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Growing Lavendar  - Possibly the Perfect Plant!

By Karen England

Lavender is very easy to grow, low maintenance, highly useful, deliciously fragrant and extremely beautiful - making it a contender for the perfect plant. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and thus does very well in our coastal Southern California climate (which is very similar to the Mediterranean). Lavender plants are drought tolerant when established and make a beautiful addition to any garden. Lavender is perennial, which means it grows year after year, and loves to be in full sun. Prune yearly (at the end of fall is ideal), removing 1/3rd of the plant’s total size to maintain a full, good looking shape. Lavender comes in many varieties and colors, but the well known varieties are “English Lavender” (Lavandula angustifolia) and “French Lavender” (Lavandula dentata).
They are evergreen shrubs that bloom profusely with highly scented spiked flowers. 

The definition of an herb is “a useful plant” and Lavender is one of the most useful herbs. Cooks, crafters, perfumers & healers all use lavender to season, flavor, scent, and sooth. It is thought that the name Lavender comes from the roman word “lavare” meaning “to wash” as it has been associated for centuries with washing and laundry. Lavender is used to scent soaps, and as a final rinse for scenting laundry. Fields of lavender in Provence, France are used in lieu of a clothesline to dry freshly washed linens in the full sun, scenting them to perfection. The essential oil of lavender when used in handmade soap is naturally antiseptic and antibacterial, making it excellent for cleansing wounds, irritated skin, busy hands, etc... 

In the kitchen, lavender is an ingredient in the classic seasoning blend known as “Herbes de Provence” which can be purchased or, preferably, you can mix your own. My favorite “Herbes de Provence” recipe comes from Rosalind Creasy in her book HERBS: A Country Garden Cookbook, co-authored by Carole Saville (1995 Collins Publishers San Francisco):

Herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon EACH dried thyme, marjoram, savory, and rosemary

2 dried bay leaves, crushed in a spice grinder

1 teaspoon EACH, dried lavender (Lavandula angustafolia) buds and fennel seeds

2 teaspoons grated and dried orange zest

Stir together all the ingredients, mixing well, and pour into a glass jar and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. (Makes approximately 1/3 cup). 

Use in salad dressings and on lamb and pork. This makes the best seasoning for egg salad sandwiches!

Medicinally, lavender relieves fatigue and when brewed as a tea can be a sleep aid. A sprig of lavender stuck inside one’s hat is said to ward off headaches. My own evening tea blend is… 

Mrs. England’s Evening Herb Tea

(use fresh or dry herbs)

Mix together…

4 parts Chamomile blossoms

4 parts Lemon Verbena leaves

1 part Lavender blossoms

To brew…

Boil I cup water & pour over 1 teaspoon dry or 3 teaspoons fresh “Evening Herb Tea” blend. Steep several minutes covered. Sweeten with honey to taste and drink before bed. Sweet Dreams!

Any plant that can do all the above (and more) like Lavender is definitely in the running for “the perfect plant” so try planting one or more of the following varieties:

L. angustifolia “English Lavender” - grows 18”x24”-blooms all summer, deep violet color, sweet & intense fragrance.

L. stoechas “Spanish Lavender” - grows 36” x 24”, blooms spring, royal purple color, camphorous scent. 

L. dentata “French Lavender” - grows 36” x 24”, blooms winter-summer, smokey lavender color, balsamic, almost menthol fragrance. 

L. multifida “Fern leaf Lavender” - grows 30”x36”, blooms year round, rich purple color, little fragrance. 

Karen England is the "Queen of Edgehill Herb Farm". www.edgehillherbfarm.com.

 

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