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Tag: winter

  • Herbal Aromatherapy Recipes

    December 11, 2015

    Our herbal aromatherapy recipes blend garden-fresh herbs, flowers & spices to perfume your home and add moisture to our dry, winter homes. Plus, they’re easy to DIY into gifts as well.

    Garden Aromatherapy herbal soaps & sachets

    Give herbal aromatherapy gift combos. They’re easy to DIY with our garden-fresh recipes & tips! Get our no-lye, easy soap recipe here.

    Try making these cute bags of these deliciously scented aromatherapy herb blends to give your loved ones. They make fantastic hostess gifts and wonderful stocking stuffers. Following are several simple, delicious, brewable combos to make in our popular printable format with gift-wrapping tips too.

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    Bundle these with homemade soaps from our simple, no-lye recipes, and you’ve got a complete gift for anyone!

    (Updated December 2015. Original post follows at the end.)

    Herbal Aromatherapy & Spice Blends for Stove Top HumidifiersPrint Print
    Directions for preparing & making sachets & using these blends follows the list of blends.

    Christmas spice aromatherapy blend

    Fill your home with Christmas fragrance with spices like these in your stove top humidifier. To make this fragrance into a gift, be sure to use dried orange peel & dried ginger so your gift doesn’t mold!

    Christmas Spice Blend
    1 T whole cloves
    1 tangerine, orange or other citrus peel
    1-2 cinnamon sticks
    1 slice fresh or candied ginger

    Three Garden Herb Blends

    Astringent & Calming Blend
    1-2 sprigs fresh Rosemary (even if it is frozen in the garden)
    2-3 Tablespoons dried lavender buds (or garden stem/flower cuttings)
    tangerine or orange peel
    1-2 dried lemon verbena stem

    Dried rose and lavender buds

    Dried lavender & rose buds from your garden create wonderful herbal aromatherapy in your stove humidifier.

    Calming & Clarifying Blend
    2-3 Tablespoons dried lavender buds (or garden stem/flower cuttings)
    1-2 sprigs eucalyptus (optional)
    small handful dried rose petals or buds (about 3-4 Tablespoons)

    Savory Home-cooking Blend
    1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1-2 sprigs fresh sage
    several sprigs of thyme (lemon or lime thyme is especially great!)

    To use on the stove top:
    Add one of the above combos (in a sachet or loose) to a medium size sauce pan or dedicated kettle filled (to a couple of inches below the top-line) with water. Place on warm wood stove-top (according to manufacturer’s guidelines) or cook-top. If on a cooktop, bring the water just to boiling and then turn down to a low simmer, or boil a little higher to release more moisture into the air faster. Add additional water as needed; don’t let it dry out. Occasionally, as fragrance diminishes, strain out the spices, cuttings and fruit peels, add them to your compost and start over with fresh water in a cleaned pan/kettle with fresh spice or herb blends. Don’t let the ingredients stand and get moldy!

    Tips for creating gift sachets:
    When creating gift blends, be sure to use dried ingredients. Fresh herbs, flowers and fruit is likely to rot before you’re able to give your gifts. And, we use food-grade cheese cloth for our bundles since we’re sure this won’t damage kettles and pots on the stove. Pretty, dyed fabrics might look nice, but who knows what they’ll do in a pot of boiling water!

    Dried sachet materials

    Cut a single layer of cheese cloth into about 6-8″ square. Only use dried ingredients if you’re making a gift otherwise your sachet may mold before you give it away. Fresh ingredients are fine if you’re popping them into your own stove top humidifier right away.

    rolled sachet ready to tie

    Simply roll your filled cheese cloth, then gather the long ends of the roll together and tie into a snug knot. Don’t add anything that can’t go into a boiling pot of water!

    rose & lavender herbal sachet

    Once your sachet is filled, rolled & tied, tuck in a few dried flowers or spices to decorate your bundles.

    Original post follows. (more…)

  • What a Bee Wants – Cotoneaster

    July 09, 2012
    Honeybee foraging from Cotoneaster

    Honeybee foraging from Cotoneaster

    Bees of all kinds are feasting on the billowing, off-white blossoms of Cotoneaster lacteus right now. Honeybees, yellow jackets, tiny black bees, flies, wasps and more can’t resist the bountiful nectar and pollen this easy-to-grow, rose-family evergreen shrub provides this time of year.

