Making Home Grown Potpourri

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Photo: saflora / istock

Dying flowers and the end of growing season can be a depressing time of year. For gardeners with 4 seasons, that can mean months without a garden. That’s when it’s nice to have some vegetables stored away and maybe some dried flowers to remind you of summer’s glory. Even in warmer climates, it can be nice to bring something from your garden indoors, where you can enjoy it without noticing all the weeding you need to do.

Potpourri allows you to bring not only some of the flowers, leaves and pods inside with you, you can bring some of the scents of the season. It’s not hard to make your own potpourri.

Making Potpourri from the Garden

Look for flowers that hold onto their color and still look good when dry, like bachelor buttons, calendula, Echinops, geraniums, larkspur, lavender, peonies, pinks, roses, yarrow.

Add in interesting seed pods, like sweetgum and rose hips. Pinecones make a nice chunky addition. For more color, include berries like beautyberry, holly and pyracantha. You can include leaves, but they tend to fall apart quickly when dried. Look for thicker leaves, like leather-leaf viburnum and the lacy leaves of scented geraniums.

Don’t forget the edible garden. Bay and sage leaves dry very well. Dried citrus peel an dried apple slices add fragrance and nice texture

Embellishments

Let’s face it, dinner doesn’t often come completely from the garden.

It’s okay to add some extras to your homemade potpourri. Your local craft store probably has lots of potpourri standards like sandalwood chips and patchouli.

Adding Scent (and Keeping it)

As woodsy as fresh potpourri can smell, it’s probably not enough of a fragrance for most people’s tastes. That’s where essential oils and fixatives come in.

A fixative is a substance that absorbs scented oils and hangs onto them for a long time. While it’s true that most of the ingredients in potpourri will absorb and hold scent, it can dissipate quickly. Some commonly used, long-lasting fixatives are orris root, from the florentina iris, oakmoss, a lichen that grows on oak trees, and Vetiver root, a plant in the sweetgrass family. You can find most of these in craft stores and often in health food stores.

As for essential oils, the selection is vast. So is the quality. Be sure to check the fragrance of the oil before buying it. Some are overpowering and others only remotely resemble their main ingredient. A better quality oil will pay for itself by not needing to be reapplied every week.

You can go exotic or you can stay with the theme of your own garden and choose floral scents, like lavender, rose or wisteria, or fruity scents, like citrus and apple.

The Easiest Method to Make Potpourri

No matter how you make your potpourri, do not use metal bowls or utensils. These can react with your ingredients and alter the fragrance. Glass, ceramic and wood are the safest materials. Plastic is fine too, but the scent will linger in it for weeks.

A quick and easy way to mix up a batch of potpourri is to add a few drops of essential oil to your fixative, cover and set it aside for 3 - 5 days, so that the scent is completely infused.

Then add your dry ingredients and stir everything together. Cover again and allow to steep for about 1 month. Check it occasionally, to make sure the scent is stronger enough for you. If not, add more oil.


Using Your Potpourri

Of course, you could display your home grown potpourri front and center in an attractive bowl on your coffee table. However it doesn’t take much effort to make sachet bags and fill them with your fragrant concoctions. Even if you’re not handy with a needle, you can find small, net bags at the craft store. The nice thing about making sachets is that you can hang them in unexpected places, like on the shower head, where the steam will enhance the scent, or on a lamp shade, where the heat will send the scent throughout the room. You can also tuck them in drawers, storage cabinets, pillowcases, linen closets and anywhere else you want to be reminded of the flower garden.

Even when using the finest oils, the scent will eventually begin to disappear. You can always freshen your potpourri with a few more drops. Or you can start a whole new batch with next season's garden.