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Well, if it's good enough for Jesus!
Member Name: thehonesttruth
Lavender, or Lavendula, commonly grown in the UK nowadays, is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean, and to have been introduced here by the Romans. Mentions of the herb exist from at least the last 2500 years, and it even had a couple of mentions in the bible! The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word "lavo" meaning "to wash" that the herb took its name.
Lavender is a member of the Lamiacaea family of plants – a family that also houses mint, thyme, rosemary, and many other herbs .Plants from this family have a bit of a reputation for being bullies in the garden, taking over all available space and seeding themselves al over the place . Lavender is no exception – while commonly grown in gardens, it’s not unusual to find it sprouting up on areas of grassland, having obviously escaped and made its home. Its an attractive plant, with rough grey-green leaves, and fragrant flowers in a variety of colours – mainly hues of purple and blue, although there are yellow varieties .It has pointed flower heads with clusters of tiny flowers on thin stalks . It’s also a very hardy plant, and can withstand extremes of temperature pretty well.
Growing and caring for Lavender
Like many plants, Lavender has its own likes and dislikes. My own plant is one that I was given by my dad, which I have looked after for 4 years now, and it’s thrived. Lavender needs well drained soil, as excessive moisture will cause the roots to rot. If your soil doesn’t drain easily, I recommend mixing in some sand to increase drainage. Lavender also likes full sun, although it can be grown with only partial sun, it won’t grow as tall or as wide.
Lavender, when first transplanted in the soil, will need plenty of watering, but well established plants are incredibly drought resistant and actually require very little interference where watering is concerned. My plant is very rarely watered in summer – it seems to thrive on the amount of rain we get in the UK, although with the recent downpours and flooding in the UK, I did bring mine indoors to keep the roots dry, as mine resides in a large half barrel.
Lavender doesn’t really get on well with chemical fertilizers, although a little chicken manure, or worm compost seem to work well with mine. I tend not to overuse chemicals and pesticides in my garden, so other than a little manure, my lavender is pretty much doing everything itself.
Lavender is very disease and pest resistant – in fact, its scent repels pests such as greenfly. The only insects I’ve seen bugging my plant are spittlebugs, which are pretty much harmless.
Lavender can also be grown from cuttings. To grow from cuttings, take a cutting from new growth on a well established plant, about 10cms long, and carefully remove the leaves from the bottom of the plant. Put the stripped end into a pot containing potting compost, and stand the pot in a dish of water. Once the soil is moist, place under a propagator (if you don't want to buy one, the bottom half of a clear plastic pop bottle works well) to keep the heat in, and place it where it will get plenty of natural light. It takes about 2 months for the roots to become strong enough for replanting.
Then just place it in a sunny, well drained spot, and away you go!
Lavender – Tradition, Superstition, History, and Religion
As mentioned near the beginning of this review, Lavender is often mentioned in the Bible, not as lavender, but by its name at the time, Spikenard. At the time of Jesus, the Romans used Lavender for bathing, cooking, and fragrancing rooms and Romans using public baths would anoint themselves with lavender oil.
Lavenders distinctive scent was employed in the Bible by Judith, who, to seduce the enemy commander Holofernes, anointed herself with lavender perfumes. Once she seduced him, she murdered him, saving the city of Jerusalem.
In Saint Luke’s Gospel, Luke tells us: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."
Jesus may also be the reason the plant got its scent - It was just another pretty plant until Mary laid Jesus’ clothes upon it to dry, at which time it gained its scent. It’s perhaps for this reason that many Christian households in the early years of the religion hung crosses of Lavender above doorways to ward away evil.
Its holy reputation can only have been enhanced by the fact that Lavender DID ward off disease. During the Plague in London in the 17th century, grave robbers used to wash themselves in a brand of vinegar named “Four Thieves” that contained Lavender – and they very rarely contracted plague. It’s well known that the plague was spread by fleas – and the scent of Lavender is a natural Flea repellant, although this perhaps was not understood at the time. It was common belief in the 17th century that disease was spread by smell – and its easy to see why people would think that – disease spread easily in poorer areas where open sewers ran down the street and families had little of no access to fresh water, only contaminated river water . Naturally, these areas, the worst hit by the plague DID stink. However, many people had the right idea, and wore wristlets made of Lavender to help ward off the diseases – one gentleman’s tailor even soaked the leather used for glove making in lavender oil, and advertised the gloves as plague resistant.
It’s also had strong connections with romance – Tudor maidens used to drink Lavender tea on St Luke’s day to enable them to dream of their future husbands, and it inspired a rather popular folk song of the time, Lavender Blue, which has several different versions, all of which are rather long. However, I will quote a couple of verses.
“This I must say, dilly dilly, and it is true,
You must love me, dilly dilly,'cause I love you.
Lavender's green, dilly dilly, Lavender's blue.
I'll be your queen, dilly dilly, when I wed you.
Send for your men, dilly dilly, set them to hoe,
Set them to reap, dilly dilly, set them to mow,
Some to cut hay, dilly dilly, some to cut corn,
While you and I, dilly dilly, keep ourselves warm.
Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,
When you are King, dilly dilly, I'll be your queen,
Who told me so, dilly dilly, how can I know,
I told myself, dilly dilly, love told me so.
When you're away, dilly dilly, work all day through,
I'll be at home, dilly dilly, waiting for you.
Lavender's green, dilly dilly, Lavender's blue.
I'll be your queen, dilly dilly, when I wed you.
While you're at work, dilly dilly, I'll brew your beer,
When you come home, dilly dilly, I'll be your dear,
I'll serve your meat, dilly dilly, I'll bake your bread,
I'll share your board, dilly dilly, I'll share your bed.”
