Lavender

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Lavandula spp.

 

History

Members of the Lavender family have been cultivated for thousands of years for their aromatic properties. They are popular plants for Mediterranean, and cottage gardens, and are much loved by bees. The name is thought to derive from the Latin ‘lavare’ which means to wash, and refers to its widespread use as a perfume in the baths of ancient Greece and Rome. Also popular as a strewing herb in the Middle Ages.

There are at least 30 species. In New Zealand the most well known groups are the English lavenders, French, and Italian. The English lavenders are the one most use for their culinary, and medicinal purposes. L. augustilolia is thought to have the finest aroma and qualities.

Growing

Lavenders are generally hardy small bushes that prefer full sun and free draining soils. Regular light trims will keep them from becoming leggy. Lavenders do not like humid conditions or water logging. They are generally cold tolerant though can suffer from frost on new growth. Propagation can be from seed or softwood, and semi-ripe cuttings taken from spring till Autumn.

pick in summer in fine weather, never when wet or with dew.

Cut stems and once you have a handful put a rubber-band or string around them. Don’t bunch too tightly. Hang in an airy place out of direct sun. To strip – place in a pillowcase and rub hands on outside. Store in cardboard of paper bags out of direct sunlight.

Maintenance

Feeding:

Lightly trim regularly to maintain a healthy bush.

Problems and Pests

Fungal diseases can affect lavenders in conditions which are too wet.

Uses

Lavender Is known for its calming and antiseptic qualities. Dried lavender flowers can be used in pillows to aid sleep. The aromatic oil is believed to help relieve headaches when used topically. A great oil to use in soaps, washing powders etc for its fragrance and calming properties.

The flower heads of English lavenders can also be used in several culinary dishes, such as Short bread and Ice-cream. Very small amounts are needed to impart a lovely soft aromatic flavour.