Shunned for decades as fusty and  unfashionable, grandma’s favourite potpourri has been making a surprising comeback – and finding a whole new generation of devotees. 

Some are spending serious money on top-end luxury brands, while others are discovering the fun of making their own.

Flower petals have been used for centuries to fragrance rooms – or to mask somewhat less appealing domestic odours.  Originally the petals would have been simply scattered liberally over floors, and it wasn’t until the early 17th century that the French came up with the idea of making them into a ‘pot-pourri’.  Ironically, this fancy-sounding term literally translates to a “rotten stew”, since the flowers and herbs were layered with salt and left to ferment for weeks or months on end, until the required fragrance had developed.

The Italians, too, have a long history of potpourri making, and the 300 years-old luxury apothecary blend Santa Maria Novella, featuring evocatively-scented leaves, buds and flower petals from the Tuscan Hills, is attracting new admirers both online and at its luxury stores in London’s  Mayfair and South Kensington.

Produced to the same recipe since the late 17th century, this  classic blend will set you back over £20 for a little 100g bag.  There’s also little terracotta jars containing 20 g of potpourri at nearly £30, and a luxuriously hand-painted statement pharmacy jar full costing up to £100.

However, this potpourri revival – along with the general upsurge of interest in heritage crafts – is also sparking interest in creating blends more economically at home.  This is certainly the best time of year to try drying the last of the flowers and herbs from your garden:  good ones include lavender, gypsophila, nigella and roses – just tie in bunches and hang upside down in the kitchen, ultilty room or a dry shed or outhouse.  

There are plenty of how-to guides online – so get drying and mixing, and come up with your own unique blend!