The fixative is a vital element in a potpourri recipe. It absorbs and retains the volatile scented essences. Essential oils are used to reinforce the natural perfumes and to boost the fragrance. Without adequate fixative the life goes out of potpourri very quickly.
Include other petals of flowers like lavender, tulips, freesia and marigolds for added color and fragrance. Ingredients such as dried citrus peel, seeds, bark and tiny pinecones add variety to the texture and character of the potpourri. Small, whole dried flowers like baby rosebuds give depth and variety of size. Potpourri made only with petals tends to look like textured fabric. While there is nothing wrong with this, (rainbow like layers of different kinds of flowers can be very beautiful), combining petals with other floral material gives a more three-dimensional result.
Originally, potpourris were stored in closed ceramic jars which were opened when people used the room. The jars were placed near a heat source, so the perfume would expand in the warm air and fill the room with fragrance. When the people went out, the lids went back on. Nowadays, the beauty of potpourri is also considered to be part of its charm. Displayed in various ways, dried petals, whether scented or not, can be layered in glass containers, placed in baskets, decoupage boxes, ceramic or silver dishes.
A little potpourri can go a long way if you layer it over a base of floral foam, sphagnum moss or tissue paper. Store the bulk of your recipe in a closed container and sprinkle out a little at a time on a need to replenish basis. The fragrance lasts longer and the visual impact is the same.
Show someone a rose and the natural impulse is to close the eyes and drink in the perfume. The appeal of roses is universal; they are perfect in every way. Roses hold their color and scent throughout the life of the petals, and are readily available in large quantities. They make a wonderful base for potpourri.
Roses produce perfume in minute glands located on the surface of the petals. Geraniol, a volatile oily liquid, is the primary perfume, although more than a dozen other compounds may combine with it to produce varying scents.
Some fragrances are linked to color. The basic rose scent is found in red and pink roses. Subtle scents of violet, orris and nasturtiums are found in white and yellow roses. Clove, tea, citrus and fruity scents are linked to orange-tinted roses. Combinations of these scents are common and additional scents can be found in other varieties of roses. For instance: the Hawaii rose, tuberose, produces a raspberry scent. Lesser scents like parsley, wine, honey, anise, hyacinth, jonquil, lily-of-the-valley, bay and bananas are found in other scented beauties.
Some roses have interesting traits. Modern hybrid tea roses, which are usually bred for form, color, substance and resistance to disease are found lacking in perfume. This is because fragrance in roses has a recessive character. On the other hand some scentless hybrid roses impart fragrance to their progeny. The oil extracted from 32,000 damask roses produces one ounce of the legendary essential oil, Attar of Roses. The deep pink Kazanlik rose releases such intense perfume that the fragrance exterminates insects such as aphids within miles of the rose fields. The fragrance of the Rose of Miletus increases when the petals are dried.
Basic recipe for potpourri
(Yields one quart)
. 3 Cups pink rose petals
. 3 Cups red rose petals
. 2 Cups miniature rosebuds
. 2 Cups lavender
. 1 Cup rose leaves
. 2 Tablespoons powdered orris root
. 15 Drops rose oil
1. Spread the fresh petals on a mesh screen or on a large tray; place them in a warm, dry place, and stir or spread them around a little everyday until they are dry. Put dried petals in a large glass or metal bowl.
2. Add a fixative such as powdered orris root, oak moss, cellulose or ground gum benzoin or fiberfix. Use a ratio of two tablespoons of fixative to about four cups of dried material. Add the essential oils and mix with your hands.
3. Place the mixture in a paper bag and seal the top with clothespins or clips. Turn the bag over several times to distribute the fixative. Store it away from direct sunlight, and allow the mix to season for four to six weeks. Shake up the bag from time to time.
4. When the potpourri is "seasoned" place in open containers in warm places. Add a few drops of essential oils and mix with your hands from time to time as the fragrance diminishes.
Small packets of potpourri can find a home in lingerie and sweater drawers, mixed in with linens, in the folds of clothing inside suitcases, on coat hangers in the closet, at the party table as favors... almost anywhere a fragrant perfume is invited.
Potpourri bags used for linens look good in crisp stripes and fresh colors. Those placed among lingerie and delicate clothes can be made of satin, lace or silk. Use readymade lace handkerchiefs for a quick, fragrant fix.
Basic Potpourri Bag
1. Cut a strip of fabric, lace or ribbon 20" x 4". Fold the strip in half wrong side out and seam the sides with fabric glue, hot glue or use a needle and thread.
2. Turn the bag right side out and tuck in the top. If the fabric frays, run a line of fabric glue along the top edge before tucking it inside.
3. Fill with potpourri and tie a ribbon tightly around the neck, or secure the top with glue and glue a tiny ribbon rose on the front of the bag.
LUXURIOUS ROSE POTPOURRI
2 1/2 cups dried pink & red rose petals
2 1/2 cups dried mint leaves
4 Tbsp dried rue sprigs
2 1/2 cups dried red rosebuds
4 Tbsp dried rosemary flowers & leaves
1/4 vanilla bean
2 tsp orris root (health food store)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
5 drops rose absolute essential oil
5 drops of rosemary essential oil
1 drop of patchouli oil
1. Put the dried herbs into separate bowls. Chop the vanilla pod finely, mix together with the orris root, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix the oils together in a cup.
2. Put the dried herbs in a wide-mouthed jar in layers, starting with rose petals, then a layer of mint and rue, then rosebuds, and finally rosemary. On each layer, sprinkle over a little of the orris, cinnamon, and clove mixture, and a two to four drops of the oil mixture. Finish with a layer of rose petals.
3. In this layered potpourri, the scents of the different layers of dried herbs combine with time to give a delicious fragrance. Keep the potpourri for at least six weeks before use. Keeping it well sealed during this time will improve the scent. Enjoy!
DRYING ROSES & ROSE PETALS
1. Drying Roses: Rosebuds & roses from your garden should be hung upside down to dry in bunches, away from the light, but in an airy place. You may also dry them in silica get, which is particularly good for maintaining their color and shape.
2. Drying Rose Petals: Gather rose petals from your garden when the morning dew has dried off in the sun. Spread them immediately on sheets of absorbent kitchen paper or on newspaper, pulling the petals off separately and making sure they do not touch each other.
3. For use in the above potpourri recipe, sprinkle them with some of the spices you are going to use (i.e. powdered clove or cinnamon) to discourage ants or any small insects that may otherwise settle on them.
4.Alternatively, lay out the rose petals on paper on trays or in a colander and put them in an oven for an hour at the lowest setting, leaving the door slightly ajar. Take out of oven and leave trays in an airy place. Drying will take two or three days.
Make 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.