Lavender Fragrance and Fancies {How To Make Potpourri}

Making your own potpourri is a delightful hobby and easier than you may think….
The ancient and fragrant art of potpourri is one of the few truly civilized and civilizing processes left for the twentieth century inhabitant to partake of. This ‘preservation of garden souls’ is a work worthy of time and loving care and its products can bring delight not only to the maker but to so many others.
We will disdain the often quoted and unworthy translation of the French ‘rotten pot’, and proceed hastily to the fact that there are two distinct techniques for potpourri production, ‘moist’ and ‘dry’.
Moist potpourri is an old method of production and its presumably the source of the French title, for it is the fragrance, and most certainly not the appearance  that is the attraction with this variety. Moist potpourri are reputed to retain their fragrance for up to fifty years, so the process results in much longer staying power. They are made from floral materials that are partly dried, despite the name.
The peak time to pick any floral ingredient is just as it is coming into full bloom. Pick after the dew has dried but as early as possible on a sunny day. Dry the flowers on papers or preferably on screens, out of sunlight but in an airy place. For moist potpourri they should be only partly dried. leathery when finished rather than crisp. Aim for a very limp appearance. Around one third of their bulk will be gone.
We use large straight sided glazed pottery crocks with good fitting tops to hold and mature moist potpourris. These should really be set aside for the purpose as it takes a number of weeks to mature a batch. Never use metallic spoons to turn the mixture. Buy some long-handled wooden spoons and keep them for this purpose alone. To make your job pleasant the crock needs to be sufficiently large and wide-mouthed to hold all the ingredients comfortably during the necessary turnings and stirrings as the mixture ages. The shortest time needed to mature the mix is two weeks. This is really far too short. The best results come with longer maturation. We wait at least six to eight weeks, but in previous centuries, far more noted for their patience than our own, the crocks were left to stew for months.
The general principles are simple. Place a layer of ‘leathery stage’ petals at the bottom of the crock, then cover with a layer of common {not iodized} salt. Add another layer of petals, then salt, alternating them until the crock is about three quarters full. A batch requires at least two weeks ageing before the remaining ingredients are added. Weigh the mixture down with a plate on which is placed some heavy non-corrodible object. A large bottle of homemade preserves is an answer. A large glass jar filled with sand and tightly capped will do the job well too. Each day the mix needs to be stirred well from the bottom. A kind of ‘petal soup’ appears and should be mixed back into the petals. If a hard crust appears, remove it and allow it to dry. Reserve this for the final mixing when it should be crushed and added back.
Next the spices, ground roots, dried peels, fragrant leaves and fixatives are added and blended. Leave for one month, stirring daily and covering again, to mellow and mix the fragrances. Finally add whatever essential oils may be required and allow the mix to continue to ‘stew’ {the word is too appropriate to be avoidable}, stirring daily, for a few more weeks.
If all this sounds tedious in the extreme, interrupting a very busy schedule, you are probably one of those who would most greatly benefit from its therapy! The fragrance alone is sufficient reward as the mixture is stirred each day, and it is no more difficult to build this routine into your day than any other daily routine.
Now is the time to move the potpourri into its final containers. Remember how long it will give pleasure to its owner and choose something worthy of the contents. Old Chinese ginger jars, oriental porcelain jars, even old-fashioned tea-caddies and marmalade jars in fine pottery are suitable. Haunt secondhand and antique shops for suitable potpourri jars. The only provisos are that there is a solid cover and that it is made of glazed pottery of some kind. Once you are looking, it is amazing how many unusual and attractive old containers suggest themselves.
The mixture in its new container will still be a little raw in its quality of fragrance, but in a few weeks will be a delight. When you wish to scent a room, remove the cover and a delicious subtle fragrance will gently pervade the whole area. Otherwise keep the lid on the mixture.
Here are a few recipes for moist potpourri. Once you have mastered the basic technique you will be able to devise your own mixes.

Recipe: Lavender Water.

Of course this can be bought commercially. My favorite comes from Norfolk Lavender in England. But for home purposes you can enjoy making up your own supply.
In a clear glass bottle steep 100 g of lavender flowers in half a liter of alcohol {brandy or vodka are both good}. Place in the sun for a few days, then strain. Repeat until the fragrance is very strong.
Strain and seal in a glass bottle. If your hair is weak, falling out and breaking, try an old idea and rub lavender water into your scalp several times a week. Try it too as a rub for rheumatism. It has a long tradition of usage for both problems.

Lavender Cream & Lavender Night Cream.

