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I handmade my best friend's Christmas present - and the terrarium I gifted was the most special idea

Christmas is the season of giving, and I may have just given my best gift 

A side-by-side image of professional terrarium and journalist's attempt at one
Matthew Moore
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
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Christmas will soon be upon us and many of us will have spent hours sourcing the perfect present for our nearest and dearest, whether that be rifling through catalogues or checking out the wide variety of options that we can find online.

However, this year, when it came to my best friend, I decided to take a different route and handmade his gift, opting to go for a terrarium. In the past for Christmas, I've given books and assorted chocolates in the past, and while I knew I was getting him the right thing, I must say after completing this gift and seeing his reaction to my "unexpected" present, it was potentially the most special gift I've ever given someone (sorry, mum).

The main issue when it came to this was deciding what to gift my friend, and I was soon able to land on the idea of a plant, with a terrarium being the obvious choice as it would be easy for me to look after before handing it over to him, who knows considerably more about plants than myself.

A selection of tools and plants needed for a terrarium
You only needed a small number of tools to create the terrarium

As it turns out, a terrarium is actually the perfect plant to gift someone over Christmas, especially if you go down the handmade route like myself. Speaking to HELLO!, Antonio Castro, a PhD candidate and botany lab instructor at the University of Puerto Rico, said: "A terrarium is a very elegant and low maintenance way to have a piece of nature indoors that can serve for home or the office, especially for the winter time, when there is not much greenery outside."

Chase Distillery has partnered with London Terrariums founder Emma Sibley to help people create terrariums with old gin or vodka bottles, and after they kindly delivered everything I needed for the project, I set to work.

I must admit to having zero gardening skills, so thought the process might be a tricky one, but it turned out to be relatively simple, albeit slightly messy. All that was mainly needed to be done was to pour in a base level of pebbles before layering in my soil and choosing which of the plants and moss I was sent to decorate the inside with.

A bottle on a windowsill with pebbles inside
The pebbles were the first layer

At the end of the experience, and with slightly green fingers, I was very impressed with how it turned out, and I was even more impressed that I was able to keep the plants alive before presenting it to my friend ahead of the big day.

Even though I had previously dropped some hints at what I was doing, he was taken aback by the "unexpected" thought that had gone into the present, and out of all the things I will be gifting friends and family this year, his is the one that stands out the most to me.

A bottle with pebbles and soil in surrounded by soil and pebbles on a green mat
I am incredibly glad there was a mat to help prevent my desk getting too dirty!

Susan Bonnar, the founder of The British Craft House, which specialises in handmade gifts revealed to HELLO! why creating something yourself is more special than picking something up off the shelf. "When something is handmade and somebody's made something for you, it's matching what that person wants to give to you," she explained.

"If you buy something in the shops, there's always a compromise with what you want. If you're hand making a gift or commissioning someone to make something then you literally get what you want for that person."

Two people placing a flower in a terrarium
Even putting the plant in is incredibly easy

Susan added: "Christmas can be mass-produced imports. For example, if you buy a woolly hat for someone and gift it, there'll be thousands of that woolly hat under the Christmas tree. But if you commission something, which I recently did in the shape of a Christmas pudding, it's a lot more unique and there could be only half a dozen in the world."

RELATED: I'm a shopping editor and this is the one brand I’m buying all my Christmas gifts from this year

MORE: Quick gardening tips to transform your garden in under an hour

Handcrafting a gift for Christmas wasn't something I initially thought I would do, but now I feel like I'd be shortchanging people if I didn't consider it going forwards.

Of course, if you’re feeling less crafty, there’s no harm in buying one that's pre-made - instructions and links can be found here.

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