HERBS AND BEAUTY

Greater awareness of our environment, talk about ecology and the interest in natural foods have started to turn back the clock. Old-fashioned and even ancient cosmetic recipes are now being sold alongside mass-produced preparations, and with their fresh-as-a-bright-spring-day aura they make us feel cosseted and cherished, in a purely natural way.

Many of these preparations are easy to make at home; looking round the garden or out on a country walk you will have come across many of the herbs used to scent oils and creams, to lighten or darken hair, soothe dry or tired skin and generally make you feel more beautiful. About a cupful of any of the herbal infusions will scent the bath and give you a languorous feeling of luxury. Herb oils, too, can be added to bath water. Even a few drops will make the very steam carry the fragrance, and be a gentle treatment for a dry skin. You can add flowers and herbs in other ways: scatter a handful of rose petals, herb leaves or rose- or lemon-scented geranium leaves on the water. It’s a rather lovely feeling to have them float by you. Experiment with any scented flowers or leaves you like, but avoid mint; it tends to smell more medicinal than cosmetic in these circumstances. Camomile, lavender and, perhaps best of all, elder flowers are exquisite. Hang a muslin bag filled with lavender flowers or a mixture of herbs under the shower spray. This will be quite enough to scent the room. Be your own cosmetician and add a few drops of herb oil to an unperfumed cold cream, or simply pound some leaves in a mortar and pestle to extract the juice and blend it with the cream. Pat your face with an infusion of nettles; it is a refreshing and mild astringent. Rinse blonde hair in camomile tea to bring out the highlights, brown or auburn hair in rosemary tea to strengthen the colour. And for a soothing face pack, stir crushed elder flowers into natural yoghourt.

Making your own cosmetics, simply and naturally, is a beautiful way to use the flowers and leaves from your garden.

Tussie mussies

English: A bowl of dried bay leaves for use in...
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The subject of sweet-smelling herbs and flowers would not be complete without a mention of tussie mussies, the herb posies still traditionally carried into court by judges in England. Until the eighteenth century, these posies, like pomanders, were carried to ward off unpleasant smells and, it was thought, as a protection against infection.

The little nosegays can be made up of any combination of scented flowers, herbs and leaves, either fresh or dried . Set in a small wine glass or pottery jar, they make an attractive decoration beside each place at a dinner party, a welcome surprise on a breakfast tray or a long-lasting floral decoration in front of the looking-glass on a dressing table. They usually have a small, dried flower in the centre; nothing could be prettier than a tightly curled rosebud. There is something of the feeling of a Victorian posy about tussie mussies in the way that the herbs, leaves and other flowers, if any, are arranged in tight rings round the centre flower. Strong contrast in both texture and colour is important.

Silvery green feathery leaves, such as artemisia or centaurea maritima, for example, could be encircled by lemon verbena or mint; then spiky leaves again, perhaps rosemary or lavender, and an outer layer of rose- or lemon-scented geranium leaves, sage or young bay leaves. If fresh herbs are used and the posies left undisturbed, the leaves will dry and retain their scent. It is best to dry the rosebud first in a chemical preparation . The containers are simple glass spice jars, each given a collar of non-hardening modelling clay pierced with holes to take the stalks. Another way of doing it would be to wire each posy into a bunch and stand it to rest on top of the jar.

A white lawn daisy in the centre, turned pale lime green after drying in desiccant, is surrounded by dried red and pink daisies. Outlining the flowers, white latifolia, then thyme and rosemary.

Another daisytype flower, ringed by sprigs of thyme, deep purple lavender, and four pale green Bells of Ireland heads. The outer layer is bay leaves coaxed to lie almost flat.

Pale grey lavender leaves cluster round the central feature, a coral rosebud dried in desiccant. After that, pale mauve lavender flowers and bay leaves set almost upright, giving a quite different perspective. This is also shown in the picture opposite.

Three white daisies faded to greeny yellow, dried primula and forsythia, with pale grey lavender leaves, thyme and an outer hoop of green Bells of Ireland.

If, while you are preserving your plant material, you feel like a cup of tea, you will have a wide choice right there in front of you. For the fresh or dried leaves, flowers and seeds of many herbs and other plants can be infused in boiling water to make a refreshing tisane. These infusions have their origins long before tea was imported from India, Ceylon and Chinaand were popular long after too, for the imported leaves were so very expensive. Tisanes were accredited by their devotees with many healing powers and were taken in good faith as aids to digestion, headaches, catarrh, colds, nervous disorders, insomnia and fatigue-for just the same reason that a nice cup of tea is offered today.

The general rule when making herbal teas is to allow one teaspoon of dried herbs or three teaspoons of fresh herbs for each cup and, in each case, an extra one “for the pot”. They can be made just as ordinary tea. First warm the pot, add the seeds, flowers or crumpled leaves, pour on boiling water and leave to infuse from 5-15 minutes. You can use a teapot, a jug or a cup; the infusion will need straining before serving. If sweetening is needed, honey and not sugar is usually added. Part of the beauty of these teas is in the gradual deepening and strengthening of a colour which is never more than delicate. Here are the directions for making a few of the most popular herb teas.

Angelica Tea Use only fresh, young leaves, in the proportion recommended above- three teaspoons for each cup, plus one extra. Infuse for 5 minutes before straining and serving.

Basil Tea Use fresh or dried leaves; serve hot, or cold with an ice cube and a sprig of the fresh herb.

Bergamot Tea Use either fresh or dried leaves; add 1 heaped teaspoon dried leaves when making a pot of China tea.

Borage Tea Use dried flowers. One heaped teaspoonful to 1 pint (2 1/2 cups or 0-56 litre) of boiling water. If you do not grow them, you can buy them from some chemists or herbalists. Allow about 30 dried flowers to 1 pint {2 cups or 0-56 litre) of boiling water. Infuse for 15 minutes. Sweeten, if at all, with honey.