    Later, all of these pollinated flowers will ripen into orange-red fruits that will feed wild birds late in winter. The fruits must not be the birds’ very favorite, but after they’ve fermented and once most other food sources are long gone, the Parney cotoneaster berries will be a last-ditch meal for hungry garden wildlife. And, until the robins and starlings finally munch them down, these reddish fruits will add colorful interest in the garden well into the dark days of winter. Popping against the deep evergreen leaves, this red really helps chase away the dreary winter blues.

    Need a small evergreen tree or shrub for your garden? If you’re in zones 6-8, this may be the tree for you. Keep in mind that it can get weedy by producing lots of seedlings, but they’re easy to pull. If you have a particularly early or late harsh winter, this plant can see significant tip dieback, but usually it will bounce back beautifully. Just cut out the dead! Too, be sure to train it while it is relatively young. These shrubs put on growth at a rapid clip and can get gangly. A bit of strategic clipping while they’re developing can help you create a fantastically formed shrub that provides wildlife forage, evergreen foliage and year-round interest for the garden.

    Oh, and on the toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe line of thought…avoid giggles from the horty world by pronouncing Cotoneaster Ca-tone-E-aster, not Coton-Easter.

  • Camellia Sasanqua: When Will it Really Bloom?

    February 27, 2012
    Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide'

    Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide' Blooming for Valentine's Day

    Camellia sasanqua is known as a fall or winter-blooming Camellia. But, mine seems to want to wait until closer to spring to strut its stuff.

    Years ago, I was given a tiny but beautiful Yuletide camellia as a Christmas gift. When I received it, it had a few lingering blooms still on it.

    That’s the thing, growers push these young’ns all to bloom in fall. This gets them looking their best just in time for those doing last autumn installations to snap them up and pop them into the garden before everything comes to a screeching halt for winter. And with a name like Yuletide, we’re all expecting these gorgeous evergreens to bloom in time for Christmas, right?


    After that first year, my potted Camellia continued to bloom sometime in winter — usually right after Christmas. Never at Christmas. So much for being a entry decoration for the holidays.

    Then, the time came to plant it in the ground. And guess what happened then?

    Freeze blasted & ruined: This Camellia blossom will never open

    Freeze blasted & ruined Camellia bud

    Yes, it grew larger. But, it also began to bloom later and later each year.

    That is, if it bloomed at all.

    Those tough blossoms definitely don’t care for a hard winter freeze, and if they get hit hard enough. They turn black & fall off the bush. Last year that happened to mine, and I got only a measly handful of pretty blooms.

    This year was mild. We did have one icy blast that hit just as the Camellia was getting ready to bloom. I assumed it would drop its buds, but despite getting frozen and a late start opening, it is putting on its showiest display ever.

    I’m reminded that these shrubs are definitely worth growing in the Pacific Northwest. Evergreen. Colorful. And kinda consistently bloom during the “off season”.

    But guess what? These beautiful 2012 blooms started opening right around Valentine’s day.

    So who’s with me? I propose we rename this one: Camellia sasanqua ‘Valentine’.

    It sure as hell isn’t opening any gifts for us during the Yuletide anymore.

  • Shear Not! But Still Keep that Hedge in Check

    December 14, 2011
    House in the 1920s or 1930s

    Historical Photo of Our Home - Lots of Lawn and Sheared Plants

    Inherited a garden filled with prior inhabitants’  bizarre choices intact? Yeah, me too.

    Our house is rapidly approaching its 1ooth birthday. Back in the day, they thought 12-18″ wide, straight-lined paths slammed within two feet of the house itself made sense. They don’t.

    Rather than walk so close to the house that it feels as if the giant structure may bump into you, most homeowners with paths like this end up walking on adjacent lawns. It’s a personal space thing, I suppose. I got rid of that awful pathway years ago, replacing it with wider, meandering walkways made of permeable gravel and flagstone. Whew, much better. And, yeah, we got rid of all that lawn, too.

    These brilliant designers also had a habit of building front garden retaining walls with a small, 8-12″ deep, planting beds at their foot. This creates a very difficult space to fill with the right plant. When we bought the house, our strip was filled with a toupee of lawn (h/t to my friend Cath for dubbing tiny, stupid lawns with the toupee appellation.). When we began eradicating lawn, this stuff had to go.

