In the 18th century, most ladies had their own special recipe of potpourri that was handed down from mother to daughter. A good formula could last as long as fifty years if kept in a light-tight jar. Since oils were not available back then, a method of fermentation was used by packing the flower petals in earthen crocks laden with salt and crushed with wooden spoons. The brew had to be stirred daily to avoid mold and weighted with a plate to age properly.  Although the fragrance was delightful, the cake of moist potpourri was not very pretty so covered baskets or opaque containers with perforated lids were used as shown in the photos above.

Taken from the The Scented Room written by Barbara Milo Ohrbach

Although most of us will not attempt this method of potpourri making, I find the whole process to be rather interesting and informing.  Perhaps I'll give it a try this summer when the apothecary roses are in full bloom.

Approximately 3 pounds flower petals - include some or all of the following


1/2 ounce powdered cinnamon

1/2 ounce powdered mace

1/2 ounce powdered nutmeg

1/2 ounce cut lemon peel

 2 ounces powdered orrisroot

1 ounce powdered gum benzoin

several drops rose or rose geranium

essential oil (optional)


Rose petals


Lavender buds

Lemon Verbena leaves


Lemon Balm

Rose Geranium leaves

1 pound coarse, non-iodized salt 


Adding Herb and Spice Mix
Now you are ready to add the herb and spice mixture. Combine the petal mixture with the herb/spice mixture in one bowl and blend with the wooden spoon.

Initially the potpourri may smell very "raw" to you, but the aging process is intended to correct this.
Return the ingredients to their crock and press them down with the dish/weight. Cover the crock with a piece of muslin and secure with a rubber band. Place the crock back in the closet for 6 weeks in order to age or mellow.

Remember that a moist potpourri smells much prettier than it looks.  The best container for this type of potpourri would be a porcelain or pottery receptacle with a perforated lid or  a loosely woven, lidded basket lined with aluminum foil.

Partially dry the flower petals (single layer) on a window screen or newspaper. Set in a dark, airy place such as a closet or under a bed. When petals become limp and have a soft, leathery texture, they are sufficiently dry.

Layering Petals and Salt
Place a layer of petals in a crock and sprinkle them with a layer of salt (a ratio of 3 to 1) to absorb moisture. Continue layering in that order until the crock is almost full. This can be done all at one time or over several weeks as you collect more petals.
Place a heavy weight on a plate and use this to push the petal/salt layers down into the crock. Cover and store the crock on an accessible shelf in a dry place.
Each day, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon then press down firmly and replace the plate and weight. Continue the daily stirring/pressing procedure until a dense caking of all the ingredients occurs. 

How Long Will it Last?
Some moist potpourris have been said to keep their lovely scent for fifty years - perhaps yours will, too!

Scented potpourri is pure aromatherapy,