Camomile has a varied fan club: Brer Rabbit liked it; Talleyrand expressed himself very partial to camomile tea, and it was a favourite of Queen Adelaide! Clover Tea Use dried flower heads. One teaspoon for each cup. The red clover, which is the State flower of Vermont, makes an especially delicate tisane.

Marshmallow Tea Use dried flowers. The infusion is an attractive sugaralmond pink and has one of the most delicate flavours.

Meadowsweet Tea Use fresh or dried leaves and flowers. Gerard wrote: “The flowers and leaves of Meadowsweet farre excelle all other strowing herbs… for the smell thereof makes the heart merrie and joyful and delighteth the senses.” Nettle Tea Use dried flowers of the white nettle. Allow slightly less than the usual 1 teaspoon per cup. The flavour is stronger than most.

Orange Blossom Tea Use dried orange blossom, a teaspoon to a cup. Sweeten with orange flower honey.

Tansy Tea Use dried flowers and leaves in the usual quantities.

Violet Tea Use dried flowers, a teaspoon to a cup. Violet tea was a favourite of the Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria, and was often served in the Royal drawing rooms. Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin all have the violet as their State flower.

Yarrow Tea Use fresh leaves and flowers.

Herb flowers and leaves can be infused in vinegar or in oil, too. They give a distinctive flavour which will make a subtle but important difference to salad dressings, sauces and marinades. Flowers infused in syrup or in dry sugar give the opportunity to add a range of delicate flavours to puddings and confectionery. And, incidentally, flowers or petals covered in sugar emerge dried; the sugar draws out both the moisture and the aroma. The following suggestions will give a general guide to the basic principles and ideas for adap-tation with the herbs and flowers you can find.

Burnet Vinegar Dry the seeds of salad burnet. Grind 1/2-ounce (about 2 tablespoons or 14 g) dried seed in a mortar. Pour 1 quart (40 fluid ounces or T3 litre) warmed red or white wine vinegar over the seed and transfer into a bottle. Tightly cork the bottle and leave in a warm place for 10 days, shaking daily. Strain through filter paper or doubled muslin and discard the seed. Transfer the vinegar to a fresh bottle and keep tightly corked. The vinegar is a welcome addition to dressings for green salads, especially chicory. In Italy, where burnet is called Pimpinella, there is a saying: “The salad is neither good nor fair, If Pimpinella is not there.”

Coriander and Dill Vinegar can be made with the seeds in the same way. Peach Blossom Vinegar Dry peach blossom that has been blown from the tree. Take about 1 ounce (28 g) dried flowers. Pour on 1 pint (0-56 litre) warmed vinegar, transfer to a bottle and cover tightly. Stand in a warm place, preferably on a sunny windowsill, for at least 14 days. Taste. If the flavour has not penetrated the vinegar sufficiently, repeat with more dried blossoms. Strain into another bottle and cover.

This method can be used with dried blossoms of other fruit trees. The flower vinegars have a delicate flavour and are particularly good when making pavlova or in dressings for green salad.

Tarragon and other Herb Vinegars Use fresh herb leaves. Infusing in vinegar is, indirectly, a way of preserving the leaves in near-fresh condition. Gather the leaves on a dry day and, in the case of flowering herbs, just before the plants come into full bloom. Allow about 2 cups of leaves to each 1 quart (40 fluid ounces or 1-3 litre) of vinegar. White or red wine vinegar is best for tarragon, marjoram, summer savory and basil. Use cider vinegar or distilled vinegar for mint, lemon balm and borage. Malt vinegar can be used, but gives a “rounder” result. Wash and dry the leaves and pack them into a wide-necked glass jar, with a ground-glass stopper or screw top. Pour in the vinegar and cover. When using fresh leaves, do not warm the vinegar. Cover the jar and leave it in a warm or sunny place for about 10 days. Shake or stir daily. Strain away the herbs and funnel the vinegar into bottles and cork tightly. For extra flavour and effect you can add a sprig of the appropriate fresh herb. Rose Vinegar Fill a jar with red damask petals and press them well down. Cover with white wine vinegar. Cover jar and leave in a warm place for about a month, shaking or stirring every two or three days. Strain the vinegar, pour into bottles and cork. Alternatively, use about 1 cup dried damask rose petals and 1 pint (20 fluid ounces or 0-56 litre) warmed white vinegar. Rose vinegar gives piquancy to fruit syrups, particularly fruit salad, and can be used in salad dressings or Turkish dishes.

Rosemary Vinegar Use the dried flowers. Take 2 heaped teaspoons, add 1 pint (20 fluid ounces or 0-56 litre) warmed vinegar, transfer to a bottle and cover tightly. Leave in a warm place for at least 14 days, shaking daily. Strain, transfer to a fresh bottle and keep corked. Herb Oils Infusions of herbs in edible oils such as olive, sunflower or corn oil must not be confused with the plant oil extracts used in making pot-pourri . To make herb oil use fresh herb leaves in the proportion 2 heaped tablespoons to 1/2-pint (10 fluid ounces or 280 ml) oil. Pound the leaves in a pestle and mortar, or put them in a blender. Put the herbs and oil in a 1-pint (half-litre) bottle (it is important that the container should be no more than three-quarters full). Add 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar. Cork the bottle and stand it in strong sunlight-on a south- or east-facing windowsill-for between two and three weeks, shaking it at least twice a day. Sunlight has a very beneficial effect on herb oils, so try to be your own meteorologist and start them at the beginning of a heatwave. If you strike a bad patch of weather, stand the bottles in a little water in the top of a double boiler and heat gently for a few hours each day for a week. Strain the herbs from the oil, crushing all the moisture from the leaves. Add a sprig of fresh herb to each bottle and store tightly corked.

