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Lavender Room Spray

Materials

  • 3/4 cup water (I use tap water, but distilled is fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, witch hazel, or real vanilla extract
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil

Directions

  • Combine in an 8oz spray bottle, shake well, and spray as needed.
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1-2-3 Done!™ Lavender Vinegar

Lavender
I recommend planting lavender in abundance because it has so many
uses, including as an infused vinegar that works as a facial toner,
hair rinse and all-purpose cleaner for your home. Harvest this
perennial just before it fully opens.

Lavender vinegar can be used as a fragrant fabric softener, a bath
fragrance, glass cleaner or, when diluted in water (8 parts water
to 1 part vinegar), as a facial toner, hair rinse or deodorizing
body splash. This easy recipe only has three ingredients and three
simple steps.

Materials

  • Enough lavender leaves and flowers to fill a 1-quart jar half full
  • White vinegar
  • Sterile, glass 1-quart jar with a plastic screw-on lid

Directions

  1. Place the lavender in the jar and fill with vinegar.
  2. Screw on the lid. Vinegar will react with metal so use a plastic lid. If your lid is metal, cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap before screwing on the lid.
  3. Place the jar in a dark place for 4 weeks, shaking occasionally
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Lavender Fire Starting Bundles

This is a project that adheres to the philosophy of waste not, want not. After pruning your lavender plant, why not put the stems to good use? These dried lavender bundles help get winter fires started and sweeten the air.

Materials

  • Dried Lavender Stems
  • Raffia
  • Gift wrapping tissue cut into strips
  • Paper clip

Instructions

  1. Gather lavender stems in a bundle.
  2. Wrap a tissue strip around the middle of the bundle. Use a paper clip to temporarily hold the strip in place.
  3. Wind raffia around the tissue strip and tie to secure. Remove the paper clip.
  4. When you are ready to start a fire, place the lavender bundle between the logs in your fireplace. Fire can be a fickle mistress, so be sure to use caution and common sense when lighting the lavender bundle.

Good to Know: Pruning Lavender

Lavender benefits from a light pruning every year to keep the plants full and bushy, which means more leaves and blooms to harvest. You can cut the plant back in spring, summer or very early fall. I generally do this task right after the flowers fade because it will help promote new bloom. If you cut your plant back in fall, be sure to give yourself time before the first hard freeze. Cold temperatures will kill resulting new growth. Remove about a third of the height of the plant. Avoid pruning back into woody stems where there aren’t any leaves growing because the stem won’t survive.

Lavender Fire Starting Bundles

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Lavender Selection with Gary Meehan

Gary Meehan and his wife Diane live in a picture perfect landscape at Bonny Doon Farm in Santa Cruz. Their house seems to float on a sea of lavender. The Meehans were kind enough to open their garden and share some of their favorite lavender varieties such as ‘Provence’ for its ease of care and the extra fragrant L. angustifolia.

Allen Smith: Now, Gary, I know you all did a lot of research, and you’ve actually done your own crosses here to find the best lavenders for Bonny Doon.

Gary Meehan: Yes, we have.

Allen: How do you recommend the average home gardener find the best lavender for their space?

Gary: I recommend that they take a look at their offerings of the local garden centers closest to their homes.

These people have gone to a great trouble to have the varieties that are climatized to their area.

Bonny Doon FarmAllen: Gary, is there a variety of lavender that you would recommend to the beginning gardener?

Gary: Absolutely, I’d recommend Provencal over any other variety because of the beautiful color, the traditional look it has.

Allen: It’s done very well for me this year in my mid-South garden where the weather can be quite humid. I had a bumper crop.

Gary: Same with us. Provencal must be the most vigorous plant of all of them. It has the nicest characteristics, truly, when you compare it to all.

Allen: Now, you grow a number of different varieties of lavender here. Which are some of your favorites?

Gary: I’d have to say my very favorite is the L. angustifolia that I believe is still the sweetest of all, maybe with a close second of the Provencal.

Allen: Now, some of these lavenders have more aromatic oils in them than others. Which of the varieties have better oils?

Gary: I would say, as far as the sweetness, you can always depend on L. angustifolia. That’s the variety of lavender that I like to see people cook with.

It’s the sweetest of oils and still enough color to suit most people.

Bonny Doon Farm is not open to the public but you can purchase other heavenly scented soaps and candles made at the farm on their website www.bonnydoonfarm.com.

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Growing Lavender

I guess it is my love of the English countryside that makes me so fond of lavender. The fragrance of this plant always takes me back to some of my favorite gardens there.

