Luxury from the garden - Lilac infused oil
I have mostly chosen plants and shrubs with pink flowers (Peonies, Dicentra, Astrantia, Deutzia, Clematis, Honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, Lilac, Syringa palibin, and the dainty Saxifraga x urbium) and a few with white ones (Peonies, Rhododendron, Lily of the valley, Astilbe, Amelanchier, Philadelphus), dark reds (Peonies, Astrantia, Hollyhock) some violet (mostly Campanulas) and an occasional yellow (Primulas, Trollius, Rosa Friesia, Honeysuckle, Iris pseudacorous) and blue (Clematis Alpina, Iris sibirica, Geranium and Violas). I have a small Japanese maple with it's lovely aubergine foliage and a similarly coloured Viburnum diablo as well as my apple tree to contrast all the green foliage of the ferns and shrubs as well a a couple of Euphorbias, one lime green and one purple. So all in all I am pleased with the garden. I do miss some of the plants that I have tried many times to get to grow in my garden, but without success. Clematis montana, Anemone sylvestris and A. hupehensis and many, many Hellebores are among my many casualties. And all the Mediterranean herbs, Rosemary, Thyme and the lovely Lavender. I have killed them all repeatedly.
I am always interested in adding new plants, especially if they have a nice scent. I really, really like the ones that smell good and constantly bury my nose in them and inhale deeply. I have often lamented the fact that it isn't possible to make essential oils from some of the loveliest flowers like Honeysuckle, Lilac, Viola and Lily of the Valley to name but a few. But I have found a way to capture some of their scent to keep for the winter months. I infuse their flowers in oil. So now my kitchen tables are covered in flowers that I am drying slightly which I then intend to cover in olive oil.
I pick the flowers in full bloom when they smell the strongest. It is of course best to pick them in dry weather around midday, but before it gets hot, but beggars can't be choosers, so I pick them even when it rains. I just let them dry off a bit before I put them in a jar and pour oil over them, making sure the oil completely covers the flowers. I am using Olive oil now, but I have used Almond oil, Peach kernel and Sunflower oil as well as Jojoba. It is best to choose an oil that agrees with your skin and has a decent shelf life.
The important thing is to infuse the same oil at least three times. I let the flowers or petals sit in the oil for 2-3 days and then strain it and squeeze the plant material well with my hands to get all the oil back in the jar. Inevitably there is always some water that gets mixed up with the oil and it can look quite gunky. The smell of the oil may also be slightly off in the middle stages of this process. Don't let that bother you, all will be well. When the last flowers or petals have been strained out I let the oil sit for a bit and let the gunk sink to the bottom. I then use a Turkey baster to transfer the oil into the final squeaky clean container, be it a bottle or a jar. That way the oil is pristine and completely free from any impurities and the gunk is left at the bottom of the old jar. It may be a good idea to add some vitamin E to the oil and store it in a cool place to ensure that it keeps well. I use infused oils as a face serum and body lotion and I also use them in my creams. They make really nice gifts when bottled in pretty bottles with nice labels.
I am quite excited to be getting my first batch of Lilac oil. The lilac flowered quite profusely this year so I can sacrifice a few perfect flowers without denuding my shrub. Last year I made Lilac drink, which was really nice, but this year I am making infused oil from my Lilacs. I'm also in the process of making Rose oil and Calendula oil and will make some Honeysuckle oil as well when they flowers and another batch of Honeysuckle infused honey. I still have my rose oil from last year and it smells divine and I can't think of a lovelier way to start and end each day.