Potpourri conjures up images of fragrantly smelling rooms; the aroma of cinnamon and spicy oranges at Christmas, lavender during spring and rose petals all the year round. To bring you back down to earth, potpourri is actually French for rotten pot! Not so glamorous after all!
There can’t be many homes that don’t enjoy the subtle scents of potpourri. Despite the array of clever little air fresheners that have come onto the market and can fill your room with smells at the touch of a button; nothing can actually beat the pungent aroma of a bowl of petals and herbs mixed together with your favourite essential oils.
And it doesn’t just have to be a bowl. What can be lovelier than a little sachet or pomander of home-made lavender potpourri hanging up in your wardrobe or in your chest of drawers?And it really is so simple to make! The ingredients are in your back garden just waiting to be picked.
The majority of potpourris are based around rose petals or lavender. They are very pungent materials and their smells work well with other flowers, herbs and spices. Scented herbs like lemon grass, bay or thyme are perfect in potpourri, while cinnamon, ginger, star anise and vanilla and perfect accompaniments and add their own subtle brand of magic.
But making your own potpourri isn’t simply a case of throwing all the ingredients into a bowl and adding some essential oils.
You first have to decide whether you want dry potpourri or moist!
Dry potpourri is obviously the most popular and the one the majority of us recognise.
- Decide on which petals and leaves you want to be the basis of your mixture. If you are picking them from your garden pick them once the dew has dried out. Strip the petal and leaves from the stems and lay flat on a clean surface to dry or you could hang bunches of flowers or herbs upside down until they have dried out (this must be in a dry area such as a shed). This can take anything between two and six weeks
- Once they have dried, place them all in a bowl and stir before adding your chosen spices, seeds and essential oil. Be careful to add only a few drops of essential oil as a little goes a long way!
- Add a fixative to retain the scent, such as orrisroot or gum benzoin (usually available from a floral wholesaler)
- Place in a ceramic or glass jar and cover. Leave this for about eight weeks, shaking periodically. After this time it is then ready to use.
Moist potpourri is quite unusual.
- Take partially dried petals and alternate with layers of coarse sea salt.
- Stir daily until you have the required amount and then let it stand before adding other ingredients such as seeds, herbs and essential oil
- Put the mixture in an airtight container and leave for about eight weeks, shaking it daily. The mixture is then ready to use.
If you keep in mind the four basic ingredients – flowers for colour and scent; spices; aromatic leaves and a fixative to bind it all together and keep the smell trapped in, then you can’t go wrong when creating your own potpourri. It is a totally natural way to perfume your home and doesn’t have the synthetic smell of shop bought air fresheners.