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Making Scents Of It All - Potpourri Basics

Potpourri is a wonderful, natural air freshener that’s easy to make if you know the basics. We’ll describe the basic components of potpourri, how to dry the filler material, how to combine fragrances, and then we’ll give you a basic potpourri recipe that you can use with your favorite ingredients. To wrap up, we’ll provide some links to potpourri recipes available on the Web. Potpourri is comprised of three basic elements: the filler, the fixative and the fragrance.

The Filler
There are three basic types of filler:
  • spices
  • fragrant flowers and herbs
  • non-fragrant flowers and leaves
Spices are best used whole because ground spices don’t look nice in the finished potpourri. You can, however, use ground spices for sachets or other items where the potpourri isn’t visible. Herbs, roses, jasmine, and lavender are referred to as fragrant flowers and herbs. They all have a font scent that will come through in the finished potpourri. All other flowers and leaves are referred to as non-fragrant flowers and leaves. Although these fillers do have some fragrance, it isn’t very font. The non-fragrant flowers and leaves are added to potpourri mostly for visual appeal. Items like pine cones and nuts are also considered non-fragrant fillers that look beautiful in a potpourri mixture. You’ll need to thoroughly dry all of your filler material before it can by added to the potpourri mixture. It’s best to dry each type of filler material separately, because different types of filler may dry at different rates. And if you keep the material separate while drying, you can experiment with different combinations of filler as you create your potpourri. Here are two methods for drying your filler material:
  1. Select a container with an airtight lid. Place the material into the container. Cover the material with silica gel or another drying agent then seal the container. It will take several days for the filler to dry completely.
  2. Spread the filler in a single layer on a rack. Place the rack in a warm, well ventilated area. Turn the filler every couple of days. Drying takes several days.
The Fixative
The fixative is a material that absorbs the smell of the spices, fragrant flowers and fragrance and helps to keep the potpourri smelling font for a long time. Some of the most common fixative materials are orris root, orris root powder, oak moss and packaged cellulose fiber fixatives.

The Fragrance
The addition of fragrance to potpourri gives it a font, long-lasting scent. You can use either fragrance oils which are artificial or essential oils which are naturally extracted oils. Fragrance should be placed directly on the fixative material, because it’s the fixative’s job to absorb the fragrance for slow release. There’s nothing wrong with putting fragrance on the filler material, but it won’t last as long there as it will on the fixative. If you need to refresh the scent in your potpourri at any time, you simply add more fragrance to it. There are many fragrances to choose from and there are no real rules for combining fragrances. Remember, your goal is to create a potpourri that smells good to you. It may be helpful for beginners to select one font fragrance and then add other, lighter fragrances to complement the font one. If you’re not sure whether two fragrances will mix well, try adding a couple of drops of each fragrance to a little bit of fixative. Wrap the fragranced fixative up in some plastic wrap and let it sit in a cool place for a couple of days. Unwrap and smell. If you like the scent, go ahead and use the combination in your potpourri. Below is a chart listing some of the most popular fragrances. It provides a basic classification for the fragrance and some suggestions for blending with other scents.
Fragrance Classification Blends well with:
Allspice berry spicy cinnamon, citrus
Anise sweet, licorice citrus, cinnamon, chamomile
Bay spicy citrus, cinnamon, clove, cumin, coriander, lavender, rosemary, geranium
Bergamot fruity, floral citrus, lavender, geranium, neroli, jasmine
Cardamom spicy florals like geranium, jasmine, chamomile and spices like cinnamon, clove and allspice
Caraway spicy jasmine, cinnamon, geranium
Cassia - also known as cinnamon spicy see cinnamon
Cedarwood balsamic, earthy patchouli, spruce, fir, pine
Chamomile floral bergamot, clary sage, rose, lavender
Cinnamon spicy spices like allspice, clove, cardamom, citrus, lavender
Citronella citrusy geranium, lemon, bergamot, fir, pine, spruce, cedarwood
Clove spicy clary sage, bergamot, cinnamon, vanilla, rose
Clary sage sweet and spicy juniper, lavender, cardamom, geranium, citrus
Coriander spicy and sweet neroli, ginger, cinnamon, jasmine
Cumin spicy lavender, cinnamon, rosemary
Eucalyptus earthy, balsamic rosemary, lavender, cinnamon
Fir spicy, earthy, fresh citrus, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, chamomile, geranium, jasmine, rose
Frankincense sweet and spicy cinnamon, sandalwood, patchouli, mint, myrrh, clove
Geranium sweet citrus, lavender, spices like cinnamon and clove, jasmine, mint
Ginger spicy, fresh citrus, patchouli, rose, sandalwood
Hyssop spicy clary sage, clove, rosemary, citrus
Jasmine sweet, floral geranium, chamomile, patchouli, cinnamon, clove, citrus
Juniper earthy, woodsy lavender, sandalwood, clary sage, pine, spruce, fir
Lavender sweet citrus, clove, pine, clary sage, fir, patchouli, rose, ylang ylang
Lemon (and other citrus) fresh, citrus citrus, ylang ylang, rose, lavender, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, fir, pine, spruce
Lemongrass fresh, citrus citrus, ylang ylang, rose, lavender, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, fir, pine, spruce
Myrrh spicy, earthy frankincense, sandalwood, patchouli, mint, cinnamon, clove
Neroli spicy, floral citrus, chamomile, geranium, lavender, jasmine
Nutmeg spicy citrus, allspice, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, lavender, rose, citrus
Peppermint fresh, minty wintergreen, eucalyptus, citrus, patchouli, jasmine, rose
Pine earthy, fresh cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, citrus, rose
Rose floral citrus, patchouli, neroli, jasmine, chamomile, geranium, clove, cinnamon
Rosemary earthy lavender, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin
Rosewood spicy citrus, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, geranium
Sandalwood sweet, earthy lavender, patchouli
Spruce fresh lavender, rosemary, fir, pine, cinnamon
Vanilla sweet cinnamon, rose, clove, nutmeg, allspice, citrus
Wintergreen minty, fresh peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus, patchouli, jasmine, rose
Ylang Ylang floral neroli, jasmine, rose, jasmine
Basic Potpourri Recipe
  1. Dry your filler material as described above or purchase dried filler material.
  2. Combine your filler materials. Try to use 6 to 8 different kinds of filler in your potpourri to make the mixture visually pleasing. Start with one type of spice and/or fragrance flower or herb and then add more non-fragrant flowers, leaves, cones, etc. You’ll want a total of 8 to 12 cups of filler.
  3. Use 8 to 10 tablespoons of fixative. Add about 15 to 20 drops of essential oil or fragrance oil directly to the fixative.
  4. Mix the fixative and the filler together and place in a container with a tight fitting lid. Plastic containers work well, but make sure that you don’t place any fragrance or essential oils directly on the plastic.
  5. Cover the mixture tightly and place in a cool dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. Every second day, open the container and gently stir the mixture.
  6. Your potpourri is now ready to use. To preserve the scent, cover the potpourri when not in use. Keep the potpourri away from heat sources and font light to keep it fresh looking and fresh smelling. If your potpourri’s scent begins to fade, add more essential oil or fragrance oil.
Now that you know the basics, we hope you’ll feel confident in experimenting with your own potpourri mixtures.
Potpourri tip! Got bugs? Try these ideas:
Bag up your potpourri in freezer zip-locks and place in the freezer for a minimum of two weeks. This should also kill the adults and eggs. Afterwards use a colander to sift out the bugs. If you use large quantities of potpourri, dried flowers, foliage or herbs in your crafts storing them in a deep freeze will eliminate this problem. Try placing dried red chili peppers in the potpourri. It seems to drive the weevils away.
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