Monday, June 17, 2013

Lavender,growing, harvesting, crafting!

Lavender is a beautiful plant, Every year I can't wait for it to bloom and wake up the garden. For me though I have a lot of trouble growing it, either I forget to water often enough or I drown it, or the most deadly here is the humidity and weather conditions are not perfect.

Growing Requirements
As with most plants, your success in growing this coveted plant will depend both on what kind of growing conditions you can provide and which varieties you select to grow. Lavender plants will tolerate many growing conditions, but it thrives in warm, well-drained soil and full sun. Like many plants grown for their essential oils, a lean soil will encourage a higher concentration of oils. An alkaline and especially chalky soil will enhance lavenders fragrance. While you can grow lavender in USDA Zone 5, it is unlikely you will ever have a lavender hedge. More realistically you can expect to have plants that will do well when the weather cooperates and to experience the occasional loss of a plant or two after a severe winter or a wet, humid summer.

Lavender is a tough plant and is extremely drought resistant, once established. However, when first starting you lavender plants, don't be afraid to give them a handful of compost in the planting hole and to keep them regularly watered during their first growing season.

Special Considerations
It is dampness, more than cold, that is responsible for killing lavender plants. Dampness can come in the form of wet roots during the winter months or high humidity in the summer. If humidity is a problem, make sure you have plenty of space between your plants for air flow and always plant in a sunny location. Areas where the ground routinely freezes and thaws throughout the winter will benefit from a layer of mulch applied after the ground initially freezes. Also protect your lavender plants from harsh winter winds. Planting next to a stone or brick wall will provide additional heat and protection.

Although lavender plants get regularly pruned simply by harvesting the flowers, to keep them well shaped and to encourage new growth, a bit of spring pruning is in order. The taller varieties can be cut back by approximately one-third their height. Lower growing varieties can either be pruned back by a couple of inches or cut down to new growth. If you live in an area where lavender suffers some winter die-back, don't even think about pruning your plants until you see some new green growth at the base of the plant. If you disturb the plants too soon in the season, they give up trying.

You can always grow your lavender in pots and move it to follow the sun or even bring it indoors for the winter. Keep in mind that although lavender has a large, spreading root system, it prefers growing in a tight space. A pot that can accommodate the root ball with a couple of inches to spare would be a good choice. Too large a pot will only encourage excessive dampness.

Insure that the pot has plenty of drainage. To prevent water pooling in the pot, place about an inch of loose gravel at the bottom. Rot root is one of the few problems experienced by lavender plants. Use a loose, soilless mix for planting and remember that container grown lavender will require more water than garden grown plants. How much more depends on the environment and the type of pot. Water when the soil, not the plant, appears dry and water at the base of the plant to limit dampness on the foliage. Compact varieties make the best choices for containers. Some to try are L. angustifolia ‘Nana Alba’ and Spanish lavender (L. stoechas subsp. pedunculata)
Lavender can grow in fair or poor soils, slightly alkaline to neutral is best. The plant needs well-drained soil, wet soils are deadly.
Old flower heads should be cut off to encourage fresh growth. The blooms come in midsummer and range from lavender-hued gray to a vibrant royal purple. There are also species with blooms in other colors: white, pink, and a yellow-green. The flowers themselves are small, sometimes bud-like but open and full on others, and they grow up the spiky stems.
To save lavender for potpourris, cut the stems when they are bloooming and tie them in small bundles. Hang them upside down indoors to dry for several weeks.
It needs little or no fertilization, and except for new plants, should be watered less often than most flowers. The plant can be pruned by one-third in early spring or late fall to keep its shape.
A perennial, lavender grows from 1 to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. It needs at least six hours of direct sun each day, more is better. Lavender plants grow in hardiness zones 5 through 10 and are planted about 15 inches apart.
Foliage typically ranges from dusty green to silvery gray and a few species have bright chartreuse leaves. Not all types are readily available, but may need researching through mail order web sites or seed catalogs.
Some varieties of lavender can be grown from seeds (especially variety "Munster"), or pots of live plants can be purchased in the spring. Favorite varieties include "Grosso", "Provence", "Royal Purple", "Gray Lady", and "Hidcote".
Lavender's older stems are woody, and the plant does not divide as easily as many perennials. If moving is necessary, lift the plant in spring just after new growth has started and replant immediately. The plant can be propagated by layering.

The best time to harvest English lavender is when the buds have formed on the plant but the flowers have not yet opened. Lavender harvested at this time of year will fall off the stems more easily when dry making it a tad easier to collect and will retain fragrance and colour longer. The cultivar of your lavender will also determine fragrance, colour, and longevity of the dried properties as well.

To harvest, use sharp bypass pruners and gather a small handful of long flower stems. Snip them at the base and continue collecting stems in your hand until you have a nice sized bundle. Secure the bundle with twine and continue until the plant is fully harvested.

Pruning the plants like this will keep the shrub tidy and evergreen through some colder climates. If your plants are leggy and you see lots of dead wood, it’s a good idea to summer prune them each year until they regain a tidier shape.

To dry the bunches hang in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight. Under eaves, in the garage, or somewhere in the garden that is protected is the perfect spot. 

After 2-4 weeks and the lavender has fully dried, you can shake or gently rub the flower buds into a tray or bowl. Store lavender in a lidded jar in a cool dark place and repeat next year.

Recipes to use Lavender:


Lavender Jelly

Provided by Cedarbrook Herb Farm

2 cups lavender infusion (Recipe Follows)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 3oz envelope of liquid pectin
Lavender food coloring (optional)

Combine infusion, lemon juice and sugar. Bring to full boil stirring
constantly.  Add pectin,  boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from
heat and add food coloring. Pour into jars and seal

Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.  To store
longer process jars in a water bath for 5 minutes after sealing with
canning lids.


