Monday, August 17, 2009

As usual, the mosquitoes: Canna Leaves vs Sweet grass vs incense

In my usual quest to try to fend off mosquitoes or at least me the heck alone when I am in the garden without harsh chemicals or lots of heavy clothing in 90+ degree weather, I have taken to burnage.

Allow me to specify: At my recent visit to Whole Foods where I got neem oil, the apothecary-like lady suggested incense (which I do have and had to confirm that it was all natural and not artificial fragrance laden) and that made me then think of Sweetgrass, which I inquired to her if Whole Foods sold, and they did, but it seemed rather expensive, ~$8 a packet of 20 incense wands.

The incense thing reminded me of my prior research about cannas and how they supposedly are insecticidal when burnt, and I figured as I had leaf rollers I could potentially kill two bugs with one stone here.

So I am forgoing the sweetgrass for now, rather interested in growing it as it would be potentially cheaper and in the meantime will try the incense I have on hand and canna leaves (I wonder how they smell... will update on that when it happens).

(NOTE: it's a little aggravating and dubious about the burning cannas being an insecticidal thing as all I can seem to find are sites stating, "...said to be an insecticidal when burnt..." and nothing else. I suppose as long as it doesn't kill me it's worth a try though I start a little when my husband asks, "Is the smoke safe for you?")

For the incense and cannas I'll probably just have 4 large tin cans filled with sand near each corner of the yard to hold incense or canna leaves in and allow the wind to swirl it all about. Hopefully with luck no ash will catch the grass on fire as we don't water it.

Naturally I wouldn't want to not add some interesting facts or research in here somewhere, so here I go:

Sweetgrass is considered to be potentially one of the oldest living things still alive on earth today as it is grown primarily via rhizomes rather than the seeds, so one plant may extend many miles from its original parent.

It has been used by the native Americans for healing and ritual purposes as well as an insecticide and is thought to be mildly psychotrophic due to its potential to be a soporific when burned, possibly in part of the chemical coumarin within.

Medieval Europeans would use sweetgrass as the rushes on floors or in sick rooms because of the sweet vanilla-like scent it gave off when it was trod upon.

Latin name and more interesting history via Wikipedia:

This is a very interesting link about a commercial place obsessed with sweetgrass and are pretty scientific about it all:

I am somewhat rethinking growing it because I think the conditions here would not be conducive and it seems to be more temperamental of plant than I'd like to deal with rather than the hardy plains grass I thought it to be.

If anything about this site, I am highly impressed (and amused) that they trademarked the name, SUPERSHAMANISTIC (!) for one of their vigorous varieties.