Making Potpourri from Your Garden – Part I of VII

Potpourri       Crafting with Botanicals: Potpourri 

Another way to enjoy the harvest of your garden, yard, and other wildcrafted findings, hand-blended potpourris add another dimension to everyday life, make your surroundings truly ‘scent-imental’…

 

 

      Herbal Legend and Lore: Fragrant Beginnings

 

Use of fragrance and botanical materials dates back to 6,000 BC, as evidenced by the excavated tombs in ancient Egypt, records kept recounting trade routes and practices and archeological discoveries in cities of long ago. Reserved primarily for religious rituals in the temple, aromatic annointing oils, incense, and scented unguents were created by Egyptian priests.

 

The oldest and most reliable account of world history, the Bible, recounts the use of herbs, spices, incense and annointing oils. The Hebrews learned the use of perfume products from the Egyptians, burning incense with their sacrifices, and using annointing oils as part of their rituals. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslums, Shintoists, incorporate scents into their ceremonies, rituals and worship.

 

Cleopatra (1st century, BC), used fragrance extravagantly, was skilled and knowledgeable about their allure. Famous for extravagance, Roman emperors had saffron spraying from fountains, and used as a strewing herb — imagine the fragrance! Nero (1st century, AD) had flowers raining from his state dining room ceiling, with silver pipes hidden in the walls, which sprayed perfume on guests.

 

Between 11th to14th centuries, the use of fragrant botanicals spread to Europe and
England. Much of this “new” knowledge and practices were brought home by the Crusaders. Regular trade routes were were established, and these fragrant materials were traded in Arabia, Assyria, China, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Persia, and
Rome. Wars broke out, in order to protect or obtain these invaluable trade routes.

 

Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603), enjoyed fresh-strewn herbs and retained a woman on salary, to provide in-season materials. Additionally, she hired a husband-wife “team” to prepare her distillations. Techniques of distillation and enfluerage were well-known, by this time in herbal history, and an industrious woman could establish a garden, dry materials for sachets and potpourri, distill toilet waters and essences from garden-grown fragrant materials. Essential oils were extracted from plants, more delicate flowers were steeped in oil or wine, to release their scents. Use of pure alcohol to create perfumes was not a practice yet.

 

Perfumed oils were used in bathing rituals, as soap was nonexistant. The ritual: after soaking in a hot bath, oils were massaged on, then scraped, along with dirt and impurities, leaving a fragrance. These fragrances acted as detergents, deodorant and insecticides!

 

Herbal extracts were used not only for bathing, but also home keeping – furniture and floor polishing, strewn herbs to deter pests, and as fragrant seats. Herbs chosen for these applications:  basil, chamomile, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, rue, sage, southernwood, sweet flag, tansy, thyme, woodruff, wormwood.

 

From the early days of herbal history, herbs were used for medicinal purposes. To prevent disease, often pomanders were made up of various herbs, such as: ambergris, benzoin, cassia, cloves, musk, and orris.

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