So it’s that time of year again, and you’re thinking of gifts for special people in your life who deserve something nice. You may want to make something for friends, a neighborhood auction, teachers, scout leaders or your own home. A beautiful dish of potpourri may be the answer.

Potpourri is a fragrant mixture of dried flower petals and spices placed in a bowl or small sack to perfume clothing or a room.

You probably have seen and enjoyed the fragrance of this beautiful mixture, and you may have it in your home, but you may think the quantity of this concoction you would need to make a few gifts would cost more than your holiday budget allows. Think again.

The variety of ingredients for potpourri is limited only by your imagination. Look around your yard. Do you have roses, lilacs, cedar trees, eucalyptus, pine leaves, pine cones, camellias, hydrangeas or nandina bushes with berries? Variety in color and texture gives great visual appeal to your mixture. Herbs such as mint, rosemary, basil, cilantro, fennel, lavender and lemon balm are also a great addition.

Dried orange or lemon slices look pretty and smell divine, as do dried cranberries, blueberries and apple slices. Take a walk in the woods; you may be amazed at what you find that would add texture.

One suggestion for drying leaves and berries is to put them on a cookie sheet and bake in an oven set at 180 F. just until they are dry. The time varies from 10 minutes to two hours, depending on the items. If time permits, you can let them air dry.

To dry fruit, preheat the oven to 250 F. Slice the fruit into thin pieces and place them on a cookie sheet, not touching. Bake for 1.5 hours, and then open the oven door slightly so the fruit will continue to cook but the moisture can escape. Check every 15-20 minutes until the fruit is dry. Cool for 30 minutes.

Cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla and ginger from your pantry are great for enhancing the aroma, as are essential oils such as lavender and lemongrass. You may even use a drop of perfume for ladies or a favorite after shave for men.

Presentation is important, so place your potpourri in a container that fits the fragrance you have created. For a woodsy smell, you could use a clay pot wrapped with ribbon. For a bedroom or bath sachet, try soft, filmy lace tied with a bow. If using glassware, there’s no limit: use a favorite dish or a beautiful champagne glass. And for a nice finishing touch, add a small, unopened bottle of essential oil on top before wrapping.

A few basics to ensure your potpourri stays fresh and smells nice for months:

• If you are making dry potpourri, be sure all ingredients are dried before combining them.

• Use essential oils sparingly — two drops may be enough.

• Orris root powder can be added to make the aroma last several months. This can be found in most craft stores.

A simmering potpourri makes the house smell good and is easy to create with ingredients you may have on hand. Here is a simple recipe for that, and another using all dry ingredients:

Holiday Potpourri (for simmering)
¼ cup whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons dried lemon peel
2 tablespoons dried orange peel
3 bay leaves
Mix the ingredients and store in an airtight container. Mix 1/3 of mixture and 1 quart of water in a slow cooker or medium saucepan and simmer on low heat. Add water as needed.

Winter Dry Potpourri
2 cups dried rose petals
1 cup dried cedar or evergreen
½ cup dried nandina berries and ½ cup dried nandina leaves
1 cup dried citrus rind (lemon, orange or satsuma)
¼ cup crushed cinnamon
¼ cup crushed cloves
1 tablespoon dried, crushed orris root
A few drops of your favorite essential oil
Mix ingredients and store in a plastic bag or tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place for three to eight weeks, stirring the mixture weekly. Makes about six cups.

Upcoming gardening events (free and open to the public):
What: Mobile Master Gardeners
Monthly Meeting
When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 10-11:30 a.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
Topic: Winter Sowing and Milkweed, presented by Alice Marty

What: Lunch and Learn
When: Monday, Jan. 23, noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Jon Archer Center, 1070 Schillinger Road N., Mobile
Topic: Ionix Detox & Herbs for Health, presented by Carol Wattier and A.D. Hale