Your Own Potpourri
In 4 easy steps
Collect flowers such as mint blossoms, hydrangeas, roses, rudebeckia, Queen's Anne's Lace, and other available blossoms. Be adventurous! Try drying any leaf or bloom that you think might make a good potpourri ingredient. Place blooms on a screen, or a tray covered with paper towels. Keep them in a warm airy place (attics are too hot!). If drying on a tray, turn the blooms every day. Flowers may also be hung upside down in small bunches. When they are thoroughly dry, store in closed containers away from light. If you don't like the way it dries, just pitch it out and try something else! Remember, looks are more important than smell for your flowers; later you can add whatever fragrance you like using essential oils.
Flowers and leaves are dry when they feel slightly brittle. Check frequently! If over dried, they will lose all their oil and crumble too easily.
Store each kind of dried material in separate containers. Glass jars with tight lids are a good choice. Check the jars after two or three days. If any moisture is visible, remove the lid and dry more.
Continue drying flowers all summer; by fall you will have enough to make potpourri for yourself and all your friends.
When it is time to make the potpourri, you will need to decide on a fixative as well as which oils you will use to make a great smelling potpourri. Some good fixatives are orris root, calamus root, oakmoss and tonka bean. Whole or crushed spices like allspice, cinnamon sticks and cloves may also be added.
The material you have gathered may not have enough fragrance on it's own, or you may want a different scent. By blending different oils with the plant material you can have just about any fragrance you desire. Always use top quality oils and other ingredients. Your potpourri will not only smell better, but will hold its scent much longer. Some good scent choices are floral, citrus, herbal or spicy. If some of your flowers are very fragrant, then you will probably want to use their fragrance for your basic scent. If your ingredients are showy but with little odor, you can choose almost any scent. Just be sure that the look and smell of the potpourri go together. If you haven't had much experience blending oils, it would be wise to only use three. Choose your dominant scent, and pick one or two other oils for accents. Test to see if you like the mixture. Take a cotton ball and place it in a small glass jar which has a tight fitting lid. Put 4 drops of your dominant oil, and add two drops of the first accent oil, and one drop of the second accent oil. For instance: Four drops rose geranium oil, 2 drops lemon, 1 drop patchouli oil. Close jar for 24 hours. Then open the jar, let it breathe, then sniff. Don't stick your nose into the jar-hold it about 6 inches away. If you don't like the mix, either add more oil or start over with another blend.
When you are happy with your fragrance you are ready to make the potpourri. Always measure and write down the amounts of plant material and oils you use. Keep a notebook to remind yourself of your successes (and failures) for future reference. For each quart of leaves and petals you will need at least 2 tablespoons of chopped (not powdered) orris root, calamus root, or other fixative. (A note about powdered fixatives: They are properly used for sachets. In potpourri made to be displayed, the powder detracts from the looks and will not hold the scent as well as chopped fixatives.) Place the chopped root into a large glass container that has a tight fitting lid. Choose the oil(s) you want to use For a floral scent some good choices are rose, lavender, violet, lilac, honeysuckle, bergamot or ylang ylang. For a spicier fragrance, try carnation. Put at least 12 drops of your dominant oil over the chopped root, 6 drops of the second accent oil and 3 drops of the third accent oil, then stir. Stir again and close the top. Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark place for several days. Open the jar: if you like the fragrance, add your leaves and petals, stirring carefully and thoroughly mix well. Replace top, and set in cool dark place for several weeks. Every few days, shake the container gently. After 4-6 weeks the potpourri should be ready to use.
Now you're ready to reap the benefits of your endeavor. Put the potpourri into containers to give as gifts or keep for your own enjoyment. If you are not happy with the fragrance, crushed spices or more oil can be added. Oils which help blend scents are coconut fragrance, vanilla (vanilla oil is not the same as the vanilla extract used in cooking), tonka, sandalwood and lemon. Other ingredients which blend well with floral scents are dried peel of orange, tangerine, lemon or grapefruit, crushed seeds of fennel, or anise, crushed cloves, allspice, broken cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. Fixatives besides orris or calamus include clary sage leaves, oak moss, tonka beans and deertongue. Vetiver root is a good fixative for heavily-fragranced potpourri. Over the last few years, other fixatives have come into use such as ground corn cobs (called ground cellulose), or natural or dyed wood chips. Use as you would chopped orris. To get the most enjoyment from your potpourri, remember to stir it occasionally when you pass to release more fragrance into the air. When your potpourri begins to lose its fragrance you can add a few more drops of the original oil, or a new scent can be made by using a fresh fixative and different oils (your fragrance will last for many months if you used good quality oils in the proper amounts).
If you are using only one flower such as lavender or roses, you may still wish to add a few drops of the essential oil for a stronger, longer lasting scent. Dried leaves of lemon verbena will add a decorative touch and they smell great. Don't be timid! It's fun to experiment, and only you know what appeals to you most, so keep trying till you're happy. Potpourri ingredients are limited only by what is available and your imagination!
The following are two of my favorite recipes. Give them a try!
Easy Summer's Bounty Potpourri:
6 cups of mixed flowers you have dried over summer
Enough mint, scented geranium, rose leaves, lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves to make 2 cups
Place 4 heaping tablespoons of chopped orris root or chopped calamus root in a large glass container.
Add 8 drops rose geranium oil, 8 drops bergamot oil, 5 drops honeysuckle oil. Stir, close top and let mellow for a week.
Add the other ingredients, stir to blend, close container and let mellow for 4-6 more weeks, stirring occasionally.
If you would like a sweeter fragrance use a few drops of jasmine, rose or ylang ylang oil. Too bland for your taste? Add some crushed cinnamon sticks, crushed allspice or cloves, patchouli leaves or lavender flowers. To mellow, use dried sweet woodruff, cut vanilla bean, crushed tonka bean or cut vanilla grass.
Winter Wonderland Potpourri:
4 cups of mixed small evergreen cones, acorn tops and cedar chips
1 cup broken bay leaves
1 cup boxwood branches snipped into 1" lengths (or use bayberry leaves if available)
1/2 cup bayberry bark, 1 cup oakmoss, 1/2 cup broken star anise
If you have some dried red roses add 1/2 to 1 cup for more color
Place 3 tablespoons of chopped orris root or chopped calamus root in a glass container with 3 tbs. of frankincense tears. Add 7 drops bayberry oil, 10 drops cedar oil, and 10 drops balsam or spruce oil. Stir till blended and oils are distributed evenly. Add to the remaining ingredients, then stir and place in a closed container for 3-4 weeks.
This potpourri is very attractive in brandy snifters tied with red and gold ribbons. A note about powdered fixatives: They are properly used for sachets. In potpourri made to be displayed, the powder detracts from the looks and will not hold the scent as well as chopped fixatives.
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