While we have covered this in detail elsewhere (everywhere!), there are a few things we can include here:
A Violet Cologne
1/2 ounce Orris Root, dried & finely chopped
2 ounces grain spirits/vodka
Bottle tightly and shake daily for two weeks. Decant into scent bottle. Mind how you go; some people find Orris root irritating.
to make Hyacinth Enfleurage
1). Coat pairs of matching glass pie plates with melted/cooling shortening (such as Crisco or coconut oil)
2). Gather fresh Hyacinths in the early morning; pick the florets off onto the prepared plate in a layer up to 2" deep. Top with 2nd plate.
3). Change florets daily as long as the flowers are available.
4). Cover the scented shortening with equal parts of grain spirits in a tightly capped jar, shaking several times a week and keeping in a dark closet.
5). Decant perfume into a bottle or
6). Freeze solution and skim off the scented absolute.
(useful for all flowers whose scents don't survive heat: carnation, hyacinth, violet, etc.)
Home and Holiday Uses
Natural herb mixes for potpourri, sachets etc. will need a fixative to last longer than about 6 months, less if kept in an open bowl or a warm place. For pillows stay away from ground botanicals as they will be dusty and sift through the casing. Traditional fixatives include Orris, Benzoin, Citrus peels, fragrant woods & resins.
Basically these items act as an absorbent, neutral to complementary material that takes in the scent of the botanicals in your mix, and releases them more slowly, making the scents linger. Less romantically, one could use bland cellulosic materials (ground corn cobs come to mind) but they would lack the basic fragrance of scented materials and thus need added scent. And look tacky.
For potpourris that will be in open bowls, you might want to add dried botanicals with brighter color and more texture than you'll find in most herb leaves. Easy, generous plants to grow for this include strawflowers, paper daisies, delphinium and larkspur, peonies, some lilies, amaranthus and the like. I like to add tiny alder cones, larger spruce cones, bits of bark curls, and of course, roses, lavender and citrus peels, which will also contribute scent. Peonies dry fabulously if you cut them before fully open, then leave standing in a vase of water without replenishing until fully dried. Peonies cut too far open will drop petals; you can leave them to dry in a glamorous cascade reminiscent of paintings from the 'Japonisme' period, then scoop them up for later use. As with roses, stay with pinks and reds as the whited dry to a sad brown.
Herbs for a Dream Pillow
Lavender (for calming)
Catnip (for sleep)
Hops (for sleep)
Mugwort (for dreams)
Rose petals (for those dreams to be sweet)
Winter's Day Potpourri
2 parts Lemon Balm
2 parts Rose petals
1 part fragrant rose leaves: Rosa primula (woodsy)
or Rosa glutinosa (pine scented)
1 part Cinnamon Basil
1/2 part dried carnation petals
1/2 part rose hips for color
I knew it!!--Lemon Balm
In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor this herb was used as a kind of furniture polish. (The first recorded use of 'Lemon Pledge'??)
Gardening with Wildlife
As gardens are sterile and lifeless without birds, 4-leggeds and other creatures, we can do ourselves a favor by attracting them, excluding the most voracious chompers, and enjoying the passing parade.
Songbirds benefit from daisy-type and other flowers left standing as seed granaries (Rudbeckias and Agastaches are great ones to start with), robins will appreciate your left over strawberries--before they are left over!--chickadees will play in the sprinkler (as will fawns), and crows will take your plant tags for their collections.
Frogs and toads are great consumers of chewing insects; some extra shady damp places for them such as upturned clay pots, perched against a stone for a doorway, plus ground-level water sources, will bring these creatures out. (We've had large wood frogs settle into small pools, only to scare the socks off us by groaning from under the water while we were cleaning out the pool!)
Snakes are also a good addition, balancing off the fecundity of mice and voles. They will also appreciate the cool damp floor of a shady greenhouse, in mid-summer. Here we have no poisonous snakes to deal with, it's just fun to meet them in the garden (and apologize for watering them . . .)
Living in the north Idaho woods, deer are a constant part of gardening whether one wants them to be or not. As they were here long before people, and as when they are hungry they will eat nearly anything, there are really only a few things you can do to garden with deer successfully. Those are
- plant only plants that the deer won't eat. This is not a huge list, but one still can have an ornamental garden (though not vegetables!). Number one on the list is Lavender, even the elk won't eat lavender. Following that, Oreganos, Mints, Agastache, Artemisias, Hyssop, Irises, Linaria, Sages (though they will take the flowers on some varieties), Penstemons, bristly things like poppies and eryngiums, toxic plants like foxglove and aconitum.
- plant a few things the deer will eat but can be kept off of with a deterrent spray. This is not cast iron and there will be occasional misses on your part and snacks on their part. We're not wild about putrescent egg solids (sounds attractive, doesn't it?) and won't use dried blood, being vegetarians and also avoiding things that could spread mad cow disease, so we prefer the repellant spray containing ammonium salts of fatty acids. It's listed for vegetables & fruits, does not smell hideous to humans, and---it works better than the other sprays anyway. It will also keep the neighbors' cows from eating the trees in the fence line, if you catch them in time.
