soils. "Soilless" mixes also ensure that you're not bringing in any insects or diseases that could affect your new starts. (See finegardening.com). Buy seeds, too; new shipments are arriving at area stores now. You'll have first pick.

Plant slow-growing herbs indoors. You can sow seeds of lavender, rosemary and thyme or buy the plants, which are sometimes available in small pots at holiday time. By spring, you'll have robust specimens to move to the herb garden or transplant to containers near the kitchen door. You'll have the perfect jump-start for the season.

Freshen up vegetable garden walkways. If you didn't get to this in the fall, lay cardboard down the width of your pathway and add fresh wood chips or mulch. A layering approach prevents weed seeds from sprouting come spring.

Consider a bird feeder. Buy one for yourself and the other gardeners on your Christmas list. As the weather gets colder, food becomes more scarce for birds. By installing a feeder or two, not only will you help the birds, you'll give yourself something fun to watch. For an extra-special holiday gift, add a year's supply of bird food.

Count the birds. Have your children keep track of and identify them at the feeders. A good bird book helps. Find suggestions here. And be sure to check out The Great Backyard Bird Count for Kids here.

Replace downspouts with decorative rain chains. When temperatures plunge, the frozen water forms beautiful ice columns that serve as excellent winter sculptures. Later, the melting ice creates a fabulous waterfall effect. You could also place a rain barrel at the bottom to catch the water or install a stone pit to reduce erosion. The water will slowly seep into the ground around the chain.

Grow mushrooms at home. There are many ways to do this, but the simplest is to buy a mushroom kit that includes growing medium and mushroom spores for production. This could be the perfect gift for the hard-to-please foodie on your holiday list. (See http://tinyurl.com/77r2x32).

Happy holidays!

Eva Monheim is a certified arborist, master floral designer, and full-time lecturer in horticulture at Temple University Ambler; she is also an instructor at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Contact her at emonheim@temple.edu.