Homemade potpourri is a great way to freshen and brighten a room without the use of harmful chemicals. Experiment with a range of flowers, nuts, cones, and essential oils until you find one that suits you.
There are plenty of potpourri recipe ideas online, here are a few tips on the basics and recipes we created using our own woodland products.
Dry Matter: Press or hang a variety of flowers or herbs from the garden, or use nuts and cones. Do your own research on what works best for different flowers, or experiment with small quantities. Make sure your flowers and herbs are fully dry before using them in the potpourri so they don’t go mouldy.
We also dry excess lemons, oranges, apples, and kiwifruit to create citrus blends or to add colour. When using fruit, essential oils can help deter insects, but be aware that ants and such might like the flavours.
Have fun experimenting but only use plant materials that you are 100% certain are not poisonous.
Add a fixative: a fixative is a substance that helps hold the scent and keeps the potpourri from going musty. Common fixatives are orris root and gum benzoin. Orris root has sweeter more floral aroma and is great for flower filled potpourri, while the gum benzoin has a softer scent that is perfect for woody potpourri. You can also use cinnamon, cloves, oak moss, vanilla pods, sandlewood, chamomile. There are a few other oils and natural substances that you can also use - research a variety of recipes then choose your own.
Essential Oils: add essential oils to create your own potpourri aroma. Over time your potpourri aroma will fade. Add a few drops of essential oils to refresh your potpourri as required. Christmas potpourri can be stored away in an airtight container and refreshed and reused year after year by adding a few drops of cinnamon oil at Christmas time.
Important Note: Essential oils are made from highly concentrated plant oils - the oils may have healing benefits when used correctly, but care must also be taken as large doses can be harmful. Use only as directed.
Our Christmas Potpourri Recipe
Here’s how we make our Christmas potpourri (batches may vary). Don’t worry if you don’t have access to all the following ingredients, just adapt the mix to suit.
Box of Pure Woodland Cones, or a mix of your own nuts and cones
Handful of Macrocarpa leaves
Handful of Pine needles
A few drops of cinnamon essential oil
Teaspoon of whole cloves
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
A tablespoon of gum benzoin
1 or 2 pieces of star anise
Mix all of the above in an air tight jar, and leave for 3-4 weeks in a dark place. Shake the mix occasionally. When ready to use display in suitable container. Additional oils can be added to modify the scent.
The dried macrocarpa leaves are my favourite Christmas scent – they smell the way you imagine Christmas should smell. But the scent isn’t strong enough on its own, so we add a bit of cinnamon oil to draw the aroma out into the room. The first batch we made had pine oil – but on its own, pine oil will leave your potpourri smelling like a cleaning product, rather than a pine tree (it is a natural disinfectant, which is why it is so often used as the scent in cleaners).
Add Colour: Dried holly and holly berries are beautiful, but the berries are poisonous so we avoid using these. Dried oranges are often added for a splash of colour. This coming summer we’re planning to dry crabapples and try them in next year’s Christmas potpourri.
If you’re planning to add oranges or delicate materials, add these at the end when you’re ready to display the mix.
The pure woodland nuts & cones come unwashed and don’t contain chemicals. If you’re concerned about any bugs, these can be gently washed in hot water and detergent, or hot water and vinegar and/or dried in the oven for 15-20 minutes on a low heat (under 100 degrees celsius).
Below are some of the other combinations we created using what we had growing in the garden (with the exception of the fixatives and essential oils).
A tangy aussie woodland inspired potpourri using a range of plant materials found on our farm.
Cup of oakmoss
2-3 small sprigs of dried wattle flowers
4-5 tasmanian blackwood leaves
Teaspoon of gum benzoin
2-3 drops of eucalyptus oil
We use the oakmoss as both a fixative and for the base colour in this mix. The oil and the gum benzoin are the key ingredient for the scent in this mix, the other elements create the visual effect.
Woodland Vanilla Potpourri
For this potpourri we started with the idea of creating a woodland potpourri using red alder cones and the purple catkins that had blown down from the red alders. We started with the visuals by adding dried Lucerne flowers, but found that it needed a yellow green to lift the colour, and to get this effect we used dried wild rose leaves. To come up with a fragrance that suited the mix that had moved away from a woodland potpourri to a more woody floral creation we used gum benzoin for the base and fixative, which kept it from becoming too flowery. We then added organic vanilla essence and an amber essential oil to create a woody fragrance with gentle floral tones.
We have an abundance of lemons and oranges in late winter. We dried some of the excess fruit in slices. When kept in an airtight container, the dried oranges and lemons have a strong sweet citrus aroma on their own. We used orris root as the fixative in this mix to give a floral base, and added applemint and lemon balm. Only a small amount of lemon balm in proportion to the other ingredients was used, as it has a strong almost overpowering aroma. The fruit and herbs contained enough of their own fragrance that we found we did not need to add any essential oils.