Potpourri is defined as mixture of dried flower, herbs, leaves, roots, barks and spices providing fragrance. Placed either in decorative wooden bowl, tied in small bags made from sheer fabric or specially designed pot pourri vase, a potpourri can last long if blended correctly. The word potpourri comes from the French meaning “rotten pot”.
Its uses are many. You can use it to perfume the air, keep it in closets or drawers, make room decorations with attractive baskets or bowls or make personal gifts to share it with family and friends. Dry potpourri consists of dried, scented, crisp materials concocted for fragrance as well as beauty.
The basics of potpourris are simple and few. Dried or fresh sweet-smelling plant materials, other aromatic ingredients like whole spices, bits of citrus peels or shavings of pleasant smell wood chips; essential oils and fixative which combines with the essential oils to preserve their fragrance. Aromatic plant materials include rose petals, marigold flowers, foliage, lavender, mints, and fragrant herbs of all kinds. Fixatives fix the aroma i.e. they make the scent or fragrance last longer. They come in dried, powdered or liquid form. Common fixatives are orris root; oak moss, cellulose, and benzoin.
The best herbs for potpourri are lavender, scented geranium leaves, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and mints. Dry them, and then make your own mix. Sprinkle with essential oils to extend the life of the potpourri. By adding a little of this and that you become familiar with the process and begin to creating your own blends.
Choose from variety of themes such as – woody, floral, spicy, fruity or citrus for making a potpourri. Assemble and blend your flowers, herbs, leaves, etc accordingly. Mix the fixative with the spices and sprinkle few drops essential oil for fragrance. Blend well, seal and store in warm dry dark for place for a month or so. Choose pretty containers, jars and bowls, to display.
Below are few common potpourri recipes that any amateur can start with –
Basic Rose Potpourri – Blend 1 tsp of rose essential oil to 3 tbsp coarse ground orris root and let it sit for a few days. If you add 2 tbsp each of ground cloves and cinnamon, the blend will emit a spicy fragrance. 2 cups lavender and ¼ cup ground tonka bean exudes a sweet floral scent. For a musky scent, add 1 cup patchouli leaves and ½ cup sandalwood and vetiver root. For a fruity fragrance, 1 cup each of dried citrus peel, rose, lemon scented geranium leaves works wonders.
Balsam Fir Potpourri – Blend 1 cup balsam needles, ¾ cup sweet woodruff leaves, 1 cup dried violet blossoms, 1 cup lavender, 2 tbsp salt, ¼ cup bee balm blossoms and 1 oz balsam Peru tincture. Shake the mixture occasionally and let it age for a month or so.
To make potpourri as Xmas gift – mix 1 cup each of whole allspice, star anise, ginger root, and sassafras bark, 2 cups each of orange peel, lemon verbena leaves, and rose buds and petals and 30 drops allspice oil. Seal and let set to “cure”, shaking occasionally.
For Citrus Blend – 4 cups lemon verbena leaves, 2 cups lemon balm leaves, 2 cups orange mint, 2 cups lemon, lime or orange scented geranium leaves, 1 cup apple mint, 4 cups ground citrus peel, 4 cups marigold or calendula petals, 2 cups orris root, mixed with 1 tbsp orange oil and 1 tbsp lemon oil. Seal and let it set with occasional shaking.