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Member Name: Bryn Pearson
Date: 12/11/02, updated on 12/11/02 (1009 review reads)
Advantages: smell, colour, longevity
Lavender is a herb that many associate with little old ladies and Yardley perfumes, but it really is a pleasure to grow, and if I can manage it in the dubious clay soil in my garden, I`m sure anyone can.
What`s it like? Lavender comes in various varieties, but generally speaking what you get is slender silvery leaves, and spikes of purple and white flowers that then produce purpley seeds. The plant grows slowly and steadily, will last for years and can eventually form an enormous bush.
Growing lavender: I bought several reasonably established plants and just planted them out - they like a fair bit of space and can grow to several feet in height, so bear this in mind when you plant them. If you have a knack for that sort of thing, you can propogate them from seed, and they also do very well as a cutting if you get a bit of rooting powder to help them along.
Pruning lavender - they do benefit from this and it is as well to remove the seeds and their stalks at the end of each summer to avoid the plant getting too straggly. If you want to dry the seeds, best to get them before they flower (although the results are pleasant enough if you take them after flowering.) If you want to use the seeds to make essential oil (no idea how you do this but mean to find out!) or hang them to fragrance a room, it is better to take them pre flowering. However, if you leave the flowers to bloom, you will attract many insets to them - especially the adorable honey bee. The leaves are also fragrant.
General maintenance- They seem to be able to grow in any sort of soil, but they do benefit from a bit of nutrients! They do not like being crowded by other plants, so give plenty of room. They also like plenty of light. They don`t seem to suffer too much from pests, despite the prevelance of greenfly and whitefly in my garden. They do grow very, very slowly, and if you fancy having one of those gorgeous huge bushes, you are going to have a very long wait if
you start from scratch.
Using lavender. Now, obviously you can just dry bits of it and use them to fragrance a room, or to put in little scented bags to go in draws and that sort of thing. You can make essential oils from them, you can also cook with them. I`ll admit I`ve not yet had the nerve to try it, but I gather that you can use lavender seeds in sweet cooking, - you will only ever need one at a time as they have such a powerful perfume. Add one seed to rice pudding apparently - and if you do, please email me and tell me how it went!
The smell of lavender is very soothing and it can be used for aromatherapy -its especially recommended for soothing pregnant women and for helping your stitches to heal up after the baby has arrived.
Images and implications: like a house, a garden says a lot about who you are. plant lavender and you are creating one or perhaps two images. Lavender is a classic plant for the `cottage garden` look, with mint, thyme, rosemary and other herbs. (Mine is growing next to a Rosemary and they do set each other off very nicely.) To people in the know, vast quantities of lavender may well encourage the idea that you are a bit of a witch (if you are an old lady with a cat, this will confirm it of course!) it is a plant associated with magic - and having lived with a few I can understand why: It has a very distinct character and a lot more presence than some flora.
Whatever your reasons for growing it - be they practical, esoterical, visual, culinary, or nasal, it is an excelent and very rewarding plant. They aren`t expensive - and are just the sort of plant to turn up for a few pounds at car boot sales, WI stalls and the like.