It is one of those scents, like newly mown summer grass or a fresh snowfall that triggers an emotional response in me. If I had my way I would plant it with abandon, but unfortunately I’ve always struggled to grow it. Not to be defeated I have discovered that if I choose the right variety and plant it in containers I can have this cherished herb in my garden.

There are several species of lavender, with the most popular being English, Spanish, French and the lavandins. In my humid, mid-south garden I have had the most success with a lavandin called ‘Provence’.

No matter what the type, all lavenders thrive in growing conditions similar to their native habitat along the Mediterranean coast. They prefer moist, cool winters and hot, dry summers. Well-drained soil and a full day’s sun are also essential for robust plants and plentiful blooms.

Gardeners in the northern United States should select varieties that are cold tolerant. Some lavenders will survive temperatures as low as -10 degrees F. Another option is to plant your lavender in a container that can be brought indoors for winter. Just make sure that it receives plenty of light while indoors.

An additional perk to planting in containers is that you can control the soil quality. If your garden soil is like mine with heavy clay, potting up lavender is an easy way to satisfy this plant’s need for good drainage. A soil mixture of 1/3 sand, 1/3 topsoil and 1/3 compost works well and if you place a few shards from broken terra cotta pots in the bottom of the container before you add the soil, you will improve the drainage even more.

In the humid South, try Spanish lavender or French lavender. Both seem to be more tolerant of the steamy climate. As an extra precaution, make sure your plants are located where they will receive good air circulation. This will cut down on disease.

Although lavenders are native to the Mediterranean, they are not all that drought tolerant. It is important to give them consistent moisture, especially during the first few years while they establish a strong root system. Water low to the ground to keep moisture off the leaves and in early morning, around 5:00 a.m. is good. If you water during the heat of the day, moisture tends to evaporate before plants can soak up an adequate amount. Many people water in late evening or at night, but I prefer early morning because it gives plants a chance to dry before nightfall. And this can help cut down on problems with disease.

Like most herbs, lavender requires little feeding. You may find that it is beneficial to apply an all-purpose fertilizer in early spring as new growth emerges. It is also a good idea to lightly prune them at this time to keep them in shape. You can cut them back again in summer after they flower.

Lavenders to Try

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Hidcote’ – silvery grey leaves and deep purple-blue flowers, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Munstead’ – blue-purple flowers, compat grower, long bloom time, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Provence’ – light purple flowers borne on long wands, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grappenhall’ – dark violet flowers, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grosso’ – purple flowers, very fragrant, zones 5 – 9

Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, long bloom time, zones 8 -9, good choice for Southern gardens

Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, zones 8 -9, late spring bloom time, good choice for Southern gardens

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Harvesting Lavender

I have planted some lavender and it is growing beautifully! I live in central Florida and I would like to know what I can do with it to get the wonderful aroma in my house. I have cut it and brought it in but it doesn’t seem to have the smell I was hoping for. Can you help me?

I, too, am fond of the aroma of lavender, and over the years I’ve learned a few tips for gathering the blooms for bringing indoors.

I have found that the key is knowing when to harvest the plant. I cut my lavender when the buds are swollen, but have not yet opened. And I collect my lavender mid-morning after the dew has burned off, but before hot temperatures set in. Aromatic oils burn off as the day heats up, reducing the scent.

Dry lavender by spreading it out on a cloth or mat in a warm room with no direct sunlight. The sun tends to bleach the color out.

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Three Ways to Use Lavender

If you are looking for plants for your garden with a heavenly scent, lavender has to be right up there at the top of the list.

From a garden design point of view, lavender’s silver-gray foliage is an excellent neutral. Use it as a backdrop for brighter plants and as a bridge between contrasting colors.

To successfully grow lavender, select a spot with well-drained soil and a full day’s sun. Water consistently and apply an all-purpose, liquid fertilizer in spring as new growth emerges. To keep plants full, lightly prune after the flowers fade in summer.

Lavender is a multipurpose plant that is useful in herbal remedies, aromatherapy, cooking and perfumes. Here are three easy ways to put lavender to work around your house.

Lavender Syrup

Slowly boil one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add ¼ cup dried lavender flowers and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. Lavender simple syrup will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks.

Lavender Swizzle Sticks

Freshen up your drink with a little lavender. Snip a stem that is an inch or so longer than the depth of the glass. Strip the leaves from the bottom, leaving the ones at the top. The pungent flavor is particularly good for a gin and tonic or martini.

Lavender Tea

A cup of lavender tea is good for anxiety, upset stomach or sleeplessness. Mix one tablespoon of dried lavender flowers with boiling water in a teapot and steep for 10 minutes. Save leftover tea to use as a hair rinse.