    Hedge Encroaching on Sidewalk

    Hedge Encroaching on Sidewalk Needs a Trim

    First, I filled the space with cheap primula. At the time, I thought colorful polka dots looked cute. They really didn’t, but what did I know?

    Then, I tried dividing and transplanting mixed perennials in the space. That was a big fat failure. And, as the wall continued to age and my gardening skills grew, I resolved to grow something to hide the ugly concrete. The problem though:  what’s evergreen, drought tolerant, dog-pee tolerant, cold tolerant, grows to 3′ tall and no wider than 1′. Answer: Not much.

    First, I tried a hedge of Hebe buxifolia. I knew this lovely evergreen would tolerate the full sun and any drought. Plus, it blooms beautifully and withstands shearing. Unfortunately, every third plant would die each year (or a part of a plant would die from dog pee or weather or “just because”), and the hedge looked like plant mange had gone on the attack.

    Then, knowing the plant could exceed my space parameters but also tolerate heavy pruning, I installed several inexpensive David Viburnum. With broad, evergreen leaves, this plant isn’t a good choice for shearing. Why? Slice a big leaf in half and it looks chopped up. (If you slice tiny leaves, it doesn’t show as readily.)

    Fortunately, the Viburnum worked out fairly well. It took a few years to fill out the space, and then it began to overtake the adjoining sidewalk. But, with a good pruning at the right time of year, this hedge is in check. It requires very little supplemental watering in the dry season while tolerating hot, baking sun. And, it withstands winter just fine.

    Pruned Hedge

    Hand-Pruned Hedge Finished (Somebody needs to sweep though)

    Here’s how and when we did the pruning:

    • Timing: Prune the viburnum as it is blooming or right after. You may lose out on some of the pretty blue berries, but only where you cut. We pruned ours in late May. Do not do your pruning in fall.
    • Tools for the job: Have a pair of bypass shears and folding handsaw for your plant cuts. A pair of loppers may come in handy for chopping up larger branches into the compost or yard waste container.
    • How to cut: Remove all the dead material on the plant first. Then, work like a mechanic, removing lower, longer branches first — assuming you want your “hedge” to look taller rather than wider. Make your cuts at points where branches meet other branches. Or, if your goal is to get an otherwise bare area to fill out, make cuts just above a strong, sprouting bud; cut incorrectly, you may seriously damage your plant. And, do not remove more than 1/3 of the living material from each plant.
    • How Often: How often you prune will come down to your plants’ needs. Our hedge was pruned in May 2010 and may require a small supplemental pruning by May 2012.
  • Keeping it Hip & Rosy in the Autumn Garden

    November 09, 2011
    Wild Rose Hips Brightening a Duck Pond Thicket

    Wild Rose Hips Brightening a Duck Pond Thicket

    About a week ago I met with a new-to-me client. As we walked through her garden discussing what was what, she apologized (to me? to the plants) for having not cut all the rose hips off her rose bushes. Like so many novice gardeners out there, she was under the impression that rose hips were actually bad to leave on her rose bushes.

    She was very pleased to learn that leaving her roses a little hippy for winter is actually a good thing!

    Rose hips are the rose’s fruit. Even if you don’t choose to harvest the hips to make tea or sachets, they make for some lovely fall color on your plants. True, some roses don’t produce showy hips, but many do. So leaving them in place will help add interest to your garden as the plant puts less energy into producing blossoms come autumn.

    And, while removing spent flowers during spring and early summer is just fine, removing the fruit that follows those flowers later in the season can actually be detrimental to your roses. The formation of fruits and ripening of them as the flower season wanes helps the plant prepare for dormancy. As the fruits ripen, the plant spends more energy on them than on additional flowers. Sure, more late flowers sound like a treat for the eyes and nose, but if they get hit by cold temps, the plant may suffer significantly. But, if a rose hip gets hit with frost, the plant should be just fine. Those hips are made to protect!

    So, keep your rose garden hip for winter. Leave those colorful, little pretties intact to savor the beauty of the rose far into fall. And, when they’re fully ripe, pluck a few for a blast of homegrown vitamin C! Don’t worry, removing a few that are fully ripe won’t harm the plant. By spring, the plant would have let them go anyway to spread the seed stored in those lovely little pods.

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