Scents of the Season

21/07/2012 17:38


Bring a warm and cosy feel to your home, with blends of aromatic spices, that are sure to put you in a festive mood. Today, we associate spices mainly with cooking, but at one time spices played a much larger role in the home - their fragrance was used to scent the air and it was also thought that they had antiseptic qualities that could ward off diseases and some insects.

POTPOURRI ~ Fragrant bowls of potpourri were used to scent the air. The name of this fragrant and decorative mix of petals, leaves and spices comes from the french for 'rotten pot' It dates back to the 18th century when it was used to mask the stench of everyday life. Nowadays other ingredients such as big seed pods and citrus fruits have also joined to the mix.

Tradionally made with rose petals and lavender, other good flower are, heliotrope, lime blossom, hyacinth, violet and orange blossom. Harvest the flowers when they are about to bloom or have just opened to conserve their essential oils. Its best to use more flowers than scented leaves so their fragrance isn't overpowered.

Pebbles, conifer cones or bark will add visual interest, thin slices of citrus fruits are fragrant and decorative. Soak the cones in water and pine oil to enhance the fragrance, and air or oven dry lime, lemon or orange slices.

A bowl of dried lemon verbena, dried oranges, bay leaves and pinecones makes a nice zesty mix, add a little colour by sprinkling of dried rose petals.

Make pot-pourri from pieces of Christmas orange peel, left to dry naturally in a warm room. These also make good firelighters, they work by using the natural oils in the orange peel to burn.

POMANDERS ~ Pomanders can make delightful Christmas gifts. Make these a few weeks in advance to give them chance mature.

Use thin-skinned oranges and pierce holes in the skin with a cocktail stick, either all over or in an attractive pattern, then push cloves into the holes. Wrap each orange individually in a brown paper bag and place them in a warm place such as the airing cupboard, and leave them to dry out slowly. Once the oranges have dried out, then dust them with orris root powder. Attach ribbons and hang them around the house.

Herb-filled pomanders are also great to hang around the home, they not only smell divine, but also look good too. Use a florist's foam ball as the base, take two lengths of ribbon and tie them both around the ball to make four sections, leaving enough ribbon at the top for hanging. Then, just insert sprigs of dried lavender, marjoram, preserved sage and eucalyptus to fill each section.

To create an aromatic table centrepiece- fill a pretty vintage bowl with clove studded oranges, add bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon, and finish by adding some star anise pods.

Make a wreath from dried fruits and flowers. Thread dried oranges, limes and flower heads onto a circle of thick wire and secure the top. Hang on doors or window frames, above a bed or on the back of a chair.

Lemon and limes can also be made into pomanders. Kumquats or Mandarin oranges studded with cloves and prepared, can be added to a wreath made from fir cones, bay leaves and cranberries threaded on to a wire.

* Ground Orris root is available from herbalists and florists. It is used to 'fix' the volatile oils in the citrus fruit so that they keep their fragrance.

* To dry oranges or other citrus fruits in the oven, cut them into thin slices and place on a baking tray, bake at a low temperature for about 90 mins, remove and leave to dry out completely.

CINNAMON ~ Like many spice aromas, cinnamon is considered warming and creates a cosy feel.

To scent the kitchen, cinnamon sticks can be crushed into pot pourri or used on their own, tie a few into bundles and and place in a small vase or glass.
Give your Christmas tree a wonderful aroma with citrus and spice bundles - Thread four or five dried orange slices together on green garden twine, using a coarse darning needle. Make three cinnamon quills into a bundle on top, and tie together.


CANDLES ~ Whether its dozens of tiny tealights clustered around a room or one huge block, scented candles are the most popular way to infuse a room with fragrance or create a lovely atmosphere. One of the first fragranced candles in the UK, believed to be scented with blueberry, was created in 1893. There are many different types of fragrant candles around, but its worth paying extra for a good brand, as the fragrance
is often better quality, and they also tend to burn slower and last longer.

Alternatively, make your own scented candles by mixing essential oils into the molton wax on top of the candle. Blow out the flame, add a few drops of your chosen oil and relight, it will release the fragrance for up to two hours. Or you could float some candles in a pretty bowl filled with water. Add a few drops of essential oil and some small fruits, for a lovely fragrance.

A cluster of candles in a open fireplace makes a good substitute for a real fire and gives a cosy ambience.

Create a warm glow, simply tie berries and foliage around empty jam jars and place a tealight inside. A few of these displayed along the mantel or a window ledge look amazing.

* Candles are very special at Christmas time ~ Traditionally the Christmas candle is a single large candle that is lit on Christmas Eve to burn throughout the night. Its representation is Christ, "The Light of the World," but it can also represent the star of Bethlehem. People in some countries place the Christmas candle in the middle of an Advent wreath with four smaller candles around the wreath. Each of the small candles are lit every week that leads up to Christmas, then the large Christmas candle is lit on Christmas Eve. In the 1800s, grocers and candle makers in England gave loyal customers a large Christmas candle as Christmas gifts.

* Always be candle safe - never leave lit candles unattended.

D. Moss