This is an antiseptic cream and has been traditionally used for all manner of minor cuts, abrasions, bruises etc.
* 125 g white wax
500g sweet almond oil
370 g distilled water
10 g essential oil of lavender
2.5 g spike oil
Lavender Ointment:
25 drops essential oil of lavender
10 drops essential oil of lemon or neroli
5 drops essential oil of thyme
2 tablespoons oil of lavender
60 g pure beeswax
Warm the beeswax in a small pot in a roasting pan of hot water and, when melted, beat in the oil of lavender; then, as the ointment cools, add the essential oils, continuing to beat until cool. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator.
Oil of Lavender.
This is not the commercially distilled essential oil, but a rubbing oil which can be used at full strength. {Essential oil of lavender obtained by distillation of fresh lavender flowers should be diluted in light vegetable oil for use as a massage oil when needed.}
To make oil of lavender, take a clean glass bottle and add to it a good large handful o fresh lavender flowers and cover with one litre of olive oil. Cover and leave to macerate in the warmth of the sun for three to five days. Strain through a cloth, add fresh flowers to the bottle and return the lavender-infused oil. Repeat until the oil is highly perfumed and charged with the active principles of lavender.
Lavender Night Cream
1 tablespoon avocado oil or apricot oil
1 tablespoon almond oil
3 tablespoons lanolin
1 teaspoon oil of lavender {see
‘Oil of Lavender’}
If you work outside a lot this is the ideal answer to sore chapped hands and weather beaten skin.
Put the lanolin in an ovenproof bowl and place in a roasting pan half full of hot water.
Pour in the avocado and almond oil and beat well to completely combine.
Remove from the heat and continue to beat as the mixture cools and thickens.
Add the oil of lavender. Continue beating until mixture is thick and creamy and cool.
Pour into a small pot, cover and store in the refrigerator.
Vitamin E can be added by squeezing the contents of 2 or 3 capsules at the same stage as oil of lavender is added.

Lavender Water for Fever and Headaches.

2 tablespoons dried lavender leaves
1 tablespoon Sweet Cicely
1 tablespoon marjoram
1 tablespoon red rose petals
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large pinch ground cloves
Powder all the ingredients as finely as possible and mix with four cups of either surgical spirit or brandy.
Allow to steep for 14 days, strain and bottle, sealing tightly. Add a few drops to cold water, wring out a towel in the liquid and place on the forehead. Repeat until relief is obtained.
In my experience, a sachet of the same mixture makes an excellent portable headache reliever.
In the once Imperial Library of Hungary lies a handwritten manuscript inscribed long ago by Queen Elizabeth of that country and dated 1235. In it is written the original prescription for the famous Hungary Water. The Queen was paralysed, but was cured by a secret herbal recipe invented for her by a hermit. The preparation was rubbed each day into her limbs and eventually restored her. The Queen’s formula for Hungary Water became well known throughout Europe and was particularly widely used in southern France. The original recipe given here is on a queenly scale but can of course be made in much smaller quantities.

5 Lavender Craft Ideas To Try At Home..

Lavender Bottles.

19, 21 or 23 fresh supple lavender stalks in full flower
Lavender-colored satin ribbon 0.5-1.0 cm wide

Tie the bunch of heads together tightly just below the flower spikes. One end of the lavender should be about 30 cm, the other as long as possible.
Gently turn all the stalks up around the bunch of flower spikes to make a cage. Tie the stems together above the flowers so that they are completely enclosed in a cage of green stems evenly spaced.
Use a bodkin {or thread onto a hairpin or use a safety pin} to weave the long end of the ribbon in and out of the stalks, working round and upward until the flowers are enclosed.
The short end of ribbon should be brought down with the flower heads so that it is enclosed in the weaving. Now wind the long end several times around the stalks to secure them and finish with a bow of ribbon. I like to tie a second bow at the top of the stalks.
Dry the lavender bottles, preferably on drying frames in a well-aired, warm place out of direct light.

Lavender Dolls and Lavender Mice

Lavender dolls are a pleasant pastime for rainy days, but you must first locate a source of old-fashioned wooden clothes pegs. Use a strongly lavender-scented potpourri and place it in an 8 cm wide circle of pretty sprigged cotton fabric.
Tie onto the top of the peg with lavender satin ribbon to create the effect of a mob cap finished with a bow.
For a truly professional effect, tie a bundle of some fine black or brown wool at one end to form a little wig on the top of the peg, and fasten it on with PVA glue. It can be plaited in various ways.
Paint a face on the peg. Then tie on the mob cap of lavender when hair and face are fully dried.
Paint the base of the two prongs to imitate shoes. Then either paste on a simple wrap around cloak, or, if inspired to finer things, make a pretty little neck to ankles old fashioned dress with a lace ruff at the top.
The loveliest Lavender Mice by far that I have seen were being sold at the popular Salamanca Market held each week in Hobart in Tasmania. The upright body, made of grey felt, with a very pretty bewhiskered face was filled with fresh fragrant dried Tasmanian lavender. The mouse was finished with a lavender sprigged white cotton mob cap, lace trimmed Victorian dress gathered around the neck and lavender ribbon.
The effect was pure Beatrix potter.
Lavender Fragrance Wreaths

