'Potpourri' is a French term for a Spanish stew involving a wide variety of ingredients. In English, the term is adopted to refer to any collection of miscellaneous and diverse items - dried flowers, natural fragrant plant material, bits of colored wood, seeds, leaves and cones, which are used to provide a gentle natural scent.
The primary purpose of potpourri is to make the rooms and cupboards smell fresh. In addition to utalitarian purposes, the idea of a potpourri is a charming one as it can make a positive difference in homes. Be it festive occassions or gifts, potpourris never go out of style!
Traditional and Modern potpourri
Dried flowes are natural components of traditional potpourri. Traditional potpourri containers came with closely fitted lids to enable the scent to emanate slowly and diffuse in the room. Typically traditional potpourri included natural fragrances such as wood shavings of Cedar, Cypress, incense-cedar, juniper, lavender leaves and flowers, mignonette leavesand flowers, pinyon pine cones, rose flowers, hips or oil, cinnamonbark and marjoram.
Unlike the traditional potpourri where natural fragrance was used, modern potpourri uses any decoratively shaped dried plant material not necessarily scented naturally. Instead strong synthetic perfume or spray is added. In modern potpourris, a fixative is used to make the potpourri absorb the scent. Orris root is popularly used for this purpose. Other common fixatives used are calamus root, dry lavender, tonka bean, gum benzoin resin, deertongue, vetiver root, patchouli leavesoak moss, clary sage leaves and sandalwood bark. There are many powdered fixatives available that are generally used in sachet potpourris.
Brightly colored potpourri flowers that add color rather than scent are increasingly used in home decor. Be it the vibrant burst of color energy of sunflower petals or traditional pink and green flowers for Easter and red and green flowers for Christmas celebrations, a potpourri can enliven a room.
Potpourri can be a unique gift idea for someone special. Potpourri has become a popular and meaningful gift on several occasions like weddings, birthdays, Christmas and other celebrations and functions. Gift potpourri come with refresher oil, candles and sugared fruits and scented flowers. Potpourri is gift boxed and gift bagged according to the personal preferences of the buyer. Such gift potpourri can become wonderful centre table arrangements.
Potpourri is usually placed in decorative open containers such as wooden bowls, cups or lined baskets, to enable the aroma to delicately scent the room. Often potpourri comes tied in small cloth pillows or small bags made of satin and lace or with bows and ribbons attached to them. These can also be placed under pillows, hang in closets, into stored shoes, table drawers and even fill up those ashtrays found in cars. Loose potpourri can even be placed in soft toys as a filling provided they are properly dried and cured first. Ceramic potpourri vases are also popular for gifts.
Potpourri help to create pleasant aromas that have the power to alter the mood of a home. Aromatherapy helps to select oils that offer different scents to create different moods and atmosphere in a room. Care should be taken while using essential oils in potpourri and it is better to use them sparingly as they can smell quite strongly.
In crystal potpourri, a natural crystal that has been scented with a fragrance of one's choice is used. Crystal potpourris add not only fragrance to the room but can even be color coordinated to match the décor of the room. Fresh oil is added to the crystal once the scent begins to fade. Semi porous stones infused with essence oils and color can be selectively in potpourris.
Floral scents are still popularly used in potpourri. Flower scents like rose, lavender, violet and carnations can be pleasing and provide a comfortable atmosphere. Spices like rosemary, cinnamon, sage, thyme and nutmeg can also be used in potpourri arrangements and they add a zesty perfume. Lime, mandarin peel, lemon, dried orange can help produce citrus scents. Mint, bayberry, cedar, eucalyptus, balsam and pine needles are some of the widely used leaves in potpourri decorations.
Fillers are used in potpourri so as to add bulk to the arrangement. Small marbles and pine cones can be used as effective fillers. Extra leaves, sea shells, colored wood shavings are some of the other fillers used in potpourri. Cardboard cuts with gold paper covering, paper wedding confetti can help to protect the stains in potpourri and at the same time make the decoration colorful and attractive.
- The best time to collect the leaves, roots, flowers and seeds would be early morning after the dew has evaporated. Plants that are clean should be chosen. The flowers and other parts must be free of pests. Newly opened flowers are the best choice for porpourri purposes.
- It is essential to collect atleast four times of the quantity needed for the final potpourri as the flowers, leaves and other parts will shrink when dried.
- It will take atleast two weeks for the drying process. The flowers and herbs should be kept in a warm well ventilated airy place with plenty of sunlight for drying.
- The flowers and herbs should be well spread out for dyring. If they are tightly packed together they may decompose.
- The dried out new potpourri should be stored in airtight containers and in a cool dark place till they are taken out for use whenever needed.
- The ingredients have to be combined with a fixative like orris root powder. Add spices, dried bits of citrus fruit or bits of wood impregnated with scented oils like aroma therapy oils.
- The potpourri has to be placed in tightly sealed jars for six weeks or can be used as it is.
- Jelly moulds, copper kettles, goblets, egg cups, antique jewelery boxes, hats, jars, big sea shells and flower pots found at homes serve as innovative potpourri containers.
Festive potpourri gift
- Red roses in a gold colored luxurious gift bag potpourri,
- Rich spicy clove, cinnamon and orange fragranced added to make a perfect Christmas potpourri,
- Potpourri with cinnamon lends a warm spicy aroma in rich autumnal shades,
- An old fashioned potpourri with pink roses and an authentic fragrance combined with night jasmine and violets.
- A classic lavender potpourri with a hint of lilac in shades of blue and purple,
- A spicy room refresher fragrance in reddish brown and cream mixed potpourri,
- A zesty fragrance in vibrant shades and delicious aroma of oranges that lends the sunshine energy to potpourri,
- Potpourri set with rich exotic orchid scent with night jasmine, a perfect bedroom potpourri in pretty pink and cream shades,
- Rich vanilla with honey fragrance added with spice in pretty shades of cream and bronze.