Pomander has several definitions, some much more used at present than long ago. Two types of pomanders existed in earlier times, especially the middle ages and the Renaissance. The first was a small case that held aromatic elements or even scented ingredients. It might be an elaborate silver ball or “apple,” hence the name which references the French term pomme with a clear crystal vase that would hold liquid scents. Many people thought that carrying such scents would protect from disease, and also given infrequent bathing and the odors of public places, pomanders might have had a very welcome and practical use.
In addition to carrying liquid scents, some pomander types were small containers into which fresh or fragrant smelling herbs could be added. Women and men, mostly of the upper classes, carried decorative cases that held either liquids or collections of scented items, and metals used were typically silver or gold. These decorative and fragrant balls could be attached to necklaces or to the waist, depending upon style and preference.
Another item called a pomander are various fruits, especially citrus fruits that are dried whole and studded with spices like cloves. These can help freshen the air, and they’re very easy to make given some whole cloves and a few oranges, lemons or tangerines. When the fruit is dried, the pomander can be hung from a ribbon and provides a natural and healthy way to make a home or a room smell sweet. Some people also make this type of pomander as a Christmas ornament.
For modern folk, pomander may conjure a completely different picture. Pomanders may refer to balls of flower arrangements, which can be hung from ceilings, carried as bouquets with a ribbon, or be a round ball floral centerpiece when attached to the appropriate base. All three are frequently used at weddings. Centerpieces of this type can be incredibly elaborate containing hundreds of flowers.
With artificial or dried flowers you can make these decorative pomanders at home too, as more than a temporary centerpiece. They can be lovely placed in clear glass bowls, and again you can make small ones to hang on Christmas trees or just for year round scent. If you use aromatic dried flowers, they may freshen a room just as effectively as the clove orange pomander does. Alternately you can keep an aromatic pomander in a drawer, especially in one dedicated to delicates, to keep clothing smelling fresh.