Herb oils using basil, fennel, rosemary, tarragon and thyme are invaluable in all kinds of dishes. Besides the obvious salad dressing and marinades, they can be used when preparing poultry, meat and fish casseroles, in the batter mixture for vegetable fritters and in sauces. A bunch of herbs, known as bouquet garni, is a practical way to add a blend of aromas and enhances the flavour of casseroles, soups, stews and sauces. Traditionally, the bouquet consists of a bay leaf and a sprig each of marjoram, parsley and thyme. For convenience, the bouquet can be tied up in a small square of muslin, or sewn into a tiny sachet or bag, just as one makes lavender bags. It is easy, then, to remove the herbs before serving a dish. A box of these tiny sachets, offering the fragrance of your garden, would make a most welcome gift for an enthusiastic cook.

Rose Water is often called for in pudding, ice cream and syrup recipes. Again, it is not very easy to buy, but with a bed of red damask roses (or, indeed, any scented roses) in the garden, you can easily make it. Pick the roses before the petals start to drop. Pull off the petals and fill them to the top of a fireproof pan or casserole. Push the petals well down with the back of a spoon and fill up the vessel with water. Bring to simmering point without allowing to boil. Maintain this temperature for about an hour. Strain off the petals and replace with fresh petals. Simmer for a further hour, strain and bottle. Keep tightly corked under refrigeration. Rose Syrup Put 1 pint (20 fluid ounces or 056 litre) of warm rose water into a pan, add 2 lb (900 g) of caster sugar and stir over gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Pour into bottles, cork tightly and keep in the refrigerator. The syrup can be poured over sweet pastries, added to whipped cream as a filling for meringues and used in ice creams and numerous other puddings.

Camomile Syrup Use dried camomile flowers. Put 4 ounces of flowers in a jar, add 3 pints (60 fluid ounces or T7 litre) of boiling water and cover. Allow to stand for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain through filter paper or doubled muslin. Pour into a pan, add 3 lb (T35 kg) granulated sugar and stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Cool, bottle and cover. Keep under refrigeration.

Poppy Syrup is made in the same way. Use 4 ounces dried poppy petals to 2 1/2 pints (50 fluid ounces or T4 litre) of water. After filtering, add 3 lb (1-35 kg) granulated sugar.

Rose Petal Sugar Use dark red rose petals, gathered on a dry day. Pack them loosely into a wide-necked jar and fill the jar with caster sugar, packing to within 4-inch (13 mm) of the rim. Cover the jar and leave for 8 days, stirring daily. Pour the sugar through a sieve to remove the petals and spread it on a baking tray. Dry in a very low oven and store in an airtight container.

Rosemary Sugar Wash and dry a handful of rosemary sprigs. Place in a jar and fill with caster sugar to within 4-inch (13 mm) of the rim. Cover the jar and shake or stir well. Leave for 6-8 days, shaking or stirring daily. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Use the sugar in egg custards and sweet puddings.

Bay Sugar and Lavender Sugar can be made in the same way, with sprigs ot bay leaves and sprigs of lavender leaves and flowers. Pick the lavender before the seeds ripen. Mint Sugar This is a way of preserving mint in sugar and results in “instant” mint sauce; you simply mix equal parts of mint sugar, boiling water and vinegar. Wash, drain and dry the mint leaves. Strip from the stalks and chop finely. Fill a jar with alternate layers of chopped mint and sugar, finishing with sugar. Cover the jar and leave for 5-6 days when the mint sugar will be ready to use. Keep covered.

Parsley Honey If ever a clump of parsley has gone to seed almost overnight, without your noticing it, here’s a way to turn it to advantage. Pick a handful of long stems, complete with leaves and seeds. Wash them and put them into a saucepan. Add water barely to cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag. For each 1 pint (20 fluid ounces or 0-56 litre) of water add 1 lb (453 g) granulated sugar. Stir over gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached. To test this, put a teaspoon of the liquid on to a cold saucer and allow to cool. Push a finger along the surface. If it wrinkles, the honey is ready. Pour into clean, warm jars and cover with waxed paper and Cellophane covers. Pickled Rosebuds Pick small, tightly furled rosebuds on a dry day. Wash and place in a wide-necked jar. Fill the jar with a mixture of one part granulated sugar to four parts white wine vinegar. Seal the jar with melted paraffin wax. Store in a dark place for about 4 weeks. Use the pickled rosebuds in salads; they are especially good mixed with cream cheese as fillings for sandwiches and pancakes. They can be served as sweetmeats after dinner or used to decorate cakes, ices and cold desserts.

Choose flowers in a variety of shapes and colours. Not all flowers are edible so check before you start. We suggest violets, primroses, rose petals and rosebuds, cowslips, narcissi, forget-me-nots, daisies, heather and the blossom of almond, plum, apple, cherry, pear and peach trees. Be sparing when you pick the blossoms, though; remember that you are sacrificing a fruit for a crystallised flower.

Put 1 ounce (28 g) gum arabic crystals into a bottle and cover with rose water or orange flower water. Cover and leave for at least 24 hours, shaking frequently. When the crystals have dissolved, tip the solution into a bowl. Using a fine camel-hair paintbrush, carefully paint each flower or petal so that it is completely covered. Be sure to work the solution right inside the whole flowers, and over both sides of petals. Tweezers are useful to hold the flowers while you work. Sprinkle the flowers or petals with caster sugar (or rose sugar), again making sure that they are well covered. Shake off any loose sugar. Spread out on sheets of greaseproof and dry in a warm, dry place such as an airing cupboard. Store in an airtight tin between layers of greaseproof paper.

