Posted by: briellethefirst | July 3, 2011

Lavender


Lavender flowers in my frint garden

Lavender flowers in my front garden

Lavandula angustifolia, L. latifolia, L. dentata, L. stoechas…well, there are a bunch of lavenders, and as confusing as they can be to a new lavender enthusiast they all have their charms. It may be easier to just go by their common names and pick up what appeals to you in the nursery, then as you get better acquainted you can add to or change your collection to better fit your needs. Look for names like Munstead, French Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Lavender Provençal, Lady Lavender (one of the few that’s supposed to be easy to grow from seed) and others. It grows 2 to 3 feet high and wide and the foliage is usually grey-green and the flowers are usually various shades of purple, but can range to pink, white and there’s even a yellow variety. They grow in a wide range of climate zones, so there will be a few almost anyone can grow without resorting to keeping it in a pot in the summer and bringing it in on a windowsill for the winter.

My Dad had a beautiful Lavender plant in the front garden when I was growing up and I never had trouble with it except in Florida, where it kept dying from the ground up, probably because it really doesn’t like wet feet. As long as it has enough sun, regular water (but not too much) and room to spread its blooms it’ll be happy. Whether an only child or an informal border, it’s definitely worth growing. Bees love it and it is often used in knot gardens with other herbs like rosemary, thyme, santolina, and germander.

The scent is usually considered relaxing, so soaps and sachets are popularly flavoured with lavender. It’s nice in perfumes and has been used with beeswax to make furniture polish. It’s reputed to repel bad things and some people hang a lavender cross over their door to repel evil. Once-upon-a-time it was used medicinally more than it is today and in Rome was known as nard or nardium.

My lavender marker

My lavender marker

There’s so much you can do with it. Some people even cook with it, but all I can think when I taste it is soap, so I guess I just haven’t found the right variety and amount yet…not that I’m really looking that hard, though. If you want to try it before cooking with it yourself look for pastilles in import stores like Cost Plus. They’re little white or pastel candies that come in pretty tins and look like tiny breath mints. Along with lavender I’ve seen anise and violet and violet is my favourite. What else can you do with lavender? Use it in fresh flower arrangements and garlands, dried flower arrangements and wreathes, potpourri, sachets, scented water and oil, and even mix the flower bits in with wedding rice.

Sachets are basically dry potpourri contained, usually in a bag, and stored with clothes to leave a nice scent and discourage bugs. An interesting self-contained potpourri is a lavender wand. Cut an odd number of flower spikes with long stems. Gather them together at the base of the flower spikes and tie them with a nice ribbon, string or yarn, leaving a loop. Now bend the stems over the flower spikes and weave the ribbon or yarn between the stems, trapping the flowers inside the basket you are now weaving around the flowers and making the loop stick out the end. Stop every once in a while to straighten and tighten the weaving and stems. When you get to the end of the flower tops, fasten the ribbon/yarn with a half hitch or two and wrap it around the remaining stems for a bit. You can wrap it simply or use a macrame knot like the half-hitch to make a ridge straight down one side or spiral down. Tie it off when you are satisfied or tired of wrapping and trim the stems even. If you leave a loop at one or both ends it’s easy to hang with clothes in the closet or anywhere else if you want to show off.

My kitchen fairy and her wands

My kitchen fairy and her wands

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