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I felt very cool carrying it in the crowded subway, but I can’t say for sure that my fellow commuters felt the same way, as it took up a good extra foot of space around me. On my way to a friend’s housewarming just a few weekends ago, I carried a bundle of fresh eucalyptus that I had wrapped in the Saturday copy of The New York Times as if it were a child or perhaps a small dog.

This, I knew, would be the perfect host gift.

I’ve always loved buying gifts for the people I care about, and sometimes, I can get a little too swept up about the possibilities. I had thought about buying a bouquet of flowers or assembling one myself, but it was just days before Thanksgiving, and I figured that the ideal gift wasn’t something too perishable. I considered buying a potted plant, but my own fears about plant care prevented me from picking something without knowing just how much natural light filtered into my friend’s abode.

Finally, after swinging by the farmers market the morning of the party, I passed my corner grocery, which was offering $5 bouquets of greenery and filler flowers like baby’s breath, and it dawned on me: Eucalyptus would make a wonderful housewarming present.

There are several reasons I love this sometimes-neglected greenery. First, eucalyptus lasts much, much longer than flower-filled bouquets—when fresh, it can remain soft and fragrant for as long as three weeks, as long as you change its water every few days. You can also preserve it using vegetable glycerin—but I’ve ended up with lush, evergreen bouquets just by allowing eucalyptus to dry at its own rate.

When dried or preserved, of course, it doesn’t retain its calming aroma, but I had found a simple fix for this: in a glass spray bottle, I combined about a teaspoon of salt with 15 to 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Then, I filled the rest with water, making a refreshing, eucalyptus-scented room spray that I could use to—you guessed it—spritz my long-dried eucalyptus back to its former olfactory glory.

After a whirlwind commute involving three separate trains, I arrived at the party with eucalyptus in tow (as well as a loaf of sourdough and a bottle of vinho verde—I pride myself on being an exceptional houseguest, after all). I presented them to my friend and she immediately placed it in a vase, allowing its lanky stems to drape dramatically over the sides. It looked and smelled amazing—just the right thing to make an apartment feel like home for just $5.

I sliced the bread, we opened the wine, and long after the party had ended, the eucalyptus remained: pretty, calming, and positively refreshing.

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