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Scents & sensibility


Once upon a time, potpourri was a popular way to freshen up a space. Now, for some, it feels a bit like the lava lamp of fragrance: an outdated fad from a bygone decade.

So, why was potpourri so popular in the 1980’s, and what happened to it? Did the trend dry up… or just evolve?

We explore the transformation of potpourri, from the fermented mush of the Victorian era to the perfumed and colorful bag of pine cones of the eighties, and talk to a few of the people still making potpourri today.

This episode was originally published in September 2021.

Featuring Yvette Weaver, Carly Still, Laure Moutet, Autumn Anderson, Paulus, and Ednita Tingle.


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An 1895 recipe from Sweet from Sweet Scented Flowers and Fragrant Leaves for 50-year moist potpourri (the recipe begins on page 42).

From Death Scents: more fascinating info on the history of medieval trends that predate potpourri and the rise of “rotten pot” potpourri.

Fragrant Potpourri Preserves the Floral Scents of Summer: A 1975 NYT article that bridges the gap between moist and dried potpourri recipes.

A 1988 Glade Potpourri Spray commercial


Hosted by Justine Paradis

Reported and produced by Taylor Quimby

Edited by Justine Paradis

Executive Producer: Rebecca Lavoie

Mixed by Taylor Quimby

Additional editing by Felix Poon and Jessica Hunt

Special thanks to Rosalyn LaPier, Mark Nesbit, and to NHPR’s voices from the ‘80s: Nick Capodice, Josh Rogers, Emily Quirk, Patricia McLaughlin, Rick Ganley, and Rebecca Lavoie.

Theme music by Breakmaster Cylinder

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions and Ben Nestor

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