Prolong the Summer Scents–with Potpourri

In most parts of the country, summer vacation has ended and kids have returned to school. Summer always seems to fly by too fast. How can you prolong the summer experience a little while longer without disrupting the family schedule? My answer might surprise you. By making potpourri!

Making potpourri is a timeless art form that has been enjoyed for centuries. In the past, the natural fragrances of herbs, flowers, spices and oils were regarded as clean and pure and were frequently used to cover the unsanitary smells of the day. In ancient times, the very first potpourri was placed  in Egyptian tombs and spices were highly prized. Today, potpourri is created mainly for pleasure. Some adventurous souls, however, create potpourri blends for more than esthetic purposes. Many herbs and spices are known to repel moths, for example. By adding these to a potpourri mix, beautiful sachets can become more than just beautiful. They can be placed in closets and drawers and keep out unwanted intruders. In addition, most herbs and spices will freshen the air– naturally.

My favorite reason to create potpourri is, however, that it allows me to continue enjoying the beauty of the outdoors even when weather conditions change for the worse. (You know, winter.) When the conditions outside no longer nurture my herbs and flowers in the garden, I can still enjoy them, dried, in potpourri. This creative mixture can also help to preserve the scent and beauty of the summer garden. By simply drying your favorite summer flowers and herbs, adding their corresponding scents and mixing in a fixative (to help the potpourri retain its scent longer) your summer experience can be revisited time and time again. Imagine bringing home a few souvenir flowers or herbs and spices from a favorite vacation site and being able to preserve their magic! (Of course you should do so responsibly as many plants are endangered or are otherwise controlled by federal or state laws.)

The basic recipes for making potpourri vary from person to person and seem almost as varied as the types of oils that can be added to the mix. Some recipes use orris root powder as a fixative and some call for dried orris root pieces, for example. Some recipes even use inorganic cellulose to retain the scent. (This is great for those who are allergic to orris root.) It can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. To simplify the process, I am including a few basic recipes to try. Keep in mind these recipes are just a starting place. Use your imagination and let your garden be your inspiration.

Rose and Lavender Potpourri

1 c. dried rosebud and/or petals                1 c. dried lavender petals          1 c. rose geranium leaves

peel of 1 orange, cut into thin strips before drying                2Tbl.whole cloves, lightly crushed

1 Tbl. whole allspice, lightly crushed          5 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces                    2 Tbl. orris root powder

6-10 drops lavender essential oil               1/2 tsp. rose geranium essential oil

Rub the orange rinds with powdered orris root. Place the peels on a non-stick baking sheet and place in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Peels should be hard but not brittle. Note: This method can be used to help retain the fragrance in any potpourri recipe with lemon peel or orange peel.)  

Combine al the ingredients and mix well Put in a sealed container and leave for few weeks to mature. Transfer to open bowls and gently stir to release the scent.


Very Lemon Sachet

1 pound dried lemon peel                 1 pound cut orris root                1/8 ounce lemongrass oil

1/2 ounce lemon oil                1 ounce bergamot oil        * oils can be fragrance or essential oils

Put the lemon peel in a jar and add the orris root. Next, add the oils and allow them to seep into the mix, shaking occasionally. Once cured, use with your favorite fabrics to create fabulous sachets. (Hint: Fresh lemon peels could be rinsed and saved from the summer’s lemonade for this recipe.)

Want more information on potpourri? The Simple Heart of Life will be hosting a workshop on creating a fall potpourri sachet at the herb shop (1486 Turkey Farm Road, Bluffs, Illinois) on Saturday, October 3rd. Stay tuned to my blog for exact details or leave feedback below for a list of workshops via the US mail.


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