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Making Potpourris & Sachets: Scent And Protect Your Home

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Making use of those dried blossoms and herbs from my now-hibernating garden not only scents my life through the winter months, but helps stave off moth damage when I finally put those winter woolies away at season’s end. If you start now, you can also use nature’s bounty as inexpensive –and very useful gifts this holiday season.

How to make potpourri:

>In the next few weeks, before the frost, collect the flowers (and herbs) from your garden that smell good to you. Roses, Queen Anne’s lace, mint blossoms, lemon verbena, lemon balm, fennel, honeysuckle and lavender all are good choices. Let your imagination (and nose) be your guide. Gather four times as many herbs or blossoms as you think you’ll need, as dried materials shrink.

>Dry the material on a screen in a warm place with good air circulation or hang upside down. When thoroughly dry (this takes up to 2 weeks but watch carefully–much past the slightly brittle state and they will lose all their oil) store each ingredient in an individual glass jar.

>When the plant material is dry, toss together leaves and petals, being mindful of color, texture and fragrance. Whole or crushed spices like allspice, cinnamon sticks and cloves may also be added. If you need your potpourri to be more aromatic, just add drops of essential oils. Choose no more than three (make one the dominant oil and put three times as many drops of it as of the ones you’ve chosen as accent oils. Mix on a cotton ball and put into a glass jar with a tight lid. Close it for 24 hours, then put your nose no more than 6 inches away and take a whiff. When you find the winning combination, write down the recipe to track your successes.

>Potpourri doesn’t hold its fragrance long. You need to add fixative like two tablespoons (per quart of plant material) of chopped (not powdered) orris root, calamus root, oak moss and tonka bean. Vetiver root is also a good fixative for heavily-fragranced potpourri. Ground corn cobs (ground cellulose), natural or dyed wood chips, or an ingredient called “fiberfix” may also be used as a fixative.

>Stirring carefully and thoroughly mix well. Replace top, and set in cool dark place for several weeks. Every few days, shake the container gently. After 4 weeks the potpourri should be ready to use. Stretch the potpourri by shaking it over a base of floral foam, moss or tissue paper.

Here’s a seasonal recipe to try:

>Holiday Potpourri: Mix pine cones and cedar chips (about 3 cups) plus a cup of bay leaves (break them up) and a cup of bayberry leaves (or boxwood branches cut to one-inch lengths), one cup each of oak moss, red rose buds and star anise (break them in half). Add three tablespoons each of chopped orris root and frankincense tears. Use 10 drops each of cedar and balsam or spruce oil and 7 drops bayberry. Stir. Put in closed container for 4 weeks.

>Making Sachets: These are easy to sew (or glue). Make sure to use a natural fabric like cotton, linen or hemp to let all the fragrance through. Use a 2×2 inch piece for your underwear drawer or 4 x 4 inch square for a larger drawer or bag. Sew three sides, stuff and sew the fourth. Hang in your closet or garment bag from a pretty ribbon. Good herbs/flower choices for sachets include scented geranium, lavender, lemon balm, mint, roses, rosemary and thyme. Use sachets in the bath, too. Just let them float or tie a string long enough to anchor them under the faucet.

Beating Pests the Natural Way:

>Preventing Moth Damage: Mothballs are made of chemicals so toxic, they can melt plastic (and kill a child or pet) so why not try a natural alternative? Put a few drops of oil (rosemary, clove, mint, vetiver, rose petals, ginseng, lavender, thyme or sage) on a cotton ball –yes, you may mix them—and place several into the storage bag with your woolies. Or wrap some cedar chips in a cheesecloth square (you may sprinkle more cedar oil on the chips) and place in bag or drawer not actually touching the clothes you are protecting.

>Flea Prevention: Use sachets of mint, cedar, citrus, pennyroyal, citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, lemongrass, rue and lavender. Sew inside or place near (or tie above) your pet’s bedding.

Ward Off Flies: Wrap some eucalyptus, bay leaves, cloves, or basil and place by open windows and doors.

Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs, is a regular contributor to CNN Money, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.

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