[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company
The Perfume of Potpourri Shadow
The tasks of seeding and weeding in the garden are finally behind us. Now it's time to harness the sweet aroma of herbs harvested now to gift later. Herbal sachets, bath bags, and dream pillows all start with one essential ingredient—perfectly seasoned potpourri.

Blended with oils, witch hazel and other natural extracts, ordinary herbs create extraordinary fragrances to restore mind and body. Read a bit about the historical uses of herbs in scenting surroundings, and then try your hand at making your own potpourri mixture following a few simple steps below.

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: An Herbal Vocabulary ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

a. an herbal vocabulary

If you're at all familiar with renaissance literature, such as the prose below penned by Marlowe, or the dramatic sometimes comedic works of his contemporary, William Shakespeare, it would be hard to miss the fact that the language of the period was heavily illustrated with botanical references.

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.
—Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

In fact, the language of flowers was commonly spoken between friends and lovers, who conveyed their intentions by gifting certain flowers associated with specific meanings. This practice survives to this day.

Roses are traditionally given on Valentine's Day and for other romantic occasions because they are the considered the flowers of love. Lavender is still the most common fragrance for linens because it's scent is thought to promote a sense of calm and induce sleep. In Shakespeare's Hamlet we are reminded by the prince's ill-fated love Ophelia that rosemary is for remembrance, which is why it is traditionally carried by brides as they enter into matrimony and is placed upon the headstones of the dearly departed.

I lett it runne all over my garden wall, not onlie
because my bees love it, but because 'tis an herb sacred
to remembrance, and therefor to friendship.
—Saint Thomas Moore

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: An Herbal Airing ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

b. an herbal airing

Of course, poor sanitation of the time sometimes made aromas lingering in the medieval home and on its occupants less likely to inspire anyone to draft a poetic ode to odors of this kind. Since air fresheners in a can and plug-ins were centuries away from coming into existence, fragrant herbs were the foul odor cover-ups of the day.

strewing herbs
Plants with aromatic staying power, like rosemary, lavender and sage, were combined with bits of straw and cast about the floor as strewing herbs.

sweet bags/sachets
Sweet bags (sachets) were tucked between pantry shelves to keep critters from nesting in dry goods, or were placed near an open window where its scent could be carried on a breeze.

herb pillows
Pillows stuffed with herbs had the dual benefit of inviting restful slumber while keeping invading nightmares and evil spirits at bay.

Incense was fashioned from astringent herbs like rosemary or lavender and then burned to expel the smells and humors of the plague and other illnesses. It was also burned to clear rooms where illness had been.

nosegays/tussie mussies
Nosegays, (later called tussie mussies) worn around the head or bodice also helped alleviate odors on one's own person. These bouquets of flowers interspersed with aromatic, astringent herbs (such as sage, rosemary, and rue) could be less ornate alternative for who couldn't afford expensive resin pomanders with their scent-releasing perforated metal cases.

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: Potpourri Primer ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

c. potpourri primer

Potpourri sold in bags in craft stores often contains artificially dyed and scented materials. Why settle for inferior quality when you can use the real thing? If you grow your own herbs, simply cut back the plant to one-third of its size to ensure its return next season. Hang your harvest upside down to dry in an area free of direct light, heat and moisture for two to three weeks, or until they feel crumbly to the touch. If you don’t grow your own herbs, or need to supplement your existing cache, turn to a trusted source for quality herbs and spices.

When it comes to blending basics, generally plan to add 4-8 tablespoons of fixative to every 6-8 cups of herbal material, as well as 10-20 drops of essential oil. As the term suggests, a fixative "fixes" the scent of the herbs in the potpourri mix, which might otherwise dissipate when dried.

Suitable fixatives include orris root, oak moss, benzoin and certain spices, such as cinnamon bark.

Using leftover scraps of fabric that have been taking up space in a closet is ideal for making herbal sachets and pillows. If presenting such items as gifts, be sure to add a personal touch like cute buttons, bits of ribbon or lace and small bunches of dried lavender buds or everlastings tied with raffia.

