5 Potpourri Recipes Using Homegrown Materials

Savor your garden’s aromas year-round with your own blend of homemade potpourri

| Fall 2017

Potpourri gathers the sweet scents of summer’s fragrant blossoms, leaves, fruits, and roots and preserves them — by drying or salting — for the dull, dark days of winter. Since at least the time of Shakespeare, country folk and townsfolk alike have known that there is no better antidote to February blues than a scoop of hope from a scent jar. No wonder potpourri has always made welcome gifts for showers, weddings, holidays, lovers, and dinner guests.

There are two kinds of potpourri: moist and dry. Dry potpourri, the more common of the two, is made from fragrant flowers and leaves, spices, essential oils, and fixatives, which preserve the scent. It’s easy to assemble and set aside to cure. The finished product looks lovely, either displayed in a bowl or packaged in attractive containers for gifts.

Moist potpourri, which can retain its fragrance longer, even for years, is made mainly from fresh plant material that’s allowed to wilt slightly and then layered in a crock with salt, spices, fixatives, and alcohol. It’s very aromatic but not much to look at, so it’s stored in a closed container and opened up only long enough to fill the air of a room with scent. Both types are aged, allowing the individual aromas to blend and meld to a smooth finish.

Moist potpourri may be the older form of the art — the very oldest recipes in my possession, some of which date back to the 17th century, are for moist potpourri. Another clue is that the word potpourri itself is derived from two French words that, literally translated, mean “rotted pot,” a reference to the curing process.

It’s not just the finished product that delights. The entire process of researching, designing, blending, preserving, and packaging potpourri is enormously satisfying. Try it for yourself and see.

Planning Your Potpourri

For most of us, the main point of potpourri is the scent. Some like their scents strong, and others prefer them understated — the same perfume that sends me into raptures can trigger revulsion in someone else. My sister, for example, dislikes the perfume of roses. I once knew a woman who detested the fragrance of lavender; another hated lemon (she associated it with housecleaning). Some people are allergic to certain scents (rose allergies are much more common than people generally realize). When planning a potpourri for a specific person or an event, such as a wedding, check the scent preferences and sensitivities of the chief recipients before you start.

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