Another method, though it is more subject to atmospheric conditions such as high humidity and therefore slightly less reliable, is to brush the flowers and blossoms with unbeaten egg white. Sprinkle them with granulated sugar and leave to dry. Store in an airtight tin. Preserved Angelica Cut young angelica stems; trim them to equal lengths. Boil the stems until tender. Remove from water and strip off outer skin. Return to pan and simmer slowly until the stems turn green. Dry well. To each 1 lb (453 g) of angelica, allow 1 lb (453 g) granulated sugar. Lay the stems in a dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Leave for 2 days then boil the sugar and stems together. Remove the stems, add a further 2 ounces (56 g) of sugar to the syrup and boil again. Add the angelica and reboil for a further 5 minutes. Drain the angelica. Spread it on a baking tray and leave in a cool oven to dry. Store in an airtight container. The angelica will provide the stems and leaves for decorations using the candied flowers.

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Patchwork pillows

A variation in the lavender bag theme, this pair of pretty patchwork pillows is made in lavender, pink and brown cottons trimmed with cream lace, and filled with sweet-scented lavender. The patchwork pattern, a traditional one, is called a variable star. It consists of five squares of equal sizethe deep pink one in the centre and the paler pink ones at the cornersand four squares each made up of four triangles. For the larger pillow, the squares are 2 inches (approximately 6 cm) and for the miniature one, VH inches (30 mm).

To make the pillows, you will need scraps of plain and patterned cottons, or silks, of equal weight. It is most important to choose all fine or all medium-weight fabrics as even the slightest difference in weight and thickness, when turned over the template, will alter the size of the patch and spoil the accuracy of the work. For the same reason, the fabric must be closely woven. Filmy, flimsy materials, or those with a stretchy open weave, are not suitable.

For this piecing method of patchwork, you cut a “template” or pattern for each patch, cut the fabric slightly larger all round than the card shape and tack the fabric firmly round the shape on all sides. The patches are joined together at the back, using overstitch and catching one or at the most two threads at a time. When all the sides of each patch have been sewn together, the tacking stitches and the templates can be removed. Patchwork is normally lined but this is not recommended for these scented pillowsthe thicker the cover, the less fragrance will be released.

To avoid confusion, draw the design of each pillow to scale, marking in each square and triangle. Number the shapes and then number your postcard shapes accordingly. Iron all materials before cutting out.

Begin by cutting a master template for each shape using a steel rule for absolute accuracy. Draw two diagonal lines across one square in each size to obtain the triangle template. Transfer these shapes on to card-old postcards are idealand cut out. Then using these shapes as your pattern and cutting out one at a time, cut a total of five squares and 16 triangles in each size. To cut out each shape from the cotton, place the card template on the straight grain of the fabric. In the case of triangles, place the base line, that is to say the longest side, on the straight grain. Do not try to get more patches out of a scrap of fabric by turning shapes so that they are cut on the bias; they would stretch and pull out of shape. With a pencil, draw carefully and accurately round the template on the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the shape with sharp scissors, allowing a turning all round of f-inch (10 mm) on the larger and 1/2-inch (7 mm) on the smaller patches. When you are using materials with a floral or other design, move the template along until the main part of the design, a flower, motif or whatever, is centred on the patch-in the fabrics we have chosen, however, this is not applicable.

Position the template again on the wrong side of each patch, taking care to centre it accurately so that the seam allowance is equal all the way round. Bring the seam allowance over the template and secure by taking long stitches from top to bottom of the patch, pulling the thread so that the fabric is taut but not stretched. Mitre each corner neatly and oversew securely. Then take long stitches on the seam allowance from side to side of the patch until the template is completely enclosed in a network of stitches. When working triangular patches, it might be necessary to snip a small piece away from each corner to achieve a neat finish. The narrow points of the triangles need particular care; do not worry too much about the appearance of the back of the work-slight “lumps” of turned over fabric are inevitable and will not show. When you have tacked all the patches round the templates, begin sewing the patches together, following the numbered scale drawing you made of the design. Using a fine needle and thread, take tiny oversewing stitches at the back of the patches . In this way, no stitching will be visible on the face of the work.

Snip out all the criss-cross tacking stitches and withdraw the templates when all sides of each patch are joined to the nextor when the piece is complete. Press the patchwork thoroughly under a damp cloth, opening out the seam allowances all round the edge of the square. You will then have one square approximately 8 1/2 inches (21cm) and one 3| inches (10 cm). Cut squares of plain cotton for the backing in exactly the same sizes, making certain to have one side of each square on the straight grain. On the backing cotton, turn over and press seam allowances corresponding to those round the patchwork squares. Pin each patchwork piece to its backing cotton, right sides together, and then machine round three and a half sides. Turn right side out. Sew the narrow scalloped lace round all four sides of each pillow. Stuff the pillows well with lavender flowers to give a good, plump appearance. Neatly oversew the openings.

Pot-pourri sachets Any fine sheer fabric would do equally well; scraps from an evening or bridal dress, or remnants of veiling, voile, lace or chiffon. The sachets can be made in any shape-round, oval, square, diamond, heart; the ones shown measure approximately 3 by 2 inches (7-5 by 5 cm). The organdie was used double in each case. This not only gives more protection to the petals but an interesting texture which catches the light in different ways. Besides the scraps of fine material, you will need approximately 1 yard (1 metre) of 1-inch (2-5 cm) wide scalloped and flowered lace for the trimming. Allow almost three times the perimeter of the sachet so that it can be luxuriously gathered. Then, enough 1/2-inch (7 mm) wide satin ribbon to outline the shape-approximately 12 inches (30 cm); tiny artificial flowers, such as bridal rosebuds or guipure lace daises; sewing thread. For each sachet, cut four pieces of organdie in the shapes you require. You can use a tin lid or a small box, perhaps, as a guide. Machine the four pieces together, allowing about 1-inch (7 mm) for the seam allowance and leaving an opening for the filling. Turn right side out. Use an orange stick or small nail file to push out the corners of squares or diamonds. Machine or run a row of stitching along the bottom edge of the 1-inch (2-5 cm) wide lace and gather it up so that it is the same length as the perimeter of the sachet. Carefully sew it in position round the sachet, frilling out the corners, if any. Sew the ribbon in position all round, covering the bottom of the lace trimming. Turn any corners at an angle, or ease ribbon round circular shapes. Loosely fill the sachet with dry pot-pourri. Oversew the opening. Sew flowers in position over the ribbon.

