How To: Homemade Aromatic Potpourri

Enjoy creating a holiday blend that not only looks beautiful but has a fragrance that contributes some subtle aromatherapy during this busy season.

| December/January 1997

  • Run your fingers through this festive holiday potpourri and enjoy the sweet, spicy fragrance that will linger in the air.

1997's Special Potpourri Blend Recipe

From late spring through early autumn, I gather materials for my potpourri, challenging myself to vary both its scent and its appearance from year to year. I’m always on the lookout for bright clusters of berries, variegated leaves, pretty seedpods and interesting calyxes that I’ve never used before. I include roses and lavender every year, along with sprigs of balsam fir or pine needles saved from the previous year’s Christmas tree. The kitchen yields wonderful fragrances from the spice rack as well as citrus peels for color, texture and scent, and rose hips, which I string into colorful garlands to drape around the rim of the potpourri bowl.

Setting a mood

I enjoy creating a holiday blend that not only looks beautiful but has a fragrance that contributes some subtle aromatherapy during this busy season. The physiological effects of scent are becoming more widely appreciated as more studies document them, but everyone knows that fragrance, like good food and jingle bells, is an important part of the holiday spirit.

Carefully chosen combinations of herbs and flowers can calm the nerves, ease stress, stimulate the mind, and invigorate the senses. In this year’s blend I’ve included lavender, rose, and pine for their relaxing effects; clove, citrus and cinnamon to ease anxiety, and rosemary, basil, clove, cinnamon, peppermint and citrus for their energizing scents. Many herbal fragrances have been used over the years as mood enhancers and some herbs have several effects. Whatever its ingredients, the effects of inhaling a potpourri fragrance are not dramatic, but simply and gent­ly uplifting. See the list above for scents that relax and energize.

In each potpourri I like to use several fixatives—substances that not only help preserve other scents, but often carry their own fragrance. I grow many of them in my midwestern garden: angelica, calamus, wild ginger and orris roots; clary sage, sweet woodruff, and patchouli leaves; and Queen-Anne’s-lace seed. I purchase others such as benzoin.

My holiday blend is determined by what’s available or abundant, what I can afford, what’s beautiful, and what fragrances I especially enjoy. Potpourri blending is a personal craft, and the recipe given above is infinitely adaptable.

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