A peony potpourri, there is something almost naughty about the full lusciousness of peonies.
They have a heavenly scent and a frilly prettiness but their drawback is their short blooming time. A heat wave can burst the flower heads leaving their petals scattered through the garden and by July they are gone.
But with two simple drying techniques you can enjoy the scent and beauty of these flowers for months on end. A a peony potpourri with a dried peony flower on top is a gracious way to enjoy these blooms past their singularly short season.
If you have peony growing in your garden making a potpourri is an inexpensive, gentle and natural way of adding a pleasant scent to your home. It doesn't have the strong odor of commercial air fresheners but it also doesn't have any of the chemicals that they are made with either.
Peony petals will change their color as they dry. Light ones tend to go a bit darker and dark pinks and reds can go very dark and in some cases turn brown. You will have to experiment to see what colors your peonies turn once they are dry to decide which flowers you will chose to use. These light pink ones tend to turn a little darker and sometimes go to a light brown.
You should gather your leaves early in the morning but after the dew has dried. Lay them out to dry in a single layer on a screen or mesh. I used a sweater drying rack. Place them in a dark cool dry area and let them dry for 2 weeks or more. They should dry to the consistency of corn flakes.
When they are completely dry place them in a paper bag that has been lined with wax paper and at this point you can add other botanical such as dried rose petals or dried lemon balm. You can add a tablespoon of orris root powder which has a soft scent to it and will act as a fixative to hold the scent longer.
If you want a stronger scent than what you have with the petals then you can add several drops of peony essential oil or another essential oil like rose. If you want no chemicals in your potpourri then make sure that the essential oil is all natural. Let this cure in the bag for about two week, gently stirring it every day or so.
For the decorative flower on top of the potpourri you have to use a different drying technique. In the morning after the dew has dried off find a perfect flower head and cut it off. You will need a plastic container that has a lid that seals that is larger than the flower head.
Using flower drying crystals (silica gel) place an inch of the silica gel on the bottom of the container and place the flower head on top of this. Gently start spreading the silica over the flower making sure that you do not crush the petals and the flower retains its shape.
Following the instructions of your silica gel let the flower head dry for a week or two. When fully dry remove from the silica and gently brush off any silica (you might have to use a small brush). This silica can be re-used over and over again. Leaves don't always dry well in silica and I dry mine in the pages of an old phone book for 10 days to 2 weeks then add them under the flower head for a bit of color.
The scent of this peony potpourri is delicate but sweet. The scent won't fill a large room but it will fill a small room like a bathroom and if you put it on your desk it will fill the air around you. You will have to remove the dried flower and stir the potpourri every two weeks or so to reinvigorate the scent.
I put my peony potpourri in an inexpensive glass bowl that I bought at a thrift store for $1.
Wrapped in cellophane this would make a very pretty gift. If you are planning to give it as a gift keep the potpourri in the paper bag until you are ready to use it but remove the dried flower head from the silica and store it in another container.
Add this Free Printable Peony Card to your gift to finish it off!
This is a lovely and inexpensive alternative to commercial air fresheners and artificial scents.
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