The sachets make delightful mini gifts, tucked inside a greeting card or sent with a thank-you letter. And if you are giving a present of lingerie or a pretty blouse, a sachet tucked in the folds would be almost as welcome as the gift itself.

Pink lacy pillow and heart-shaped cushion

The soft, romantic colours and the Valentine shape of the little cushion make this set a natural for musky red rose petals.

For the pillow you will need 1/2-yard (23 cm) pink lightweight cotton fabric, 36 inches (approximately 1 metre) wide (again, enough to make two pillows and one cushion); 15 inches (36 cm) 2 1/2-inch (6 cm) wide cotton lace trimming; 7 1/2 inches (19 cm) 1-inch (2-5 cm) wide; 15 inches (36 cm) 1/2-inch (7 mm) wide white scalloped lace; at least 1 yard (1 metre) 1/2-inch (13 mm) wide lace trimming for the edging; sewing thread.

For the heart you will need: 4 inches (10 cm) 1-inch (2-5cm) wide lace; 8 inches (20cm) 1/2-inch (7 mm) scalloped lace; at least 1-yard (70 cm) 1/2-inch (13 mm) lace for edging.

To make the pillow, cut two 7 1/2-inch (19 cm) squares of the cotton. Cut the 15-inch (36 cm) lengths of the widest and the scalloped lace in half. Turn under and press 1/2-inch (7 mm) seam allowance on one piece of the pink cotton, for the top and bottom edges. First tack and then hand sew or machine the lace in position. Now make up the cushion as previously described. Press 1/2-inch seam allowances on second fabric square. With right sides together, machine along three sides and half of the fourth side; turn right side out.

For the edging, cut two 18-inch (46 cm) lengths of the 1/2-inch (13 mm) wide lace. Take a running stitch, either by machine or by hand, along one long edge of each strip and gather up until each piece is just over 7 inches (18 cm) long. Turn in and stitch a narrow hem on each edge of the lace. Sew one strip by hand to each side of the cushion. Stuff the cushion with rose petals and oversew the opening. Cut out two shapes from the pink cotton. On the right side of one piece of the cotton, place the 4-inch long strip of 1-inch (2-5 cm) wide lace vertically in the centre. Outline this strip on each side with the 1/2-inch scalloped trimming. Tack in place and hand sew or machine. Press a scant -4-inch (7 mm) seam allowance round the two heart shapes and, with right sides together, machine round the edges, leaving a small opening at one side. Push a pencil point into the point of the heart to get a well defined shape. Pack the heart with rose petals and oversew the opening. Gather up the remaining strip of 1/2-inch (7 mm) wide lace until it is the right length to outline the heart shape.

Brown-ilowered pillow and dolly bag

We chose a pale cream Liberty cotton lawn printed with brown flowers. Any fine cotton with a small, all-over flower design would be suitable.

For the pillow you will need: 5-yard of 36-inch-wide (approximately 23 cm of 1-metre wide) fabric (this will, in fact, be enough to make two of the pillows and one dolly bag); 1 yard (1 metre) 1-inch (2-5 cm) wide coarse cream cotton lace; 24 inches (60 cm) g-inch (7 mm) wide pink baby ribbon; sewing thread.

For the dolly bag you will need: 9 inches (23cm) coarse cream cotton lace; 30 inches (76cm) 5-inch (7 mm) wide pink baby ribbon; sewing thread.

To make the pillow, cut two 7i-inch (19 cm) squares from the cotton. On all four sides, turn back and press a seam allowance of 3-inch (7 mm). With right sides of the material together, machine round three sides and along one half of the fourth side, leaving an opening to fill the pillow with petals. Turn the pillow right side out. Cut diagonally across the corner of one end of the coarse lace, neatly turn in a narrow hem and stitch it down with matching thread. Beginning at one corner of the pillow, oversew the lace to the cotton fabric with small stitches. As you reach each corner, make a crease diagonally across the lace from the corner of the pillow to the top of the lace and fold so that the corner forms a neatly mitred right angle. Catch along the fold with a few stitches to secure before continuing to oversew along the next side. When you are attaching the lace to the fourth side, be careful not to oversew the opening. Finish the lace by cutting at an angle, taking a small hem and sewing it to the first corner.

Pack the pillow with dry pot-pourri, using enough petals to give a well-rounded appearance, but not so many that they will be crushed to powder. Oversew the opening. Cut a 15-inch (36 cm) length of the narrow ribbon, tie into a bow with long, trailing ends and sew in the centre of one edge of the pillow.

To make the dolly bag, cut a piece of cotton 9 by 4- inches (23 by 11-5 cm). Press 1/2-inch (7 mm) seam allowance down the two long sides and press a 1-inch (2-5 cm) turning on each of the two short sides. Machine two rows of stitching, just over 1/2-inch (7 mm) apart, as a track for the threaded ribbon near the top of each of the short sides over the doubled up material. Sew the 1-inch (2-5 cm) lace on each end first, with the material on the right side. Then turn inside out and seam the edges, avoiding the spaces between the two rows of stitching forming the track. Turn right side out. Cut ribbon into two 15-inch (36 cm) lengths. Using a bodkin or large darning needle, thread one strip of ribbon through the track on each side. Stuff the bag with petals, draw the ribbons to close the top and tie in two bows. Stitch through each knot to secure. Cut the ends of the ribbon diagonally to prevent fraying.

