Lavender is probably one of the most well-known herbs and is grown practically all over the world.
It’s been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and at some point in history it was used to flavour food because it was believed to help calm the stomach.
Lavender has antiseptic qualities, and has been used in medicines and ointments since Roman times.
The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming fluids and placed lavender in the tombs of royalty. And the ancient Greeks used it to treat insect bites, stomach disorders and kidney problems.
Lavender water was believed to cure fainting, nausea and dizziness for many generations. It’s also a favourite ingredient in detergents, air fresheners and pot pourri mixtures used in the home and work place. Lavender clears the head and freshens the environment.
Lavender flowers produce oil which is used in many preparations: perfumes and similar products. They are also useful nectar producing plants which in turn yield high quality honey.
Lavender grows as a small shrub ranging from 6 inches (15cm) to about 24 inches (30cm) tall and prefers a sunny and dry position. Choose your spot well and lavender will continue to be a part of the herb garden for many years.
Lavender plants can live for up to thirty years in the right environment. Make sure the ground is well-drained. Lavender grows well in raised beds and resting on stone walls.
Lavender is happy to grow in most soils but the optimum conditions would be dry sandy soil and not too acidic. Add a little lime before planting if you have acid soil. Dig the ground well in the autumn before planting and remove any weeds and non-organic debris.
The best method of starting lavender plants is from cuttings. Take cuttings of young branches, from a well-established plant, in late summer to early autumn. Make sure the branches have a ‘heel’ and plant in a warm environment until the following spring when they can be transplanted out in the garden.
Transplant in lines allowing space to grow, or simply plant one or two in a decorative area of the garden. A well-drained sunny spot anywhere in the garden will do.
Lavender can also be planted from seed, but germination can be a bit erratic. Start the seed in well drained pots of fresh compost and keep in a warm greenhouse or other bright warm place. Keep the soil clear of weeds and watered sparsely but kept slightly moist until germination.
When the seedlings are strong enough to handle, transplant to the garden. Water sparsely, never allowing the plant to become too wet or the roots too waterlogged.
When the plants start producing flowers in the first year of growth, cut them down to encourage growth in the main plant. The more foliage and new branches in the first year, the stronger the plant will become.
English lavender is the hardiest variety available and will tolerate very cold winters. If the ground is not too wet just before winter mulch to protect the roots from extreme cold. Remove mulch early in the spring.
From the second year let the flowers grow. Lavender is a hardy plant and appreciates being used, so don’t restrict yourself from cutting the stalks when required. A few dried sprigs of lavender keeps clothes drawers and wardrobes smelling fresh.
If you are feeling industrious, sew a tiny cushion with dried lavender flowers inside. This can be popped in a drawer or under a pillow to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Lavender plants are aromatic and grace any garden left to their own devices. However, it is a good idea to use herbs to encourage more growth and to benefit from their wonderful properties.
Trim to shape in the autumn if the shrubs are getting straggly and protect from severe cold. The English lavender variety will tolerate very low temperatures, but as mentioned before a mulch can help it rest well during the winter months.
Lavender rarely needs storing, but the flowers are only available until late summer or autumn, depending on the variety.
Pick flowers and dry them in the sun or a home dryer. Don’t dry too quickly. The flowers can be stored in a glass jar. Use in recipes, pot pourri mixtures and drawer fresheners.
Lavender based products make marvelous gifts.
Medicinal uses for Lavender
The medicinal uses for lavender would require another book to list them all. A sachet filled with dried lavender flowers and placed under the pillow will ensure a good night’s sleep.
Lavender tea is helpful in alleviating stress headaches and migraines, as well as indigestion and colic.
To your herbal delight!
P.S. I extracted this text from 20 Everyday Herbs – a handy download if you’re thinking about growing some herbs this year.
’20 Everyday Herbs’
A potted history of twenty everyday herbs, step by step growing instructions, storing ideas and even medicinal uses.
Basil … Bay … Celery … Chives … Coriander … Dill … Fennel … Garlic … Horseradish … Lavender … Lemon Balm … Lovage … Marigold … Mint … Nasturtium … Oregano … Parsley … Rosemary … Sage … Thyme.
’20 Everyday Herbs’ is packed full of everything you need to know about how to grow herbs for everyday use. A must-have! Choose from your favourite online bookstore: