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How to Make Basic Potpourri

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by Simone Lee (subscribe)
I enjoy freelance creative writing and being a Mum to my two awesome boys.
Published March 14th 2012
Roses for Potpourri

Making your own potpourri can be simple and uncomplicated. I created this basic potpourri without any assistance from reference material, books or otherwise.

The inspiration to make my own potpourri started after we ordered some beautiful roses from the 'Better Homes and Gardens' magazine. I read the article about growing roses and was keen to buy the 'super scented collection' of five magnificent smelling, bare root roses.

Having grown roses years ago, I did miss the anticipation and delight of waiting for the many buds to blossom. The colours and smells can be amazing. Reaching the achievement of growing healthy looking roses is rewarding in itself, due to their fickle nature and intolerance to many elements.

Wet leaves encourage black spot. They can get fungal diseases and diseases that affect the roots and rose bush systemically. Flowers can be small and stunted, due to sudden extreme hot or cold weather. Leaves get eaten by insects and buds pecked at by birds. It can be hard to grow nice roses.

At this point, I realised that the petals of spent flowers were also too good to waste. So I set about the idea of making my own inexpensive potpourri.

Petals and Drying Process

When picking your petals you do have to be picky. Some roses don't lend themselves to the purpose of potpourri. After you dry them out, they can smell awful. These particular roses are clearly not suitable. We all know it's hard to cover up a bad stench, so why waste your time.

If you grow your own roses it's better than picking them from someone's garden or a business property. You don't want to get caught doing this. It could be embarrassing.

Try any rose you have to begin with and make sure they are almost ready to fall off the receptacle before you pick them. This is the part where the petals are attached to. You can pick them a little earlier to retain more colour, but not too late, as the petals will fall off and blow away.

Once the rose is picked you'll need to:

Find a place out of the breeze to dry them, preferably inside;
Make sure they'll receive sufficient sunlight for drying;
Pull or separate the petals, if they don't fall apart easily;
Lay them out on a flat surface and;
Spread them apart so the air can circulate around them.

Direct sunlight is quicker than indirect, although it may fade the colour more as they dry out. I have found pink roses great for retaining bright colour. Also, spacing them apart ensures the moisture is extracted more rapidly and helps to prevent bad smells building up.

If they continue to smell good throughout the entire drying process, then you're onto a winner. You'll know when the petals are dry, because they'll feel papery and stiff when you touch them.

Leaving them for too long will cause them to become brittle. As soon as they are done, scoop them into a plastic or freezer bag, ready for the addition of oils or perfumes.

Choosing Fixatives, Oils & Perfumes

I have since found out that potpourris generally contain a fixative. Fixatives are used to take up the scents of oils or perfumes that you put into your potpourri and preserve the smell for longer. Your potpourri will lose its beautiful aroma quickly without the use of fixatives.

To date, I have not used a fixative in my own potpourri and so far they have lasted six months without adding extra drops of oil. The choice is yours. It may be wise to follow the advice of many before me. Here are a few fixatives:

orris root;
calamus root and
fiber fix.

Experiment with your choice of oils or perfumes; put some in a small glass container or plastic bag with a tiny handful of petals to infuse. If the smell is still to your liking in a couple of days, add them to the rest of your batch.

I currently use vanilla or Annan oils. The oils seem to last quite a long time. I add a few drops to the petal mixture in a plastic bag, shake it up and let it sit for a few days. Then I check the scent is right before bagging individually.

The use of perfumes or other fragrances is entirely up to you. Some work and some don't. Run with fragrances that would normally invigorate or relax you. There are many tips and recipes available online. Save-on-crafts is one that has a variety of suggestions and Aussie Soap Supplies has a great list of fragrances.

Other Fillers

I'm not sure what this is called, but I call it 'fillers.' Anything else you can use to bulk up your potpourri, or to make it look more attractive. Look around in nature or bushland. Is there something you could try?

I found some fluffy grass seed and once dried worked well. You could use unopened flower buds, lavender flowers or cinnamon sticks. Just don't use too many. The rose petals or other flowers should be 'the star.'

Can you try other flowers? At this stage I haven't tried this out, but I've just read that you can. There are many ideas to get your creativity kick-started and it's only limited by your imagination, or ability to gain access to potpourri recipes.

Bags or Cloth

What works best for holding or storing your potpourri? Organza bags in sheer silk or satin and hessian bags, also known as jute or burlap are both easy to use and come with a built-in draw string. Gauze and synthetic chiffon or any type of fabric pouch or fine cloth can also be used.

If you're using a plain piece of fabric, fill the centre with potpourri and fold up the outer edges. Tie with a ribbon to complete. Use your imagination and try other embellishments to wrap up or tie your potpourri.

Bags and cloth are relatively cheap and easy to find; check your local craft store. You can also shop online for pre-made organza bags through websites such as The Fox Collection and Save-on-crafts.

Want to know more? Check out some of the links contained in this article.
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Why? A cheap & easy way to create a gift without waste.
When: Anytime
Where: At home
Cost: Almost nothing, except time
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