Making bath bags is as simple as stuffing double-layered squares of cheesecloth with potpourri and pulling up the corners and tying them off with ribbon or string. Easier yet, just fill a large muslin cloth bag with potpourri and pull the drawstring and you're done.

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: Parts of Poupourri ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

d. making scents

the fragrance
Once you've decided on your aromatic theme, choose essential or fragrance oils that evoke your motif. These oils will be added to the fixatives of the potpourri. As the potpourri aroma fades over time, you can easily refresh the scent by adding a few more drops of fragrance oil or essential oil.

The terms fragrance oils and essential oils are often used interchangeably as both provide a concentrated form of an aroma. However, fragrance oils can include synthetically derived scents meant to evoke a naturally occurring smell; whereas essential oils are naturally derived essences that are distilled or extracted from various parts of a particular plant.

the filler
Though many filler items have fragrance of their own to bring to the mix, other items are there for visual stimulation. While staying within your theme, choose a variety of textures and colors, while keeping in mind what you ultimately want to do with the potpourri.

For example if you are making dream pillows or sachets you want to use smaller pieces for filler and adding color is less important. Alternatively if your mix is to be in a bowl as a centerpiece you might choose larger items and color accents that match your theme, room and/or seasonal decor.

Filler suggestions: eucalyptus, pine (cones or needles), roses (petals or buds), cedar chips, lavender, bay leaf, sage, hibiscus flowers, bayberry bark, rose hips, marigold (calendula), chamomile, orange peel, lemon peel, mint, lemon verbena, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla beans, star anise, apple slices.

the fixative
These are substances that are efficient at absorbing fragrance. The help to keep the potpourri aroma fresh longer. You can create potpourri without fixatives and enjoy the color and scent for a shorter time, or refresh with your fragrance and essential oils more often as the scent fades.

Fixative suggestions: orris root, oak moss, powdered cinnamon, sandalwood chips, calamus root.

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: Potpourri Methods ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

e. potpourri methods

dry method
Using a bowl and spoon made of plastic, wooden, glass or other non-reactive material ingredients are combined, then stored in a sealed container (often a mason jar) and cured over a 4-6 week period. Shake contents once a day for a few weeks until fragrance fully develops.

moist method
This is a layering method made in a large bowl (often a crock-pot) with an airtight lid. The ingredients (thickly) and salt (thinly) are poured in alternating layers. The layers are then pressed using a plate and a rock or some other heavy objects before the lid is secured on the bowl leaving the mixture to ferment for four weeks, with one interruption for mixing half way through.

Simmering spices in water on the stove can also release your desired aromatic ambiance.

and some suggested potpourri combinations

Herbs for Sweet Dreams
hyssop, myrtle, dill, hops, catnip, lavender, chamomile

Herbs for Increased Intuition
mugwort, mint, jasmine, linden, wormwood, myrtle

Herbs for Romance
rose, vanilla, cinnamon, patchouli, ylang-ylang, tangerine

Herbs of Home & Hearth —
sage, marjoram, bayberry, cinnamon, star anise, clove

[ Herbal Crafts that Make Scents: Potpourri Recipes ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

f. potpourri recipes

tension tamer potpourri
This makes a large batch of potpourri as colorful as it is fragrant. Use it in dream pillows, linen sachets or to simply display in a decorative dish.
view the recipe >

kitchen blend potpourri
The scent of this potpourri will remind you of home and hearth during the festive holiday season.
view the recipe >

herbal holiday blend potpourri
Perfect for gift-giving during the holiday season.
view the recipe >

winter blues chaser potpourri
All the best scents of the season to warm your heart and hearth.
view the recipe >

country roads potpourri
Simmer this autumn-scented potpourri in a pan of hot water on the stove, add it to pillows and sachets, or set it out in a pretty dish or bowl.
view the recipe >

"And myrtle cushioned there slept I, while visions past and future filled my dreamers eye." —— Author Unknown