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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Make your own potpourri with Belle Santos

Guest post by Belle Santos

Fun with Potpourri
Hi everyone! My name is Belle and I’m so glad to have this chance to share my thoughts with you. I’ve loved flowers ever since I can remember. Seeing the myriad of colors spread across my garden brings happiness that can’t be put into words. More than the colors, the one thing I love about flowers the most is their wonderful scent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just package it and share it with other people? Oh, I is called potpourri.

The word “potpourri” is a French term that literally means “rotten pot.” Don’t get turned off by the translation. It just refers to the moist method of making potpourri. This kind has a stronger aroma that lasts longer than what you’d get from a dry potpourri. The downside to moist potpourri is that it is not visually appealing. I will be focusing on how to make the dry kind of potpourri. So how exactly do we make it?

1. Gather the flowers you want

Here is where it all begins. There are lots of flowers to choose from such as roses, hydrangeas, carnation, hibiscus, etc. You can use the flowers you received from your loved ones or collect used flowers from parties you’ve been to. You can even ask your local florist if they have any discarded flowers that they can spare. For me, the best way to do this is to pick flowers from your garden and surroundings. Make sure to pick flowers as soon as the dew has evaporated. This usually happens early in the morning. Choose the flowers that are about to open because those give out more scent. Remember to collect 3-4 times the amount you need because flowers shrink and lose weight during the drying process.

2. Dry the flowers

Moisture is definitely a big no-no. Mold is not something we want to see and have in our mixture. Start by removing the petals from the flower. If the flowers are small and delicate, just leave it whole. If you want to use leaves, twigs, and such, include them in the drying process. Spread out the materials, preferably on a screen wire, to allow air circulation and place it in a warm and dry place that is well ventilated and out of sunlight’s reach. You’ll know it’s dry when the flowers and leaves feel slightly brittle. You can also tie the stems together and leave them out to dry. The whole drying process usually takes up to two weeks but make sure to check up on it every now and then. Once they’ve dried up, store them in sealed containers until you’re ready to use them.

By the way, if you want to try adapting modern technology to dry flowers, then by all means do so. I’ve heard that some people use dehydrators or microwave ovens and achieve the same result.

3. Select a fixative

A fixative is a substance that basically holds the fragrance and scent in the potpourri mixture, thereby making it last longer. There are two kinds of fixatives: powdered and chopped. The powdered fixatives work better with bags and sachets. If you’re going to store the potpourri mixture in a container, make sure to use a chopped fixative. The most common fixative used in making potpourri is orris root which comes from the Florentine iris plant. It is widely available in many health food and herbal stores. Other fixatives include cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and nutmeg. These add a nice spicy scent to the mixture. You can also use fruit peels from fruits, such as mandarin and lemon, if you want a citrus aroma.

4. Select the essential oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant oil extracts. It carries with it the essence of plants and has many other applications in the medical and culinary world. The essential oils have various scents such as floral, spicy, citrus, and herbal. If the flowers you chose have a scent of their own, make sure that the essential oils you use will best complement that scent. I recommend using 3 essential oils at most. One would act as the dominant scent and the other two as accents. Some oils that are good for blending scents together are lemon, coconut fragrance, and sandalwood.

5. Putting it all together

This is the exciting part of the whole process. Get a large, glass container that can be sealed tight. Place the chopped fixative inside and add the drops of your essential oils as you see fit. Stir it well then seal the container and let it sit for several days. The general formula is 1-2 tablespoons of chopped fixative for every 4 cups of flower petals. After about a week has passed, open the container and check if you like the fragrance. Add essential oils and spices as you see fit. Then, add your petals and leaves and stir to blend. Seal the container once again and set in a cool, dark place for about 4-6 weeks. Don’t forget to shake or stir the contents occasionally.

6. Wrapping it up and then some

Once you’re satisfied with the mixture, it’s time to repackage it in pretty containers for everyone to see. To add that personal touch, extend your creative juices and make your own container. If you want to place it in a bowl, you might want to put netting over it to keep those pesky bugs out. By the way, you can add salt as an ingredient as well. It acts as a preservative and absorbs excess moisture. To add to its aesthetic appeal, you can add seashells, marbles, confetti, and any other materials you can think of.

You can make so many potpourri blends. Some of you will prefer fragrance over the visual and vice-versa. For me, mixing and matching is the best part in making potpourri. Try it out for yourself and show it to your family and friends. Have fun!

Belle is a blog editor at Flowers and Chocos. She loves gardening, doing handicrafts and taking pictures of the beautiful environs.

Thanks for this nifty idea, Belle. Now we all know what to do with those flowers we have growing in our gardens during spring and summer and also the ones we get in the dead of winter. Turn them into lovely scented potpourri!

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