Fragrance is a highly prized feature in my garden. I select plants and shrubs based on their fragrances, such as the new perfumed Crown Jewel Gardenia PP19896 or the compact lemony Teddy Bear® MagnoliaPP13049, both from Garden Debut®. In addition to enjoying them on garden strolls, I have been using these flowers for more than thirty years to make fragrant gifts like potpourri, flower infusions and essential oils for use in herb crafts and perfumery.
Gardenia Perfume Oil, akso known as Scented Flower Infusion or Enfleurage
Making gardenia perfume oil, also known as flower infusion or enfleurage, is the craft of steeping flowers in a carrier oil in order to remove the scent from the petals and deposit it in the oil. It is a method of making essential oil or perfume oil by extracting the fragrance from selected scented flowers such as fresh gardenias submerging them in pure oil because they are too fragile to withstand heat-facilitated extraction.
Historically, flowers and fats (even rendered lard) were placed between glass sheets and pressed. Fat-soluble fragrance molecules in the thick petals dissolve and transfer their fragrance from the flowers into the oil they are soaking in. (Water-soluble fragrance molecules will not dissolve using this method; steam distillation is an entirely different process.) Essentialoilscompany.com notes that rose oil is a yellow or colorless liquid and the major component, phenyl-ethyl alcohol, is extracted from the petals in distillation.
Some recipes indicate specialty non-scented oils such as coconut, jojoba, almond, grape seed or safflower oil, later fixed with Vitamin E oil, but beginners can use any oil (such as baby oil or even hydrogenated vegetable fat such as Crisco) to try out the technique.
How to Make Flower Perfume Oil using Crown Jewel(R) Gardenia PP19896
Collect perfumed flowers
Remove green calyxes, leaving petals
Place flowers in a ceramic bowl or glass jar
Bruise or macerate petals slightly with a wooden spoon
Submerge them in a small quantity of non-scented oil; a ceramic bowl or mason jar is good for this step
Cover with a cup of oil and steep for a few days
Remove the first batch of fragrant petals using a very fine stainless steel tea strainer and repeat adding fresh petals, but re-using the same oil to increase the fragrance intensity
Strain any remaining petals or fragments from the oil using the stainless steel strainer; can add a small amount of vitamin E or tocopherol as a preservative
Bottle the finished flower perfume oil in a tightly closed glass bottle or an eyedropper bottle
Store at an even, cool temperature such as a fruit cellar
Use the gardenia enfleurage sparingly to scent dry potpourri, Epsom salts for the bath or glycerin hand lotion. Or add a small amount to high-test (150-proof or higher) alcohol to make cologne out of the infused oil.
In addition to gardenia flowers, magnolias, roses, lily-of-the-valley, lavender, lilacs and whatever fragrant flowers which appeal to the crafter can be used. All the aromatic herbs such as sweet marjoram, lemon verbena, oregano, basil, plus spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, may all be used to scent oils. On the internet today, Deborah Dolen points out that even saw dust (albeit from scented woods), can be used to make a perfume in a fatty Effleurage method. So give it a whirl.