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A Friendship Potpourri

by Carol Ness

Dried ingredients are gathered throughout the year to make potpourri.

If you love a garden filled with fragrance, then you would consider a friendship potpourri gathering a close second to heaven.

I recently attended the “Tenth Annual Friendship Potpourri” at the home of my premier gardening friend, Miz Kathy. It was only my second potpourri party, but the gathering is a treasured tradition for

the women who spend part of the gardening year getting ready for this day. They are true gardeners who begin their own seeds, grow lots of plants, and know what is needed to create the potpourri, tea, and culinary mixes they like to make each year.

While working in their own gardens during the summer and early fall, they dry peony or daffodil petals especially for the color they will add to a potpourri mix. They are skilled in the many uses of nature’s fruits -- mountain mint and apple peels make for a good tea, delicate rose petals are prized for potpourri, and parsley and peppers go together for a special culinary mix.

A wheelbarrow is used to mix rice, rosemary, sage, and lavender to make potpourri neckwraps.

We began the day by cutting the tips off of the branches of Sweet Annie and then, stomping a sheet full to get the rest of the seeds free from the branches. Then we stripped the flowers from a huge bunch of feverfew. As people arrived, so did their dried prizes. Rosemary, mint, sage, rose petals, rose hips, peppers, and lavender piled up quickly. It smelled heavenly.

Quickly folks began to sort out their goods. Oregano went on the culinary table near the sign that read “Food Grade.” Rose petals went on the ornamental table complete with its “Poison” sign. A brand new wheelbarrow (Kathy was especially proud of the wheelbarrow being used as a new kind of mixing bowl) awaited the ingredients to match the sign that read “Snakes – rosemary, lavender, sage, rice.”

Hand-sewn neckwraps are filled with potpourri to help easy away tension.

Beth brought hand sewn socks and covers for the neat “neck-wraps” we made to soothe away tensions from hectic days. Pat arrived with dried artichoke flowers just in case someone would like to take some home for a special project. She suggested spraying them with gold or silver paint. Gail brought homemade gift tags to go on each package

and beautiful ribbons to complete the festive gift look. She also brought homemade honey and proudly displayed a jar of rose hips – a special tea ingredient. Toots provided the essential oils to go into the potpourri mixes -- they added a punch to the already fragrant herb mixes. She showed us her special find, a bag of strawflowers. “Three dollars, can’t grow them for that,” she added.

People gravitated to their favorite area and began checking out the possibilities. Soon, Toots, Rachel, and Susan were mixing big bowls of potpourri with speed and know how, using rose petals, cedar, lavender, straw flowers, gomphrena, pinecones, and more. A few of us who were new to the scene moved from one station to another, helping where we were needed to mix, package, label, or come up with an appropriate name for the newly mixed concoctions.

Working together is part of the fun at a potpourri party.

Selecting names for our special concoctions is a great part of the fun. Some names are perennial favorites, like “Med-Head” tea. It’s the tea to drink when you’re feeling under the weather and have those winter flu-like symptoms. There was a very pink potpourri mix that needed a name; we called it “Pink Perfume!” My favorite name this year was the

“Rose-a-Sherri” potpourri named for my friend Sherri, the newest “Rosarian Consultant” in her Richmond Rose Society Club. She’s serious about her roses. We were lucky that she brought prizes from her collection of 70 rose bushes, including a huge batch of dried rose petals and rose buds for potpourri and a few specialties from her fall rose crop, such as “Today,” a beautiful, fragrant orange rose.

Lastly, we gathered at the wheelbarrow and mixed rice, lavender, rosemary, and sage, along with some essential oils and filled the pre-sewn sock liners half-full, sewing the ends shut. We put each inside a plastic bag where we were instructed to let them “cure” for a month or so to absorb the oils, or as my mother used to say, “let them get used to themselves.”

A few finishing touches and the project is complete.

Looking around, I noticed that the mixing bowls were empty, the tables were empty, and the boxes with our names on them were full. We were done! The smells of mingling herbs lingered as we smiled with great contentment. For this group of friends, the finished product was a box full of beautifully packaged potpourri, tea, and kitchen spices.

If we can part with the wonderful smelling packages we made on that glorious day, we’ll have a lot less holiday shopping to do.

That evening I was flipping through an herb book with projects to do throughout the year and turned to a page that had some dried leaves marking its place. On the page was a paragraph called “Friendship Potpourri.” It was an idea about getting together with friends, bringing dried herbs, making potpourri, and taking some home. I pointed it out to Kathy. She smiled and said, “Yep, that’s where I got the idea!” The author would be proud to see what Miz Kathy has done with his idea. He would love it. We sure do! We all hope to continue this tradition even when we are little old ladies. We’ll gather together to remember the good ‘ol days and sit happily with our strange looking sock-like things wrapped around our necks.


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