My lavender plants are just starting to flower so I thought this old article might be useful for any of you who are wondering how to grow, harvest and use your lavender plants.
The word lavender is derived from the Latin ‘lava’, to wash, the Romans introduced this plant into Britain, they used it in their bath water.
It was used as a strewing herb for its insect-repelling properties and also included in tussie-mussies to mask household and street smells.
There are many varieties of lavender some are more tender than others. In Europe some of the more tender lavenders will not last through the winter, so make sure you know what you are buying at the garden centre! The reason Lavender is unlikely to last through the winter is the combination of wet ‘feet’ and frozen ground which it does not like at all.
Lavender can be grown relatively easily from seed, but it will take a few years for the plant to become established and some people say that it has a tendency not to be true to species if grown this way.
Alternatively, softwood cuttings can be taken from non-flowering stems in the spring or semi-hardwood cuttings in the summer/early autumn from the new growth. Another method is layering which would be done in the autumn, this is where you lay a stem along the ground and either peg it down with a wire clip or weigh it down with a stone; roots should form where the stem is in contact with the earth. Any rooted cuttings need some protection in the winter and are more likely to survive if planted out in the following spring.
It prefers well drained soil in a sunny position and should be pruned just after flowering to avoid the stems becoming too woody.
It is advisable to replace lavender bushes once established after 3 to 4 years, when they are past their peak.
Lavender buds/flowers should be harvested just as the flower buds open and either used fresh or dried and then stored in an airtight container. For a great photographic guide to when this is click here.
There are numerous ways of using lavender in cooking; in lavender biscuits, flavouring sugar, made into herb jelly or vinegar, Lavender tea, sprinkled on fruit or made into a syrup.
Can be put into lavender sachets or pillows.
Blend with other herbs eg roses, lemon verbena or mint to make pot pourri or a filling for a ‘dream pillow’
Lavender water/room spray (lavender essential oil)
Lavender wands You can see how to make these here.
Lavender has calming, sleep inducing properties so is often used in sachets tucked into a pillowcase.
Lavender sprinkled into a hot bath is calming, or it could be mixed in to salts to make lavender bath salts.
Lavender essential oil applied to a burn will aid healing.
To hear more about lavender, you can listen to my contribution to the Emma Cooper’s Alternative Kitchen Garden’s podcast (episode 20 entitled ‘welsh onions’) which you can access via the links on this page.
Copyright 2007-2011 Madeleine Giddens
If you want to try any of the above and need more ‘how to’ information, leave me a comment below and I’ll write a more detailed article just on that.