The Craft of Potpourri

The Craft of Potpourri by Elaine Gatford

The Potpourri Group meet at the Plant Craft Cottage on the second Friday of the month. Visitors to the Cottage on those days are always delighted by the aromas wafting from the craft room. Depending on the project for the day, this may be the sweet scents of roses and lavender or that of aromatic leaves. The group makes a wide variety of products. 

Cottage Rose Mix is a dry potpourri made to be displayed in an open container so while having a pleasing fragrance it is also visually attractive. The basic ingredient, of course, is rose petals. These are carefully dried then frozen for several weeks to ensure there will be no ‘nasties’ able to hatch! Old-fashioned damask and centifolia roses are strongly perfumed as are some modern hybrid tea roses. Red, pink and sometimes orange or yellow roses with good-sized petals are usually chosen. Petals which discolour easily are used to make moist mix potpourri. They are salted and, although not as attractive as dry potpourri, they retain their perfume a good deal longer. There is a crock of moist potpourri in the craft room at the Cottage and visitors are invited to stir the contents.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is another basic ingredient in both dry and moist potpourri. This lavender contains less camphor than French lavender (Lavandula dentata). The dried heads of French lavender, along with dried small rose buds and pressed violas, are used for decoration. 
Fixatives and oils are vital to retain longevity of the mixes and to reinforce the natural perfume.

We blend spices, citrus peel and grated chips of orris root (Iris germanica). Effective Moth Repellent is made from the pungent leaves of wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), southernwood (Artemesia abrotanum), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) with the addition of lemon verbena, rosemary, calendula petals and dried citrus peel. Lemon verbena (Aloysia citriodora) has lovely scented leaves which are used in many potpourri mixes. Along with rosemary we find that the leaves retain their colour better if stripped from the stems before being dried. However other fragrant foliage and herbs as well as lavender spikes are dried in small bunches hung upside down in a dry place.

The use of fragrant flowers and leaves for perfume in the home is an ancient craft and the Potpourri Group is committed to adapting this to our busy Twenty-first Century lives.