The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The potpourri project: Making my first batch of Cherhez’s Old English Rose Potpourri


Photo: The Scented Room

Photo: The Scented Room

“I bet your house smells wonderful.” The lady in Holland and Barrett  exclaimed as she put my essential oils in a bag.
“I’m making potpourri and our cottage is beginning to smell great.”

The Holland and Barrett essential oils are very good quality and the scent lasts well. We use them for making essential oil recipes that I found in The Fragrant Mind by Valerie Ann Worwood. I will be using some of these recipes in my potpourris and scented bags as we have found that they are extremely powerful.

It’s taken ages to collect and dry enough rose petals to start making potpourri but finally I’ve made a start. Barbara Milo Ohrbach’s book The Scented Room: Cherchez’s Book of Dried Flowers, Fragrance and Potpourri has become my bible. It’s packed with inspiring ideas and recipes and my second hand copy is perfect. In fact I’ve become a real fan of this lady’s books and I’ve invested in second hand copies of Simply Flowers: Practical Advice and Beautiful Ideas for Creating Flower-Filled Rooms and Roses from the Scented Room: Beautiful Ideas for Entertaining, Gift-giving and the Home. Thank goodness for Amazon marketplace! These books are not very well known in the UK so have a peep at for reviews.

Ohrbach uses orris root as a preservative. This takes six weeks to fix so if I’m going to build up a reasonable stock for Christmas sales on the website I have to start now. I have discovered on this site that if you use fragrance oils instead of orris root the fixing time is reduced to just hours. At the moment I’m sticking to using the old fashioned orris root. I’m following the recipes in The Scented Room and then tweaking them to suit my taste. It’s great fun – like cooking with scent and flowers.

I’m also making lavender bags, fragrance bags for rooms, bags that ward off moths in wardrobes (these include cedar wood a natural moth repellent), bath bags, travel bags, bags for airing cupboards and drawers. My head whirls and fingers fly across the keyboard in search of tonka beans and cedar wood chips. All the bags use orris root as a fixative so that the scent will last far longer than a conventional bag.

As children we sometimes made pomanders as Christmas presents and Ohrbach has recipes for these too – using lemons, apples, limes and oranges. I’ve tracked down a good website that sells spices in bulk (500g bags) which is the cheapest way that I’ve found so far to obtain good quality ingredients. Tesco is selling bags of twelve small lemons for £2.00 and I’m starting with these. I reckon that lemon pomanders will be really pretty.

This is such an old fashioned and rewarding project with a whole new area of expertise to bone up on.

  Leave a reply


  1. Jo@LittleFfarm Dairy

    Wow, will you be doing moth thingies for drawers? We have so many problems with the little blighters & I’d be beating a path to your virtual door if you did.

    I’d be a bit wary about using Tonka beans, though. Owing to the fact they’re a serious anticoagulant they are banned in the States; although still used (with care) in some French cooking. But I remember being warned by a friend that they can be deadly if used incorrectly!

  2. Magic Cochin

    For spices in bulk, perhaps you could give Daily Bread in Cambridge a call. They must get spices in big quantities for bagging up in small quantities to sell – may they would do a deal for you and sell you a large quantity.

    If you can get there – also try the Asian grocers in Mill Road Cambridge (the Post Office one is best). There were fantastic deals for spices in the shops we we in in Tooting last week – big big bags of cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks etc

    Are you going to start having the occasional stall at bazaars and markets?


  3. freerangegirl

    What a great idea – my gran used to make lavender bags and i hadnt thought of it till I read this, mmm… i feel a project coming on !

  4. I made orris-fixed pot pourri about seven years ago and the sealed stuff is still potent. Orris has as nice soft smell on its own that goes well with flowery scents. I’m careful about fragrance oils as they may be synthetic and sometimes have unpleasant strong odors. There are a lot of pretty nasty commercial pot pourris in U.S. gift shops.
    Clove-studded pomanders are lovely but really hard to make. Use a thimble or something to push in the cloves or you’ll have very sore fingers made worse by the sting of lemon juice! They were also called coffin balls and supposedly used during winter when the ground might be frozen too hard for prompt interment. Or so New England legend says.

  5. Toffeeapple

    How lovely, I’m looking forward to being your first purchaser.

  6. This sounds fascinating. I hate chemical air freshners as they always make me wheezy. I’m of the view that if you want a fresh room then open the window and get rid of the stale air and smells. If you want a nice smelling room then oils are the way to go. For many years a friend and I have referred to those big bowls of twigs and spices etc as pot muesli – a reference to a rather old fashioned hotel in Grange over Sands where you could get a magnificent Sunday lunch. However, over -indulgence in a rather nice sparkling rose from New Zealand had rendered the pair of us rather giggly and somewhat incoherent so pot pourri became henceforth known as pot muelsi, with the pot bit pronounced like a pot of tea.

  7. Oooh- I love potpourri. Like it so much better than commercial room deodorizers, which I think should be banned! What a waste of plastic! But potpourri- much more sustainable, and pretty! Have fun!

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