Southern California is blessed with a climate that’s perfect for plants with scented foliage. Our native sages (Salvias), mints, roses, California Sagebrush and other Artemisias make our gardens a treat for the nose as well as the eye. Add scented plants from other mediterranean climates – rosemary, thyme, lavender and others – and you’ve got a nice smelling garden. Consider a plant’s aroma when choosing new plants for your garden. You’ll be glad you did!
Fall is the best time to prune many scented plants; and pruning can produce lots of trimmings, even in a small garden. Consider using your scented trimmings for garden crafts that produce products unique to your garden. One of the easiest – and fun - is making potpourri. It’s a good activity to do with children (in small groups). You might even want to host a ‘potpourri party’, where guests bring scented materials from their gardens to share. Making potpourri brings out the creative side in all of us.
A potpourri is simply a mixture of scented plant materials. Most people think of natural room fresheners when they hear the word potpourri. But people in times past – and thrifty gardeners now – use potpourri for much more. Fill a small cloth bag with potpourri to make a sachet to scent a closet or clothes drawer. Use a pretty fabric, tie the sachet with a ribbon and you’ve got a unique, inexpensive gift. A cloth bag filled with potpourri can also be used to scent a bath or shower (just hang the bag under the running water). You can use a cloth re-useable tea bag to hold the potpourri. Potpourri can even be used under your pillowcase to scent your pillow. Use a soothing sage, lavender or mint for a restful sleep
Making potpourri is easy. But like anything involving scent, it allows lots of room for creative expression. No two people smell a scent exactly the same. We all have memories associated with particular scents. And some scents just make us feel relaxed or energized. So have fun combining scents to get just the right combination.
Here’s how to make your own unique blend of garden potpourri:
- Choose your plant materials. A number of plant materials that can be used as a base for potpourri. Choose any scented plant you like as long as it is not toxic. Here are a few possibilities:
- Native plants (leaves/stems): Sages (Salvias) all have slightly different scents (we particularly like Black, Purple, Cleveland and ‘Winifred Gilman’ Sages) ; California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) and Mugwort (Artemisia douglasii); plants in the Mint family (Wild Mint – Mentha arvensis; Hummingbird Sage - Salvia spathacea; Fragrant Pitchersage -Lepechinia fragrans)
- Other scented shrubs/herbs: Leaves/stems of Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Lavender, scented Geraniums, Mints, etc.; flowers like scented Rose petals, Carnations, Orange blossoms, etc.
- Citrus fruits or apples: use thinly sliced citrus peel, or cut entire fruit in very thin slices before drying
Don’t be afraid to experiment – sometimes unusual combinations are the most successful. If you end up with a truly awful combination, just throw it in the compost bin and try again.
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