Make Natural Potpourri

Natural potpourri can be made with flowers grown from your garden, spices, scented leaves, and essential oils.

The word potpourri originates from the French language and actually means rotten pot. This is an inaccurate description of a fragrant pastime that can add a subtle atmosphere to your home.

The base for the majority of potpourri recipes are rose petals and lavender. The best rose colors for drying are red (the deeper the better) and yellow. White and pink petals often tend to go brown during the drying process. It's best to experiment as some roses dry more successfully than others and you will develop your own preferences. Pick your blooms in mid morning once the dew has dried yet before the petals have opened too far. Strip these from the stem and lay either on curtain netting suspended in a warm dark place, or on sheets of newspaper. Try to spread the petals out so that they can dry thoroughly otherwise they will go mouldy. Other flowers such as larkspur, delphinium, peony, etc., as well as herbs and foliage, can be tied in loose bunches and hung from the ceiling again in a warm dark place. A garage or some other shed is often ideal although some people prefer to hang their plant material in the kitchen for its aesthetic effect. If you do this, however, ensure it is not in a steamy area as this will cause the flowers to rot. Although during warm weather the drying process will occur within a few days it is best to leave the blooms for a few weeks to ensure that they're ready.

Other suitable perfumed ingredients for potpourri are jasmine, honeysuckle, rosemary, freesia, marigold, mock orange, carnation, tuberose, chamomile, and lily of the valley. There are also scented leaves you can use such as pelargonium, bay, lemon verbena, cedar etc. These will add a subtle aroma to your recipes. Don't forget spices to add a tangy touch. Citrus peel, star anise, cinnamon sticks, tonka beans, gum benzoin, oak moss, ginger root, vanilla and cloves are all suitable.

The most important ingredient of all in the making of potpourri is a fixative which absorbs the perfume and holds it. Orrisroot is the most commonly used. Another vital part of the process is essential oil. This usually comes in small bottles and is a potent distillation of flowers or herbs. The price of this depends on the rarity of the ingredient with lavender being one of the cheapest and most commonly used. Other pleasant scents are citrus, patchouli, sandalwood, jasmine, strawberry and frankincense. Remember that a little goes a long way so that only a few drops will be needed in each recipe. Experiment with mixing scents. For example patchouli is suitable as a base to be combined with other fragrances such as lily of the valley. It is very much a matter of personal taste as to what you use. Some people prefer a fresh scent, others a musky aroma.

There are two kinds of potpourri: dry and moist. The dry variety consists of mixing the dried ingredients together (petals, leaves and seeds) along with a fixative and essential oil. Place these in a jar, seal this and then store for 6-8 weeks. Shake it daily to ensure the fragrance permeates all the components. A basic recipe would consist of a couple of cups of rose petals, lavender and marigolds with one tablespoon of ground cinnamon and orrisroot with perhaps four drops of lavender oil. With moist potpourri alternate layers of partially dried flower petals with coarse sea salt. Stir this mixture daily and add more petals as they become available. Let this sit for at least 10 days before adding the other ingredients. After sealing this leave it to sit for 6-8 weeks although shaking the container daily.

It is usually a good idea to display your potpourri in a container with a lid, removing this when you wish to scent the room. In this way you preserve the perfume. There are many ready-made potpourri containers that you can buy but look around your home for something unusual to use. Sometimes that cracked old pot your grandmother left you can be turned into a quaint country style receptacle. Baskets are also suitable although as they can't be covered in order to preserve the scent you will need to refresh the essential oil on a regular basis. Besides containers you can put potpourri in scented pillows and make sachets with which to perfume your drawers and closets. These also make cheap and charming gifts, especially if you use pretty flowered material and lace to decorate them.

After using your own potpourri you will never want to return to buying synthetic fragrances again. Not only is it an economical way to perfume your home it is also natural and does not harm the environment.

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