Friday, September 18, 2015

A Breath of Fresh Air

By: Levena Lindahl

It’s that time of year, and students like me have been buckled down into the semester for about four weeks of college life. College can get busy, and if you aren’t on top of it, things can get put off to later, and that can sometimes include deep cleaning your apartment. This can lead to times when these spaces might not smell so, well, fresh.  Being away can make them smell stale or sometimes smell like the neighbors and their garlic steak cookouts.  One way to combat these invading scents is with essential oils, or potpourri.  The best thing about these odor fighting tools is that they are inexpensive and can be made to fit any décor or scent preferences.  Don’t be afraid to experiment to find something you really enjoy!  (Right now my house is rocking some orange and vanilla potpourri I made myself and it smells crisp and refreshing every time I open the door!)

I have written about essential oils and potpourri before, but that is because it is a very easy ‘set it and forget it’ way to help keep your place smelling fresh and not like your neighbors.  Here is a bit of a refresher on potpourri, and a recipe to get you started.

Potpourri is a mixture of dried, naturally fragrant plant material, used to provide a gentle natural scent inside houses. It is usually placed in a decorative (often wooden) bowl, or tied in small sachet made from sheer fabric.  Keep in mind, some potpourri can be toxic, so be careful to keep it out of the reach of young children and pets.

Typically, potpourri is used inside the home to give the air a pleasant smell. The word "potpourri" comes into English from the French word "pot-pourri." In English, "potpourri" is often used to refer to any collection of miscellaneous or diverse items.

To make fresh potpourri in the 17th century, herbs and flowers were gathered in spring and throughout the summer. The herbs were left for a day or two to become limp, and then layered with coarse salt, like sea salt.  This dried the plant material, and prevented molds and fermentation. In fall, spices would be added to the aging mix until a pleasant fragrance was achieved, and then scent preserving fixatives in the form of other plant material or essential oils were added. Did you know that there was a potpourri vase specifically designed for holding potpourri? In the traditional designs a potpourri container is provided with a pierced fitted lid, through which the scent may slowly diffuse.

Much modern potpourri consists of any decoratively shaped dried plant material with strong natural or synthetic perfumes, with colored dyes added.  Many times the scent often bears no relation to the plant material used. Sometimes, items which do not originate from plants are mixed in with the potpourri, to give it bulk and to make it more aesthetically pleasing. It is possible to spray scents onto potpourri; however, a fixative is needed so that the scent is absorbed for slow release. Generally, orris root is used for this purpose.

Now, on to making potpourri!  There are several different ways to make your own potpourri, and it’s easy to customize the scent that you want to achieve.  If you are interested in other ways of making your own, follow the instructions here.

 Simple Rose Bowl Potpourri

The earliest recipes for potpourri always used rose petals and were often referred to as "rose bowls". That’s why I picked a rose potpourri recipe to share.

Assemble the following ingredients:

    • 8 cups fragrant rose petals, dried (if possible, use "geranium red" rose, as it mimics the scent of rose geranium)
    • 3 cups rose geranium leaves, dried
    • 1/2 cup orris root powder
    • 3 drops rose oil
    • 2 drops rose geranium oil.

Place the rose petals and rose geranium leaves into the mixing bowl. Add the fixative and stir thoroughly.

Add the oils, drop by drop. Stir constantly as you add the oils so as to distribute them evenly.

Place in an airtight storage container. Store in a dark and dry place for six weeks or more to cure. Shake the container from time to time to help redistribute the ingredients evenly.

Use in a display container. Use the revival method above when the scent begins to fade.

And there you go!  You have made your own potpourri to give or enjoy all year long.  Try different scents and different flowers to get your own personal look.  Have fun, and enjoy your personal potpourris!


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