Lavender - a truly eclectic plant

Lavender is a herb, a flower, a medicine, a deterrent. Its uses are many and varied, probably more than any other plant I know.

Lavender looks great, smells even better and despite being of Mediterranean and North African provenance is a classic English staple of cottage gardens, as well as small and large formal gardens.

The English word lavender comes from the Old French Lavandre and the Latin lavare, which both mean to wash. It’s a known disinfectant and deodoriser.

My wife planted most of our lavender about four years ago (with some jasmine in the middle), just outside our kitchen and it really is hardy and easy to grow. It didn’t need much attention once it was established and loves being in the sunshine, especially last summer, and didn’t need much watering. However, some of it is now getting a bit woody and leggy and needs replacing, so this year we’ll buy enough plants, about three per metre and plant them in late April, early May, depending on the weather.

Lavender

Lavender has so many uses; we not only use it to deter moths in the house and also deer outside, but also for cocktails and with sea salt. Here is a word cloud of the multitude of different uses for lavender that I’ve managed to find:

Lavender uses

Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular ways of using lavender, however you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of distilling it if you don’t want to - you can simply immerse lavender buds in olive oil. It’s important that you use buds and flowers that haven’t been subjected to pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. They need to be dried out in a shaded place for a day or so. For true essential oil you need to condense steam into a liquid which requires a home-making distillery. I tend to go for a tincture or extract, putting the buds into a mortar and crushing them lightly, covering with grain alcohol or cheap vodka for about a week. Then I strain the liquid using a coffee filter, leave for another week with a cloth on top, which allows the alcohol to evaporate, then hey presto, you’ve got lavender oil.

My wife puts lavender into linen sachets with some rice (to make sure that any moisture is absorbed) and then pops them into her sock or knicker drawer. She also puts them in wardrobes to stop those dreaded moths and their larvae from attacking our clothes. She also adds the oil to her bath and on her pillow as a stress reliever to get a good night’s sleep.

We also have a few roe deer wandering through our garden and they love to eat newly planted trees and especially the roses in summer. I do put lavender around them and that seems to deter them, although I have used lion poo that we get from Longleat (we only live about 5 miles away) and that really does work!

Our lavender is in terracotta pots and in two permanent stone troughs outside the kitchen and in the middle of summer it’s alive with bees and quite a few butterflies. Although we don’t make honey, I have tasted monofloral lavender honey and it’s delicious. We also have apple and pear trees which the bees pollinate.

Lavender

 

I have a full head of hair, but I’ve heard that lavender stimulates hair growth and a daily massage gives people strong luscious locks as well as detangling rogue hair.

My wife, who is Scottish and hardly ever drinks alcohol, announced one New Year’s Eve that her resolution was to drink more! I then bought a book of cocktails and proceeded to make her many and various cocktails included lavender inspired ones such as Lavender Martini made from vanilla vodka, lemon juice and lavender syrup, and of course garnished with a sprig of lavender, Also the Lavandou, made with cognac, lemon juice and lavender honey syrup. Delicious!

I also use lavender with sea salt and put it on roast potatoes. I used dried lavender buds and whizz it in a food processor with the sea salt to release the flavour. This winter I have used dried lavender to light fires to give a scent to the fire, although it can be a bit overpowering, so use it sparingly.

Ashridge Nurseries has four varieties of English lavender, HidcoteMunsteadAlba and Rosea and depending on variety in up to three sizes, 9 cm pots, 1.5 litre pots and 3 litre pots. Here they are waiting for you in the polytunnel at Ashridge Nurseries:

 Lavender

As the saying goes "As Rosemary is to the spirit, so Lavender is to the soul"

 

Happy gardening

Mark Cadbury

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