- Use a fence. This is really very easy, and while it does not fit with the romantic idea of living free in the woods, it is the only practical way to have roses, fruit trees and tomatoes. We use field fence or sheep wire, with two strands of barbed wire above. For little raised beds (6-12'x10-20'), often just wrapping the bed with sheep wire is enough to keep the deer out--the spring left in the fence is enough to keep it coiled on itself and you might not even need posts. One huge note here: survey where the deer traffic goes, and make sure that you are not cutting them off from water or escape from predators when you fence, or they will (must!) jump into your fenced area. We left broad areas open here for them to circulate through on their way to the ponds--they were here first, after all. I'm in their garden.
Gardening in a rural area means dealing with rodents. Some we have brought with us (house mice can't live without us, for example, having hitched their evolutionary wagon to ours centuries ago), some are locals who know a free meal when they see it. House mice aren't that big a problem outside, but their woodsy cousins the voles and deer mice have extrordinary appetites and boundless energy. They can reduce a rose to a pile of sticks in a winter weekend, and thoroughly till and decimate a garden bed of all your treasures sleeping under the snow. Our strategies for outwitting them center on prevention, as the woods and fields bring an endless supply our way, and we want our gardens to be about life, not death.
First and foremost, prevention. For trees and shrubs, we plant in "gopher baskets" which keep the dirt-swimmers out and away from the roots until the plants are big enough to fend for themselves. Leaving the upper 5-6" proud of the ground keeps surface running rodents out of the baskets as well. The woody stems and trunks get tree-guards in the winter and the same repellant spray mentioned above in deer-proofing.
For larger areas, we make beds lined with hardware cloth with half-by-half mesh (1/2" x 1/2"), which is too small an opening for critters to go through. Hardware cloth is also much longer lasting in the ground than chickenwire. This can be combined with boards or blocks for raised beds. To attach to boards, roofing screws with big washers, or drywall screws with fender washers work well.
Whatever you do, these lined beds also need a victorian-type collar of the wire standing proud of the ground as well to keep out interlopers. This really should be about 8" high if the bed is flush to the ground. As we have only found this hardware cloth in 4' width rolls, we devised a few ways to join lengths for beds to be wide enough to bother with. The simplest method we've found to date, and the cheapest, is to make flat-felled seams, tromp them flat, and clinch them with hog-rings about every foot to two feet (if the run is very smooth) and closer when making bends. A good pair of dikes or a sheet-metal snip will work to cut the mesh of the hardware cloth. You will cut yourself on the cloth, but a good pair of rubber coated gloves will minimize this while still allowing you to grip the wire and screws.
A good pre-winter shearing of any lush foliage will also make the beds less hospitable to rodents who love the cover and do their own haying of juicy stems to store in their burrows.
Butterflies, besides being pollinators, are lovely flitting creatures enlivening the garden. We try each year to have more plants for them, both food for the larvae and nectar for the adult stage. Favorite butterfly plants include buddleia, calliopsis, rudbeckias, echinaceas, gaillardias, (daisies of any kind, as long as they have a center eye), asiatic lilies, scabiosas & stachys. For the larvae, there's caraway, dill, milkweed, violets, delphiniums & more. All of these plants need to be planted in large clumps or drifts for them to get a good meal, so don't stint; a naturalized garden of lots of kinds of daisies will bring them in to stay much better than one little clump.
Don't neglect to have some mud for them, they need to puddle to get dietary minerals.
Some detailed lists of butterfly attracting plants, both for caterpillars and mature butterflies, can be found here:
Blessed with several kinds of hummingbirds here, we're constantly on the lookout for plants to bring them up close for a look, and to sustain them. Native plants here that they seek when they first arrive in mid April include shooting stars (Dodecatheon), Tritelia/Brodeia & Columbines, followed by Castilleja (Paintbrush), Fireweed, Delphiniums, Honeysuckle, Penstemon wilcoxii, P. barbatus, Monarda menthifolia, Linaria and Cleome. Introduced ornamentals they cherish include Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), other honeysuckles, Sages in saturated colors (red, violet or bright blue), Stachys, Morning glories (but they have no nectar so don't be a stingy host, plant Scarlet runner beans in with them and the hummers will adore you) and nasturtiums.
Hummers need water when it's hot, and if you are a kind soul, when you are watering one might come and take a flying bath in the hose in your hand, or perch in a fence that a sprinkler is going over and bathe and sparkle there. (Chickadees remember where you water and will come back, perch there, and call for you to bring the water back. How can you not oblige?)
Be sure that your plantings don't afford cover for the cat to pounce upon them from, nor posts with feeders that make nice perches for hawks, ravens or other predatory birds. If you use nectar feeders, also put in-line interruptors with water in them (NOT PESTICIDES! what were they thinking? Hummers eat tiny insects) to keep ants from swarming the feeder. And police to make sure wasps aren't nesting nearby and threatening the hummers (or yourself).
Hummingbirds need tree cover to nest and forage in, so if you can provide some nice oldgrowth cedar and fir woods, that would be best. Second growth will do in a pinch. And don't be knocking the trees all down, leave some nature for nature.
Lists of plants useful for attracting birds to the garden can be found here:
http://www.thegardenhelper.com/birdplants.html ---very detailed! including notes on plants for songbirds, etc.