Pot-pourri pillows and sachets

In the nineteenth century, herb pillows were used as “softeners”. At the first hint of an unkind remark, a glance out of place or any other sign that all was not well, a lady would turn her face to her herb pillow and look to it to soothe her jangled nerves. Herb pillows, or pot-pourri sachets tucked under a pillow, were used, too, to induce sleep-a less exhausting remedy for insomnia than counting sheep. Any pot-pourri made by the dry method, or single fragrances of dried lavender flowers or rose petals, are suitable to sew into tiny pillows, bags or sachets. For pillows and scatter cushions, choose lightweight cottons in romantic pastel colours or soft, spriggy floral prints, and for sachetsthe kind you will tuck into the folds of your lingerie-muslin, voile, organdie, lawn or fine net.

Dry Pot-pourri

For the dry pot-pourri method, dry the petals, flowers and leaves as described and mix together with 4 ounces of powdered orris root, the fixative, and any of the spices suggested in the “moist” recipeor with your own choice. Put into a covered container and leave for 2-3 weeks, shaking frequently, before putting into jars, scent bottles or bowls or sewing into sachets, dolly bags or tiny pillows.

If you like the idea of preserving a single scent, use the dry method. You simply dry the flowers or leaves, add a little spice for muskiness and orris root powder, the preservative. A tangy geranium mixture is made with 2 handfuls each of rose-scented and lemon-scented geranium leaves. Snip off the stalks, dry the leaves in the sun or in an airing cupboard and crumble them gently in your hands so they break up but do not go to powder. Add 2 dessertspoons ground allspice, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg and 1 ounce of powdered orris root.

To capture the scent of roses, take 4 handfuls of dried rose petals and 1 handful of dried mock orange blossom petals. Mix them together and add 2 ounces each of ground coriander seeds and powdered orris root and 1 dessertspoon of ground cinnamon. Mix well together.

Perhaps lavender bags are the best-known of all sweet-scented sachets, and, like pomanders, they can be hung in wardrobes or linen cupboards or put in drawers with lingerie and woollens. Pick the lavender heads just before they are fully in bloom. Gather them when the early morning dew has dried, but before the hot sun has drawn away some of the fragrance-morning coffee time seems to be about the best! Hang bunches of lavender upside down to dry; or stand in a little water. Lavender-coloured organdie or voile are the traditional materials to make lavender bags or you could follow our designs and make tiny sachets and cushions in patchwork, the design based on lavender-coloured triangles.

For those who would like to achieve the effect of a pot-pourri without the soothing therapy of preparing it, there is a chemical preparation which contains the effects of the flower oils such as lilac, violet, lily of the valley, orange blossom, rose, lavender, rosemary and others; spices from cinnamon to patchouli and frankincense, and fixatives including vetiver root and oakmoss, which enhance and preserve the perfume. You simply have to add one measure of this pot-pourri maker to one quart of dried petals and leaves, shake thoroughly and leave for 2-3 weeks to mature. The petals retain their colour and whether they were scented or not in the first place, take on the combined aromas of this modern mix.

Moist Pot-pourri, the modern way

You will need the equivalent of: 8 ounces flowers, leaves and herbs, mixed; 4 ounces com-mon household salt; 2 ounces powdered orris root; 1/2 ounce ground cinnamon; 1/2 ounce ground allspice; 1/2 ounce ground cloves; teaspoon grated nutmeg; thinly pared rind of 1 lemon and 1 small orange; 1 vanilla pod; flower oil or essence ; 1 teaspoon brandy (optional).

On a dry day, gather a total of 8 ounces of flower petals and heads, scented leaves and herbs. For their scent, choose fragrant red rose petals, picking them at their best before they are ready to fall, and a selection from summer jasmine, buddleia, carnation, rosemary flowers and lavender, and spring flowers such as wallflower, narcissus and hyacinth. For colour and shape, choose violets (which quickly lose their scent), pansies, marigolds and florets of larkspur and delphinium. Adapt this list to a well-balanced mixture of fragrance and colour from the flowers available, according to the season and what you have in your garden.

For the scented leaves, choose from bay, thyme, sage, marjoram, verbena, balm, bergamot, mint, rosemary, rose-scented and lemon-scented geranium leaves. Strip the petals from large flowers and leave the small ones whole. Spread them on small box lids, each flower type separate, and leave in hot sun to dry. Bring indoors overnight and put in the sun again the next day. The flowers will dry at different rates, according to their size and moisture content. As each type dries, put into a lidded container or a tightly closed polythene bag. Strip the leaves from their stalks, shred the larger ones, spread on box lids or trays and dry in the same way. Although sun-drying is the most natural and successful way, you can dry the materials in an airing cupboard, keeping a close watch on them and bringing them out when they become as crisp as cornflakes. In very windy weather this method is obviously preferable. Do not try to hasten the process by drying in front of direct artificial heat, such as an electric fire. This will draw the fragrance from the plants.

When all the petals, flowers and leaves have dried, put them in a large earthenware con-tainer with a lid or a large lidded polythene bowl. Sprinkle the salt between each layer, stir well, cover and leave for 2-3 weeks, stirring occasionally. Then stir in the powdered orris root, ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg, the thinly pared lemon and orange rind, finely chopped, and the shredded vanilla pod. Lastly add 1 teaspoon of flower oils or essence, or culinary essence, depending on what is available where you live. We used Mary Quant Perfume Essence, which is sold in 0-13-fluid ounce bottles in a range of scents including honeysuckle, wistaria, Spring Blossom and Country Garden. For a luxurious touch, add 1 teaspoon brandy. Cover the jar again, shake well and leave to mature for a further 2-3 days.

When the pot-pourri is ready, put it into glasses, brandy balloons, pretty teacups or bowls-Chinese porcelain bowls are traditional. If the pot-pourri dries out, as it is likely to do, particularly if left uncovered in a centrally-heated room, sprinkle on a little more salt, flower oil or essence and stir well. It should be kept constantly moist.

