The abundance and variety of colours and aromas in summer flowers makes this truly a season of the senses, and the easiest time of year to fill your home with natural fragrance. There are flowers to suit all tastes and occasions, such a lilies, mock oranges, sweet peas, jasmine and roses, providing a succession of exquisite aromas all through the long summer days.
Summer is also the season of relaxed living, of weddings, beach parties and barbecues. It is a time for casual, laid-back entertaining, savouring simple pleasures and taking a little more time for life. It provides an opportunity for expanding your living space into the garden, patio or balcony, and with make the most of where you live, or escaping whenever possible to surroundings where you can more fully enjoy the summer weather.
Buying fresh, fragrant flowers may seem extravagant at time - but don't forget the importance of lifting the spirits. Even the smallest posy of flowers can fill a room with fragrance and colour and really make a difference to your day.
The Outdoor Life
If you're planning on a barbecue you can improve the flavour of the food and create some appetising aromas by adding herbs to the fire just before you start cooking. If you are using a charcoal barbecue, use the woody stalks and leaves of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram and bay, or twigs from fruit trees, fig or grape vines. You might also like to try adding the shells from almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts - but make sure you soak them in water for 30 minutes beforehand. This will ensure that the don't catch fire instantly, but rather, add an interesting, nutty aroma to your cooking.
Don't be tempted to add essential oils to your barbecue. They are highly flammable and the heat will be too strong for the oils to release their fragrance. However, it is a good idea to keep a small bottle of pure essential oil of lavender to hand to deal with any minor burns that may occur.
The Insect Menace
One of the less appealing aspects of outdoor life is the appearance of gnats, wasps and mosquitoes. However, if there is food around it is preferable not to resort to chemical sprays.
If you are planning to eat or sit outdoors, prepare some insect repellent in advance, before a crisis arises. Lavender is probably the nest and most skin-kind essential oil to use on yourself, although other oils, such as geranium and basil, are also effective. Make up a blend of no more than 30 drops pure lavender oil, such as sweet almond, and apply to exposed areas of your body. Alternatively, try a body spritz of 5 drops of lavender in 1tbsp of witch hazel. Shake well and then add to 4tbsp of cold water. Shake again and then spray over exposed areas, allowing it to dry on your skin.
The next step is to insect-proof the area where you will be sitting as much as possible. Certain fresh herbs are excellent insect deterrents, so place pots or bunches of herbs in strategic points around this area. Try basil, rosemary or peppermint, mixing other ornamental plants with them to make focal points.
Check the growing conditions required by each of the plants to make sure you find compatible partners. For instance, rosemary likes a fairly hot, dry situation, whereas peppermint needs to be kept quite damp and is happy in shady areas.
As a final precaution, prepare a mister of 500ml cold water and add 5 drops of pure lemongrass or citronella essential oil. Shake the mister before each use and spray whenever necessary, making sure that the mist does not fall on bare skin - as it might cause slight skin irritation - or on clothes or polished furniture.
Repel Insects with Potpourri
You can make up a potpourri of dried herbs which are good insect repellents.
You will need:
- 2 large handfuls dried tansy leaves
- 2 handfuls dried southernwood leaves and flowers
- 1 handful dried, chopped orange peel
- 5 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
- 1 handful cloves
- 4-5 drops pure lavender essential oil
Carefully mix all the dried ingredients together in a large ceramic bowl. Then add the pure lavender essential oil and mix again. Place small bowls of the mixture around the area where you will be sitting, or use as table decorations.