- Author: Michelle Davis
Lavender has for as long as I can remember been one of my favorite scents and favorite plants. I enjoy brushing my hand through the blossoms when I walk by just to stir up the scent. Bees and butterflies are attracted as much as I am. I have at least 6 different types in my own garden, but I would have a long way to go to get one of each of the 39 different species of lavender.
The history of the plant, which is in the mint family, can be traced back 2500 years to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and India. The essential oil from the plant has been used as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, a tension reliever and sleep-inducer, a food and beverage flavoring, a mosquito-repellent and a perfume to list just a few. Our veterinarian for years has been warming a few drops of the essential oil in her hands and rubbing it on my dog's face and body to help our cattle dog relax and be receptive to treatment. I make my own scented bath salts mixing Epsom salt and sea salt with the essential oil. Dried blossoms also have many uses. Try adding just a few dried buds to a cake mix: it doesn't take much to flavor the cake. Lavender tea made from the dried buds is delicious and commercially available. I have added the dried flowers to small cloth bags to make sachets for my clothes drawers. A friend has been making lavender wands weaving the fresh flower stems with purple ribbon - a bit of work! In Victorian times the fresh flowers were used to make tussie-mussies, tiny bouquets ladies would wear around their necks. The clean scent of the lavender smelled better than some of the odors present in the society of the time.
These shorter-lived perennials like drier soil and lots of sun. Water thoroughly and deeply when the soil is dry or nearly dry. Plant species vary in size from 6 to 24 inches tall and when in bloom from 12 to almost 40 inches. Cut the plants back early in spring or after they have flowered. They have a tendency to get woody if they are not cut back and sometimes even if they are. I have never tried growing them from seed. I prefer to go to Morningsun Herb Farm to check out new varieties and to discover old gems.