Watering can

So much for arrangements and designs for the house, but what of the great outdoors? If we welcome our visitors in a porch beyond the front door, eat on the terrace, have drinks in a covered patio, spend leisurely family hours in an informal garden room, then all these areas deserve something of the attention to detail and the little finishing touches we lavish on the other rooms. An informal friendly looking display of natural materials provides instant softness, yet lasts season after season and doesn’t demand constant daily or weekly renewal or attention.

As an example, we chose to show a design of mainly dried material in an old brass watering can. Again, junk yard or scrap yard finds are ideal. If you can spot a gnarled old bucket, perhaps one that once belonged to a workman, an iron cooking pot or cauldron, a decorative piece of lead pipe, anything that looks right mid-way between the house and the garden, build your design around it.

It is not worth trying to make an arrangement of this kind without using some form of “mechanics”. The long stems will just fall sideways and ruin everything. The whole cavity of the watering can was filled with a dry artificial holding material; crumpled chicken wire or even dry sand could be used instead and would be more practical in a larger container. There is a block of the holding material in the mouth of the can and a rim, round the aperture, of non-hardening modelling clay (Plasticine). The height of the design is outlined first by the dried bulrushes of the reed mace, and then by the browny sprays of great water grass. On the right, a criss-crossing pattern of the seedheads of corn-onthe-cob (maize) is used naturally just as it grows, to look as if it is being blown first this way and then that in the wind. Cock’s foot grass makes neater, straighter outlines and teasels give weight and side definition.

The central feature, like any child’s painting of the sun, is a beautiful specimen of an artichoke head. To achieve this clarity, the dried seedhead was carefully manicured with tweezers to rid it of all the damaged or slightly discoloured “petals”. Repeating the artichoke shape in miniature, there is a generous scattering of the corn and white daisylike everlasting flowers, xeranthemum. The misty background, against which all the other material shows up clearly, is provided by the dried fluffy seedheads of old man’s beard, contrasting sharply in texture with the hard, silvery honesty seedheads. Long, curving sprays of lamb’s ear (stachys) introduce a different shape-clusters of white woolly leaves at intervals along a stem. The last of the dried materials with, as it happens, much the same formation, are the stems of lavender, looking dark and significant amongst so many neutral tones. Finally, the pale brownness of the material preserved in glycerine. On the left there is a clutch of sweet chestnuts, round and spiky like huge, overgrown burrs, preserved together with the catkins on the twig, and behind them, and through the centre, sprays of glistening chocolate-coloured mahonia leaves.

Copper cooking ware, if used in the oven or on top of the stove, is heavy on maintenance because contact with heat quickly tarnishes the metal and it needs constant cleaning. If you use yours to hold dried plant material when it will never come into contact with water, cleaning will be cut to a minimum. However, your bargains might be in need of care and attention when you find them-indeed, the more tarnished they are the more likely you are to acquire them at bargain prices. If copper has taken on a bluish green colour, it is most effectively cleaned with a paste of well-powdered chalk and methylated spirits. Rub on the paste, leave it until the spirit has evaporated and the chalk becomes dry again, then remove and polish with fresh finely powdered chalk. Damp spots on brassware can be removed and the metal restored with a mixture of powdered chalk and spirits of turpentine. Badly tarnished copper, not yet at the green stage, can be restored by rubbing with half a lemon dipped in salt. Wash the copper thoroughly, dry it well then polish with a soft cloth. This treatment has the advantage of removing stains without robbing the metal of the patina of age, such an attractive feature of old metalware.

To prevent further oxidation, you can lacquer both brass and copper so that the metal will stay as bright as it was when you last polished it. To do this, polish well, brush away any traces of polish in crevices or indentations and rub with a soft cloth.

As you restore or polish your pieces of old copper and brass, you might discover mottoes or, at the least, the maker’s initials inscribed on them; or find, amusingly, that unsuitable repairs have been made in the course of time. This would not be surprising, because the travelling tinkers in the nineteenth century, who went from village to village and town to town offering their services, often repaired copper and brass with more enthusiasm than skill. But their cry, one of the Victorian cries of London, “Any pots or pans to mend?” is nostalgically evocative of the age; their work lives on and has preserved for us so many of the utensils we enjoy searching for today.

Making pot-pourri is a wonderfully romantic way of storing up memories of the fragrance, colour and beauty of a garden. Lifting the lid from a bowl of dried petals and leaves is like taking the stopper off a bottle of expensive scent; yet infinitely more personal, because you can make pot-pourri from your own favourite flowers and scented leaves, spices and oils. You can even keep the recipe, if you wish, a closely guarded secret, as our grandmothers often did. There are two kinds of pot-pourri, made by what are known as the dry and the moist methods. The dry method could not be simpler. !t is just dried petals and leaves, a sprinkling of spiceany spiceand a little fixative stirred together and left to mature.

But the moist method is the one with the romance and charm of ages past. A hand-written recipe from 1660 calls for ingredients long since disappeared from our shop shelves, but it is worth recording here for the poetic way it evokes the age when the large houses and castles had a Lady of the Pot-Pourri-surely one of the most sentimental and rewarding positions in the household. “Take one pound of rose petals, spread out and sprinkle with salt. Leave for two days until the petals are like leather, and the colour will have faded a little. Put the petals and salt into a large jar and sprinkle with two ounces of oil of bergamot. Stir in two ounces of the powder of the orris root and one ounce of gum benzedrine. Add one ounce each of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, all powdered. Then one ounce of angelica root, a few drops of oil of musk, and leave for some days. Stir in thin slices of the peel of two lemons. Put a lid over all and leave for some more days, perhaps one month, stirring when you will.”

