Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
The plant with the purple flowers is versatile— the ornamental garden beauty can also be used for various cosmetic, medicinal or culinary purposes.
Lavender bouquet for herbal medicine
Handmade lavender cookies
Bath salt, aroma candle and towels for relaxation
Saturday, June 15, 2013
My husband and I have developed a great fondness for lavender. It's hard not to love a plant with attractive foliage, pretty flowers and a wonderful scent, particularly when it is also drought resistant and one of the few plants deer will leave alone.
Perfumed with one of the most popular fragrances in the world, lavender is an easy plant to grow, taking very little time or resources. With just a little care, it will produce abundant blooms for many years.
Lavender works in a wide variety of garden styles, from English cottage to Mediterranean. Depending on the variety, the flowers may be large or small, and pale or bright. The flowers aren't always purple either, with varieties of lavender available that bloom in other colors.
Whether you use it for cosmetic, medicinal or culinary purposes, or just enjoy it as a fine landscape specimen, lavender is a plant that I highly recommend.
A member of the mint family, lavender is a perennial herb that grows easily, provided you supply it with full sun and good drainage. It's best to grow it from cuttings or division, as seeds are slow to germinate and don't always breed true.
Separate your plants by about a 2-foot distance, or a 1-foot distance if you are planting a hedge. Lavender can tolerate dry conditions and good air circulation, but keep it sheltered if you live in a windy area. Check the plant tag of particular varieties to see if the type of lavender you are planting will be hardy in this area.
One of lavender's best attributes is that it is naturally pest resistant, while attracting beneficial pollinators. Snails, slug, aphids and other pests routinely avoid it, as well as deer and rabbits, but the flowers will be a magnet for honey bees and butterflies. Its strong aroma makes it a good companion plant for many vegetables, too.
Lavender takes about three years to reach its full size. Your plant will need to be pruned every year immediately after it finishes blooming. Cut back both the flower stem and about a third of the leaved stems. Pruning is critical to lavender to prevent the center of the plant from becoming weighed down by its foliage and dying in the center.
Know your lavender
There are three basic kinds of lavender, but all of the lavenders are native to the Mediterranean regions. Even the variety known as "English lavender" is not native to England, but simply refers to the variety that grows best there.
English lavender is the most popular variety of lavender grown today, and has the appearance and scent that most people associate with the herb. English lavender is hardy in this area, grows to a typical height of 2 to 3 feet, with silver-colored leaves, and has highly perfumed medium purple flowers. If you're planning on using your lavender for craft or culinary projects, English lavender is the type to grow.
Spanish lavender typically grows about 2 feet high, and looks very different from other lavenders. While not as fragrant as English lavender, the flower heads have a deep purple color and a distinctive pinecone shape, with bracts that look like large flower petals. This variety loves hot weather and can't withstand colder temperatures.
French lavender is grown most commonly as an ornamental plant. This variety does not have the rich lavender fragrance, but it does have lovely, purple flowers and furry, gray-green leaves. It will bloom all summer and fall, and can bloom almost year round if you move it indoors to a bright window that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day.
Lavender cultivars based on the three varieties above come in different colors and leaf shapes. The most popular have silver-green foliage and bright lavender to purple flowers, but there are also varieties that bloom in pink, white, yellow and blue.
Lavender flower heads look gray right before the flowers open. The time to harvest is when the color becomes vivid.
Cut the flower stems in the morning after the dew has dried, submerging the cut end of the stems in a bucket of water as you go. Lavender cools itself by releasing its fragrant oils, so keep them cool to keep the oil and fragrance for your purposes. Use the flowers fresh or dried, but keep them out of the sun.
Do a quick search on the Internet and you will find a myriad of ways to use your lavender.
Potpourris, sachets and lotions are but a few of the cosmetic uses for lavender. You can also use lavender to provide pest control inside your house, just as it provides in your garden.
Lavender is used medicinally as a stress reliever, and to bring on restful sleep. Other medicinal uses range from pain relief to healing scar tissue.
And, lavender can also be used in cooking, with an unusual taste that's hard to define. Lavender can be used in baking sweets, or can replace rosemary and other strong herbs. It is often mixed with other herb members of the mint family to create herbs de Provence, a mixture of dried herbs including savory, basil and thyme, typical of Provencal cuisine.
If you'd like to experience the many wonderful attributes of lavender, Beliveau Estate Winery in Blacksburg holds an annual Lavender Festival on the last Sunday in June.
The winery's Provence lavender blooms mid-June through mid-July, and its Hidcote variety blooms May through September. The sight, scent and taste of lavender will be celebrated at the festival.
Come learn more about the festival, growing lavender and other gardening tips on my blog at blogs.roanoke.com/downtoearth/.
Karen Hager's column runs every other Saturday in Extra.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us