Notes from Herb Heaven

Lavender

There are reputed to be over 350 varieties of lavender, although the more common ones we know are the English, French, Spanish and Italian. All of them grow into bushy shrubs that will delight you with their year-round aromatic green or grey leaves. When the flowers arrive in late winter or spring, there’s the bonus! They are not supposed to do well in the tropics or in high humidity, but here in our warm bushveld town of Phalaborwa there are some wonderful lavender bushes. The English lavender, however, which can grow into a huge bush, does not seem to bloom too well here. The strange thing is that my gardener’s plants, which started as cuttings from those in my garden, are doing very well in Mashishimale. They bear flowers, as they do for my rose-growing friend Marinda a mere two blocks from where I live. Strange indeed.

Usually lavender likes cool or warm climates where most of the rain falls in winter.
Lavender flowers range from deep purple, to lilac and a pinkish hue.
They like full sun, but do manage in dappled shade.
The soil needs to be not too rich, and lavender will tolerate alkaline soils.
Nematodes in the roots can be a problem, stopping nutrition from getting to the rest of the plant.
Plant marigolds as companions as this will help to limit the nematodes.
As with so many shrubs and flowering bushes, clipping really benefits the plant, especially if you prune the lavender bush in its first year, making it a more compact, bushier plant.
Lavender and scented geraniums are good companions, enhancing each other’s fragrance.
Taking cuttings is the best way to propagate lavender, as growing from seed can be difficult with the long germination time. Take cuttings about 5 cm long, strip the bottom 3 or 4 nodes of their leaves, place in slightly moist sandy soil. Once new leaves appear, transplant into good quality potting soil. Water lavender only in dry weather, as they don’t like soggy feet. It is wise to mulch in winter
Plant out in spring, keeping them about 1.5 to 2 m apart .

If you have a bush in the garden that has long woody branches, pull a branch down to soil level, remove some leaves and roughen it up a bit on the underside, push the branch into the soil and cover it. A stone laid lightly on the branch will help to keep it down. When the roots have taken, cut the branch away from the rest of the bush and plant your new lavender bush where desired. Harvest the flowers before they open in early spring, and hang them upside down in bunches to dry in a warm airy place.

Lavender is often used in dried flower arrangements and to make essential oils and lavender water.
A simple gift to give ~ a sachet filled with lavender leaves, lavender oil and a few crushed cloves, tied with ribbon. This will repel fish moths and mice in cupboards and drawers.
If you are tired, stressed and burnt out, try a little lavender tea ~ about a thumb length of fresh lavender leaves in a cup of boiling water, steeped for five minutes or more and sweetened with honey if desired.
Lavender is said to be good with game and stews – about 1 Tbs of chopped leaves per pot.
Try making lavender cookies to serve with a tea with friends. It’s an all round stress reliever.

 

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Dried lavender flowers are used in potpourris and also in perfumed sachets to keep away fish moths in cupboards and drawers. Lavender is often used in dried flower arrangements and to make essential oils and lavender water.

A simple gift to give:

 A sachet filled with lavender leaves,
lavender oil and a few crushed cloves, 
tied with ribbon. 

This will repel fish moths and mice in 
cupboards and drawers. 


If you are tired, stressed and burnt out,  
try a little lavender tea: 

about a thumb length of fresh lavender leaves
in a cup of boiling water, steeped for five minutes
or more and sweetened with honey if desired. 
Lavender is said to be good with game and stews 
– about 1 Tbs of chopped leaves per pot. 

Try making lavender cookies to serve with 
a tea with friends.It’s an all round stress reliever.

 

Lavender Biscuits

250 g butter
125 ml flour
125 ml icing sugar
5 ml chopped lavender 

Combine butter, flour and sugar and beat for
10 minutes.
Add the lavender and chill the mixture for 1 hour
Roll the dough out on to a floured surface and cut out biscuit shapes.
Bake at 180°C for between 15 and 20 minutes

Decorate the dinner table with some lavender sprigs
and encourage your guests to play with the fragrant leaves ~ and to take deep smells of it!

It will bring a smile or two, and no doubt a long, peaceful sigh.

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