Just as we can find inspiration from early cookery books, so we can adapt recipes such as this and make use of ingredients we can buy now. The principle of making moist pot-pourri is to mix dried petals, flowers and leaves with common salt, add a fixative such as powdered orris root or gum benzedrine (both still available), spices and flower oils. The traditional pure extracts of musk, bergamot, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, thyme, violet and attar of roses are not easy to come by now; when you can find them in old-fashioned shops with an aura of nostalgia, they are expensive. However, we have experimented with a range of oil-based perfume essence. This gives excellent results and was pronounced by a pharmacist we consulted to be the purest flower oil he had tested in years. We even tried culinary essences such as lemon, vanilla and almond; you can use lemon juice and brandy, too. With the addition, in the moist method, of these oils and essences, it is not as important to choose petals and leaves for their fragrance, as this will be enhanced and enriched by the oils. You can, therefore, include in your mixture a high proportion of flowers, like larkspur florets and marigolds, pansies and nasturtium, chosen simply for their colour or shape. Pot-pourri can be an on-going art and is by no means confined to summer flowers. You can dry the sweet-smelling spring flowers and store them in sealed polythene bags or lidded boxes ready to be blended with the summer blossoms as they come. As you add more flowers to your pot-pourri from time to time, add a little more orris root powder and spice, a few drops of flower oil or essence and bring your pot-pourri to life all over again.

Window arrangement

Copper and brass ware which was originally in use in the kitchens of large country and town houses seems to have a particular affinity with preserved berries, fruits and herbs. The colour

In this arrangement, the height is provided by five sprays of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) grouped together into a narrow column. The herb was preserved in a halfand-half mixture of motor car anti-freeze fluid and water ; this treatment turns the stems silvery grey and leaves a deep blue-mauve. After several months, there is a tendency for the leaves to deepen further to blue-brown, still an attractive contrast to the light-coloured stems.

The blackberries, in two long sprays, were preserved by the same method. The fruit partially dries out and loses a little size and gloss, but remains essentially berrylike, providing one of the most interesting textures in preserved materials. The blackberry leaves are silver on the underside and deep brown on the face.

The rose hips, sprays of rowan (Sorbus) leaves and berries and bright yellow fruits of the holly were treated for about one week in a solution of anti-freeze and water. Colour retention in the fruits is good, but partial loss of moisture and withering is inevitable. However, painting or spraying with a clear lacquer after treatment does improve preser-vation. After a time the yellow berry fruits of the holly (Ilex Bacciflava) deepen to a gold tinted with amber, with the leaves a well-contrasting yellow-brown. Further interesting texture is provided by slender twigs of silver birch, with both the small young leaves and the catkins turning a pale nut brown after treatment in glycerine solution. The rhododendron sprays were preserved complete with young, tightly furled buds. After treatment in glycerine both buds and leaves are tough and papery; the buds yellow-brown and the leaves still green but flashed with dark brown. The large spiky yellow leaves of Helleborus corsicus have a tendency to crinkle and look rather squashed after treatment in glycerine mixture. If this happens, it is easily and quickly remedied by holding the leaves over the steam from a kettle for a few moments. They will emerge shiny and supple again.

The two large leaves of fatsia japonica, giving width and weight on each side of the arrangement, were preserved in glycerine solution and, like the Helleborus corsicus, emerge in shades of yellow, olive green and brown. Fatsia leaves treated in a solution of anti-freeze and water remain just as soft but take on a deeper colouring.

Behind the rosemary, at medium height, are two examples of maple (acer) leaves, one yellow coloured and the other deep coppery brown. The leaves were preserved in glycerine solution. The copper one retained its suppleness, but the yellow one became slightly brittle and needed steaming.

Covering the handle of the pan there is a long spray of glycerined ivy (Hedera). In order to achieve the desired shape, with long, gentle curves, the stem was lightly bound with florist’s wire. With shorter sprays, or where the stem was to be used in an upright position, this would not be necessary.

The mechanics for an arrangement of this type have to be firm enough to support both long and thick stems. A pinholder in the base of the pan supports a block of artificial holding material. This is covered with crumpled chicken wire. For extra security, this can be wired to the pan.

Any shallow, dished piece of copper would be suitable for an arrangement of this kind-a frying pan, saucepan, rice scoop, or the pan from a pair of balance scales. If the container has a side handle, the design should incorporate the handle and partly overlap it. In the design photographed, the outline is almost an equal triangle with the dominant colour, provided by the red berries, carried in a straight line down the centre and out to each side.

Samovar display However, few of us would use one these days for its original purpose, to serve tea, and it is an ideal container for a large and rather dramatic display of dried material.

The container was filled with a block of artificial holding material and the outline shape put in first with ears of dried corn-oats and barley in this case. Between the corn, and softer in silhouette, are long sprays of dried sea lavender.

An inner circle of large dried poppy seedheads, as pale in colour as the corn, provides the third significant shape: after straight lines and sprays of small papery flowers, now clearly defined rounds.

Depth of colour is given, diagonally across the arrangement, by the sprays of glycerine-preserved mahonia leaves, the chestnut brown of the lower ones almost blending in with the colour of the copper itself. On the left, a spray of beech leaves, also preserved in glycerine, as a point of interest: it is complete with a cluster of partly opened husks. The dried creamy-green seedheads of giant hogweed, like showers of falling rain, are the central focal point; they are also taken outwards to the edge of the design. Next to these, there are the parchment-coloured spikes of dried thistles and around them, in tight clusters extending to the back of the arrangement, the dried ripe seedheads of stonecrop (sedum). This plant, which has a mass of pink flowerheads in the summer and autumn, is a subtle pinky-grey when dried.

Like clouds of smoke behind the stonecrop are sprays of smoke tree which, in this design, echo the soft, muted feeling of the tapestry screen background.

The only bright colour is the rich burnished bronze of the dried helichrysum (straw daisies). Since these flowers are, in fact, the smallest of the material used, several are needed to make an impact.