Things to do with Lavender
When lavender has flowered, harvest the flowers on the stalk, tie into bunches, and hang in bright sunlight to dry, or place in an airing cupboard. The stalks can then be arranged into attractive displays, or the flowers, once thoroughly dried. , can be used for cooking and crafts. Below are a few things I use lavender for.
Lavender Bags/Drawer Scenters
These are incredibly easy to make, and make lovely and inexpensive gifts. You can use them to scent drawers, as car air fresheners, or even just hang them around your house to fragrance a room.
There are lots of ways of making them, I’ve listed a few. You can either take a 10x10 Square of pretty material (You can use lace if you want to, the fragrance comes out more strongly then), and put a pile of dried lavender buds into the middle of the square. Bring all the corners together, twist the material around so the lavender is tightly enclosed in a bulb at the bottom, and then tie the top of the bag with ribbon. Alternatively, you can take two squares of fabric, sew them along three edges, fill with lavender buds, and then sew or tie shut. Or, just put lavender buds into an envelope and place in a drawer. They keep clothes fresh for ages. Lavender also repels moths, so your clothes are protective,
Lavender Eye Pillow
Very similar to the above. Lavender is associated with being calming and aiding sleep and I use my Lavender eye pillow when I’m stressed out and finding it hard to relax.
Take two strips of fabric, about 3 inches by 7 inches, sew along three sides, and then stuff with Lavender buds mixed with flaxseed (flaxseed makes it heavier) . Sew up the last edge, and attach a length of elastic to hold in place over your eyes.
Lavender Bath Bomb
It’s very easy to scent a bath with lavender – simply fill up one of those drawstring bags you get with washing powder tablets with buds, or drop buds directly into water. For a little bit more of a treat, these are fun to make, and inexpensive gifts.
• 1 cup of baking soda
• 1/3 cup of lemon juice
• A few drops of lavender essential oil
• Dried lavender flowers – you can leave these whole, or crush if you prefer.
• A little cooking oil (a spray oil is brilliant for this_
• A muffin tin, or some kind of small mould
1. Mix the flowers, oil, and baking soda into a bowl. Spray with water until the mixture keeps its shape if held tightly and then released.
2. Add the lemon juice and stir well again.
3. Grease the muffin tin or mould, either by brushing on cooking oil or using oil sprayer, and then fill tightly with the mixture.
4. Leave it to set for about 5 minutes, then remove from mould and leave on a dish towel to dry for 24 hours.
5. Once it has set for 24 hours, it should be solid and dry. It can now be used, or packed and stored. Store away from moisture.
Mix dried lavender buds with other petals and barks, such as dried rose petals, dried orange peel, etc. Fragrance with essential oil if the scent starts to fade.
Lavender Water (perfume)
Mix 2 large cupfuls of lavender buds with 1/4 cup of Vodka and 2 cups of water . Add a few drops of Lavender oil and leave in a warm spot for a couple of days for the scent to develop properly. Decant into a bottle, and store in the fridge.
Cooking with Lavender
Not many people seem to use Lavender in cooking, but it’s actually pretty tasty! Many people use sugared lavender flowers to decorate food, but don’t worry if you’re not into eating flowers, you can still cook with lavender!
Lavender flowers taste stronger as they dry out, and the flavour is bitter, so if you use too much, it’s like eating perfume. It’s much better to use fresh flowers for cooking, but if you do use dried flowers, you only need about a 3rd of the quantities listed in my recipes.
Ideal for sprinkling over cakes and desserts, simply mix a few lavender buds into a jar of sugar and leave in a warm place for a few weeks. Then remove the buds from the sugar, and its ready to use. You can also make vanilla, cinnamon, and other sugars in this way.
A tray of ice cubes
¾ of a cup full of sugar,
¼ of a cup of lavender buds
Put the Lavender buds into a bowl, and pour about two or three mugfuls of boiling water over the top. Leave it for about ten minutes for the flavour to come out, and then strain the water into a jug, discarding the buds. Add in the sugar until it dissolves, and then add in the juice of the lemons, and top up with cold water, to your own taste. Add ice cubes, and serve cold!
Mix chopped fresh lavender with lemon juice, cider vinegar, crushed garlic and olive oil, and grind in a pestle and mortar. Rub into meat before a barbecue.
Lavender and Health
Lavender has many associated health benefits, including helping to relax people and to aid sleep, which is why you see so many bath products and sleep products containing Lavender.
Its also an excellent antiseptic - several medical studies have proven that when mixed with other oils (including cinnamon, clove, and geranium) its very effective at killing off bacteria, and recently scientists have isolated certain chemicals from Lavender plants which they are using to treat .....THRUSH!
Lavender Tea is useful for dispelling tension headaches . This is easy to make, just add 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried Lavender flowers to a mugful of water, and leave to steep for a few minutes . The taste is pretty strong and quite bitter, so its good to add a little sugar or honey, but I've found it does work for me . I've also used Lavender tea to help soothe a sore throat, and just recently to stop me vomiting after a bad bout of food poisoning.
Lavender oil is also excellent for treating burns and disinfecting wounds, and unlike most other essential oils, Lavender is so mild that it doesn't need to be mixed with a carrier oil, but can in fact be applied directly to the skin . This makes it ideal for massage, should you be into that, although I tend to go for lighter fragrances for massage generally, I do massage lavender into my temples before bed .
Like all herbs and essential oils, you should always be careful about using them, and especially if you are pregnant or suffer from low blood pressure, you should consult a doctor before use .
Lavender is an amazing herb that has so many uses I couldn’t possibly cover them all over. It’s hard wearing, flavorsome, fragrant, attractive, and practical, and in my opinion, no garden should be without it!