Florist’s wire
Fresh lavender flower spikes and fresh herb foliage eg. silvery artemisia, thyme, rosemary, lavender cotton, sweet marjoram etc. {Cut more than you expect to use.}Frames for herbal wreaths vary according to tastes. You can make your own from a single circle bent from heavy gauge wire. This is then encircled with dry sphagnum moss, binding it on tightly and evenly to make a padded base for the wreath. Raffia or thick natural string are best for creating the herb base.
Frames can also be made from various vines such as grape, Japanese honeysuckle, wild clematis {which can reach pest proportions on our property, smothering valuable shrubs}, or wisteria. Create the basic circle, then twine lengths of vine continuously in and out around the basic circle until it has reached the required thickness. Tuck ends into the wreath base as you go so that a neat but rustic effect is created.
Or visit your local florist for a wire frame which should then be bound with sphagnum as above, or a straw wreath base, or a professionally made grapevine base.
To obtain a professional appearance for the wreath, all materials need to swirl in the one direction. I prefer to work with fresh materials for the base and allow the  wreath to dry almost completely before wiring or glueing on the flowers and other ornaments. Dried foliage is brittle to work with and it is far easier to work with fresh flexible stalks of herbs. It’s important to cut much more material than you imagine you will need. Wreaths positively swallow herbs.
Gather the chosen foliage material into numerous small bunches and begin wiring these to the frame with florist’s wire. Spread each bunch over the frame carefully to cover it and overlap progressive bunches so that they will hide the stems of previous bunches. Continue swirling the material in the same direction until the frame is complete. Now tuck in extra sprigs of foliage all around the outside and inside edges, continuing to work in the same direction.
Small bunches of lavender are now wired into position in a swirl through the center of the wreath. It can now be given to a friend as a fresh green herb and lavender wreath, or placed in an airy, cool,  dimly lit place to dry and further decorate.
Dried lavender and herb wreaths can be further prettied up with small bunches of dried flowers like pinks, oregano, lavender mint and sage flowers, pink yarrow or pink and lavender statice  wired to florist’s picks and arranged around the wreath to hide the stems. Tiny lavender potpourri bags secured with lavender ribbon can also be wired or glued into place.

Lavender Basket

I began making these several years ago and they proved so popular that I have continued ever since. They can be of any size, from tiny cane baskets with handles up to substantial ones.
 Lavender baskets are very fragrant as they are filled with dried lavender potpourri as a finish to the product.
Basket with handle
Dried whole stems of lavender flowers {French L. dentata looks great but English will look good if used generously}
Lavender potpourri
Oasis cut to fit the basket and reach half its height {florist supply shops are a source}
Florist wire
Dried stems of thyme, silver flowering stalks of wormwood, oregano flowering stalks, golden achillea flowers, dried pink rosebuds wired through the base, dried sprays of white baby’s breath {gypsophila}, pink everlasting daisies, dried sprays of silver lavender cotton, cream, pink and lavender statice, dried stalks of pink larkspur, or any other dried flowers and foliage you like.
Loop the florist wire over the oasis and push through the basket to secure. Push the ends back into the basket neatly. Make sure the oasis is firmly fixed.
 Arrange the dried foliage material in the basket to form a framework for the arrangement, making sure all pieces are securely embedded in the oasis. Now fill in with lots of dried lavender spikes which should predominate and a selection of golden or pink dried flowers to add color, Gypsophila will give a lovely misty airy appearance to the basket.
 Finally sieve lavender potpourri into the basket so that the oasis is well covered.
 No two lavender baskets are the same, and they can be very individual expression of their maker. A few drops of essential oil of lavender can be added to refresh the scent of the basket from time to time.
 If you are doing a substantial pruning of large lavender bushes you can even fashion the basket itself from dried lavender twigs.
Lavender Drawer Liners
There are quick and easy ways of doing these, but for something very special try this version.
Lavender colored poster paint
Silver green poster paint
Flowering spikes of lavender
Short sprigs of lavender leaves pressed for 2 to 3 days
Watercolor paper in appropriate sized sheets, around 140 – 170 g weight preferred
Lavender potpourri
Large plastic rubbish bin liner
The paper is decorated by means of flower and leaf prints.
Squeeze out each paint into a separate saucer.
Mix with a very little water to keep a reasonably thick consistency.
Use a lavender head to do some practice printing on spare paper. Place one side of the lavender head in the paint, then press gently along its full length to obtain a print. If the paint is still too thick, or you press too hard, you will end up with a sludged effect and no details will show. Adjust the consistency of the paint with a few more drops of water if necessary. If it is too diluted it will flood the paper.
Print the pressed sprigs of leaves by placing on one side in the paint, placing on the practice sheet, covering with a second sheet of paper and gently pressing down.
When you are satisfied you have mastered the art of print painting with the leaves and flowers, design you own pattern of lavender sprigs and flowers across each sheet of watercolor paper.
Dry the sheets overnight, then place flat in the plastic bag with a good layer of lavender potpourri. Seal and store flat. After a month the paper will be fully impregnated with the scent.
If giving this paper as a present, roll and tie with lavender ribbon and decorate with a little bunch of fresh or dried French lavender flowers.