Making flowers into potpourri

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Examples of flowers to use include roses, dried lavender, bee balm and mixed, dried flower petals.

Have you ever wished you could do something more lasting with your flowers and other natural plants in your garden? Consider making potpourri, which will provide earthy, lasting scents to grace your home with fragrance and beauty.

Potpourri is essentially a mixture of dried petals and spices placed in a bowl to perfume a room. Potpourris come in all shapes and sizes! You can add potpourri on a large vase or fill small candleholders with your chosen mixture. You can use seasonal fragrances such as cinnamon and cloves, or your potpourri could have a fresh, spring scent to it with mint and lemon as the main fragrances.

Potpourri has great benefits: it adds a nice odor to your room and the dried leaf mixture looks like a decorative element when placed in pretty bowls and vases. However, there's more to potpourri: since you are using natural dried ingredients, you aren't adding harmful or irritating chemicals to your home, offering a much safer option than some home fragrances you buy from the stores. Additionally, creating your own potpourri can cost a fraction of home scents like candles!

What you need: dried flowers, essential oil, and any herbs, spices or other trinkets you want to include. It is best to use flowers and leaves that are picked just as they reach maturity, as they will be full of fragrance and color. Incorporate seeds, spices, dried leaves and flowers, berries, dried fruit slices, barks, seed heads and cones to add a variety of textures to the mixture.

Remember, the best potpourris have a subtle, natural scent that comes from the combination of all natural ingredients, and different ingredients contribute aroma, texture, color and bulk. Many herbs contribute fragrance as well as color and texture.

Some plants you can use for potpourri include roses and rose buds, lavender, any member of the mint family, calendula, pansies, violets, lemon verbena, strawflowers, larkspur, scented geranium flowers and leaves, rosemary flowers and leaves, thyme flowers and leaves, angelica, gomphrena and statice -- just to name a few.

You can also use balsam needles, cones from evergreens, juniper berries, citrus peels (without the white pith), cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, allspice, cardamom and vanilla pods.

Start collecting your flowers and herbs for drying early in the day, after the dew has dried and before the sun becomes too hot. This way they retain their fragrance and color. They can be hung upside down in a dark area or where there is a breeze.

They can also be placed on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper in the same area. When they are completely dried, you can store them in a glass mason jar with a tight-fitting lid to keep out moisture. (Avoid plastic as it allows some moisture to get into the flowers.) Store away from light until you are ready to make your mixture.

When your flowers are dry, combine them and other ingredients together and mix by gently tossing. To make your scent last, add a few drops of an essential oil and a fixative, which can be purchased from a craft store or herb shop. A fixative keeps the scent from fading; examples are orris root, gum benzoin, oak moss and vanilla beans.

You may put more than one fixative to work in a potpourri; use at least 20 percent total fixative by weight. I like to use about 1 tablespoon of orris root to 1 cup of flowers and leaves. Gum benzoin has a sweet vanilla scent, but I use only ½ ounce to 4 to 6 cups of flowers.

After mixing up the potpourri, store in a jar for about six weeks in a warm, dark dry place to allow it to cure. You can add a drop of essential oil once a week and stir it in until you obtain the desired fragrance. When the potpourri is finished, place it in an open decorative bowl and enjoy. You will probably have to refresh it with essential oil from time to time, but it should last several months for your enjoyment.

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