Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Make Gardenia Perfume Oil with Crown Jewel(R) Gardenia PP19896

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.) 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.  

 I have a library of books on the topic of fragrant crafts and perfumes dating back to Ann Tucker Fettener’s Potpourri, Incense and Other Fragrant Concoctions published by Workman in 1977; Edwin T. Morris, Fragrance, the Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel by E.T. Morris & Company in 1984; Guiseppe Donato and Monique Seefried’s The Fragrant Past put out in association with an exhibition by Emory University Museum of Art and Archeology in 1989; Gail Duff’s Personalized Perfumes by Simon and Schuster in 1994; and Donna Maria’s Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions by Storey Books in 2000 (to name just a few my dozens). Each adds a different perspective or contributes additional knowledge to the mix. I'd like to hear about your crafting! 

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