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Potpourri

I think bowls of potpourri look beautiful and smell wonderful. Can you tell me how to make it, and do you have any tips for keeping its fragrance? Now's a great time to make potpourri for gifts and personal use. Carefully dried, the herbs of summer still retain their color and essential oil.

Potpourri, a mixture of dried aromatic plant parts, can includes pine needles, lavender flowers, orange peel, cinnamon bark, bay leaves, rose petals, rosemary, cedar shavings, sage or eucalyptus leaves, lemon verbena, peppermint, bee balm, chamomile, cloves- just about anything you can think of that looks pretty and smells good. Put the mixture of your choice in open containers around the home or office to subtly freshen or fragrance the air.

Potpourri derives its fragrance from the essential oils in the chosen plants. One must crush or bruise the plant to smell its fragrance, just as you pinch mint leaves and lavender flowers to smell them in your garden. Because these oils are volatile, they dissipate quickly, leaving a pretty mix without fragrance. Therefore, it is a good idea to add a fixative to your blend of herbs to fix the scent.

Fixatives absorb the fragrance and slow the evaporation of the essential oil. Rock salt and orris root, which comes from Iris florentina, are commonly used. (Some people are allergic to Iris.) Another option is cellulose chips made from various plant fibers. Use about one tablespoon of fixative to five cups of potpourri mix. Mix everything together and keep in an airtight jar for a week or more before using it to let the oils blend and the fixative absorb them. You can add a few drops of essential oil to the mix to enhance the fragrance.

To add more eye appeal and bulk to your mix, add petals from brightly colored flowers that don't necessarily have fragrance, like larkspur, feverfew or calendula. Rosehips, star anise, pine cones and birch bark do the same.

A second type of potpourri, called a "moist pot potpourri" or "sweet jar," is made by mixing fresh, scented herbs in brandy. The herbs are left in a jar with a lid that allows the brandy to evaporate. In olden times, it was made by letting fresh, fragrant plant parts rot into an aromatic cake, thus the origin of the name pot pourri which means "rotten pot."

Displaying your potpourri makes you want to seek out your grandmother's prettiest small china serving bowl, and it is fun to discover old potpourri containers in antique shops and flea markets. You can make potpourri any time of year and keep it in a sealed jar, ready to freshen or replace the old mix that has lost its color and fragrance.

Holiday Potpourri
The vibrant mix of colors of dark green bay leaves, white rose buds, red rose hips, gold from calendula and soft blue of the juniper berries is beautiful. MIX Bay leaves Rose petals or buds (white and/or red) Juniper berries Orange peel Rose hips Calendula flowers Cinnamon chips or bark strips Little pine cones Cloves Fixative Essential oils to add Bayberry Tangerine


Merry Harrison, RH(AHG) is a clinical herbalist, teacher, author and wildcrafter.
For class schedule and to ask questions: www.millcreekherbs.com


Reprinted with permission: Catalyst Magazine


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