Lavender Infusion

Provided by Cedarbrook Herb Farm

1/2 cup fresh lavender flowers (3 TBS. Dried)
3 Cups distilled water

Bring water to boil and pour over flowers.
Steep for 20 minutes.
Strain and store in a glass jar (up to 2 weeks).

Comments:  This infusion is used in making many items including lavender
jelly and lavender ice cream.


Medicinal Uses: In the past, lavender has been used as a folk remedy for 
numerous conditions, including acne, cancer, colic, faintness, flatulence, 
giddiness, migraine, nausea, neuralgia, nervous headache, nervous 
palpitations, poor appetite, pimples, rheumatism, sores, spasms, sprains, 
toothache, vomiting and worms. Lavender salts have been employed for 
centuries as a stimulant to prevent fainting; lavender oil vapor is 
traditionally inhaled to prevent vertigo and fainting. A compound tincture of 
lavender (also known as Palsy Drops) was officially recognized by the British 
Pharmacopoeia for over 200 years, until the 1940s. Used to relieve muscle 
spasms, nervousness, and headaches, it originally contained over 30 
ingredients. Tests show that lavender’s essential oil is a potent ally in 
destroying a wide range of bacterial infections, including staph, strep, 
pneumonia, and most flu viruses. It is also strongly anti-fungal. A 
lavender-flower douche is an effective treatment for vaginal infections, 
especially candida-type yeast infections. Lavender ointments are rubbed into 
burns, bruises, varicose veins, and other skin injuries. The straight oil is 
dabbed on stops the itching of insect bites.

Hangover Remedy: 1 egg, 2-3 drops light soy sauce, pinch lavender flowers. 
Break the egg into a glass and whisk until froth. Add the soy sauce, then 
crush the lavender flowers in a pestle and mortar and add to the mixture. 
Liquidize, pour back into the glass and sip slowly. Then lie on the floor and 
do some deep breathing exercises from your diaphragm. Rest for 1 hour—you’re 
found to feel better. 

Palsy Drops: 1 oz each lavender, rosemary, cinnamon; ½ each nutmeg and red 
sandalwood; 16 ounces brandy. Combine ingredients and let sit for 7 days, 
then strain.


equal parts lavender and cloves

Enclose in a muslin bag and inhale the vapors when a headache begins. (The 
Herb Basket, 141 Main St., Landisville, PA 17538; 717-898-6334)


Equal parts Lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus

few drops of each essential oil. Pack in a small glass jar. Open and inhale 
the vapors to clear a stuffy head. (The Herb Basket, 141 Main St., 
Landisville, PA 17538; 717-898-6334

Lavender Sleep Pillow
To enhance your sleep and dreams, make small pillow and place inside your 
pillow case. Or to relax, lie down and place bag over your eyes, breathe 
deep. (Lunar Farms Herbals – 1-800-687-1052; )

2 cups lavender

1 cup roses

1 cup hops

½ cup rosemary

½ cup lemon balm

1/3 cup thyme

Lavender - is relaxing, can relieve stress, soothing & is know to enhance 
your dreams

Roses - enhances romance & is relaxing

Hops - has been know to encourage relaxing, pleasant dreams

Rosemary - in folklore it has been used to insure sleep & prevent bad dreams

Lemon Balm - has been used for anxiety, insomnia & nervous tension

Thyme - for centuries is has been used to insure restful sleep and prevent 
Relaxation Potpourri: 

Old fashioned rose petals 2 cups 

Lavender flowers 1/2 cup 

Chamomile flowers 1/2 cup 

Hops 1 cup 

Passion flower 1/2 cup 

Linden flower 1/2 cup 

Jasmine flower 1/4 cup 

Orris root chips 2 tablespoons 

Add 15 drops rose & 15 drops lavender oil and mix. 
Herbal Eye Pillow

Items you will need:
12" x 18" Satin or Silk rectangle piece of cloth {colour preference is 
1-1/2 cups whole Flaxseed
1/2 cup crushed dried Peppermint leaves
1/2 cup dried Lavender buds
20 drops Lavender essential oil
10 drops Peppermint essential oil
10 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
1 Large bowl
1 Large spoon
needle and thread or sewing machine

Fold the fabric in half lengthwise with right sides together. Sew around 
the long edge and one end of the pillow with a 3/8" seam allowance and 
turn right side out.

Mix the herbs and seeds in a large bowl. Add essential oils by the drop. 
Stir thoroughly after each 5 drops. Spoon the mixture into the pillow.

Tuck in the raw edges of the open end of the pillow and hand or machine 
stitch closed. Before each use, heat in the microwave for 15 -30 
seconds, and then massage the pillow in your hands to release the scent 
of the essential oils.

*Tips: Essential oils may appear to leave stains on your fabric, but 
they are just temporarily bleeding through the fabric. The stains will 
evaporate in a matter of hours. If you use brightly colored essential 
oils they most likely will stain your fabric.

Discard the pillow after about 6 months of usage, as the healing 
components contained within the herbs and essential oils have dissipated.

*sidenote~this pillow would also be great for those who get migraines, 
if placed in the refrigerator or freezer to chill it well... i 
personally like to have very cold things over my eyes when a migraine 
hits... it is soothing for me!

Sunburn Bath

A few years ago my husband got badly sunburned while working outside. This bath not only worked wonders on the pain, but also on the burn itself. Use equal amounts of chamomile, crushed juniper berries, lavender, rose petals, and witch hazel to make an infusion. Pour the liquid into a cool bath and add one-half cup of finely ground oatmeal. The contents of a packet of commercial oatmeal bath would also work. Have the injured party soak for about a half hour and then finish using a moisturizing lotion containing aloe vera. 

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