Lavender has a large fan club for good reason. It has many uses-a spice for sweet and savory dishes, an ingredient in Herbes de Provence, potpourri, moth deterrent, aromatic ingredient in cleaners and candles, added to beauty and health products for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, a calming fragrance, and a beautiful addition to any garden.
Lavender is in the mint family, originated from the Old World, and has been cultivated since Biblical times. It is typically a short lived perennial. There are several different types of lavender available by seed. The most common that you find in stores is English lavender (lavandula angustifolia formally lavandula officinalis).
Lavender has become a weed in Australia as they have the perfect conditions for growing lavender: dry, well drained soil in full sun with good air circulation. Lavender is susceptible to root rot so keep mulch away from the crown of the plant and make sure they get good drainage. All lavenders need little to no fertilizer and prefer alkaline soil. They are carefree plants if planted in the right place in your garden. Most lavenders are not hardy in the colder zones (Zone 4 or below). Be sure to check out the hardiness of a variety before purchasing. You can always grow them as annuals. Lavenders do not like to be transplanted. Some report difficulty in growing from seed. I have grown several from seed with no issue. Lavenders come in various shades of white, blue and purple and heights from 6” to 6 feet. The strength of fragrance varies as well. English lavender is considered to be of the highest quality.
In the culinary world, lavender is fun to use as an edible and aromatic addition to many different kinds of dishes. Here are some ideas:
Lavender sugar: Just add a teaspoon to 1/2 cup of sugar and mix well.
Lavender cream: Add 6 stalks of lavender to 1 cup of cream. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator, strain and whip. Use some of the buds as decoration in the cream. They’re edible!
Lavender syrup: Boil 6 stalks of lavender in 2 cups of water and 1 1/2 cup of sugar at a simmer for 15 minutes. Let sit in refrigerator overnight, strain into bottle and keep refrigerated. You can use the lavender syrup in many things. For lavender lemonade, just add one ounce of syrup with 2 ounces of lemon juice in each serving. Add syrup to your hot tea or iced coffee. Drizzle over pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt or cake. Use it in an adult beverage.
Lavender-infused balsamic or white vinegar: Place lavender stalks in vinegar and allow to steep in a cool dark place. 4 weeks later you will have lavender vinegar. Yum!
Doesn’t a lavender gin sour sound fun? Just add an ounce to the ounce of fresh lemon juice and 2 ounces of gin. Use a stalk for garnish.
The flowers themselves can be used as decoration on cakes, pies, drinks, ice cubes. Bundle them to place in drawers and closets for a beautiful fragrance throughout the house. An additional benefit is that many find lavender to be calming. I use dried lavender and chervil for my body oil. Smells wonderful and I get the added benefit of their medicinal properties.
Fall is a great time to plant perennials so you can get a much larger lavender plant and blooms for next spring!
For more ideas for small space and container gardening organically, see Melodie's blog at www.victorygardenonthegolfcourse.com