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Lovely Lavender

Herb Snips


Alba Lavender

The name lavender is from the Latin word meaning to wash. The Greeks and Romans bathed and perfumed their bodies with lavender soap and oil. They refreshed their homes and repelled insects with urns filled with this pungent herb. Victorian women used sachets called tussie mussies to overcome unpleasant odors. Those were the "good old days" when bathing was considered unhealthy, because you might get a chill! Lavender was so favored by the British that it was called English lavender, although it actually originated in the Mediterranean.

There are over 30 species of lavandula with angustifolia among the most fragrant. It is the lavender I am presenting because it is the hardiest and grows splendidly in Tehachapi. Mature plants do well in a sunny location if they have well drained soil, good air circulation and minimal water. They tend to yawn open in the center if not trimmed regularly.They are excellent container plants which will have to be occasionally pruned to maintain their shape.

You have a choice of plant size, as well as leaf and flower color. They bloom from early to late summer. "Alba" has a pure white flower with gray green foliage. It is a striking contrast to the many shades of purple usually found on this sweet scented plant. The provocative flower spikes shoot far above the bush. The leaves are spear shaped, smooth and aromatic.

As if its charm and stateliness are not enough, it abounds in medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and ornamental uses. A side benefit is its insect repelling quality. Sachets in closets, drawers and under mattresses will ward off bugs. Try a bouquet on your outside dining table to reduce flying bug annoyance.

Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed the flavor of lavender tea as well as its soothing effect. Today it is used medicinally to allay tension and insomnia. Massage and Aroma Therapists use it to relax the body and treat aching muscles. I use the essential oil to massage my knees when the hurt. I dilute it with a little almond oil to make spreading easier. If you choose to use the essential oil yourself be sure to follow the package directions. It is very potent!

Long a heavyweight in the cosmetic industry, you will find it in soaps, shampoos, perfumes, bath salts and air fresheners. Lavender refreshes the body, the air, and the spirit. It is used by crafters to make bouquets, wreaths, sachets, dried arrangements and pillows. It is favored because it is sturdy, aromatic and maintains its color and scent for years. The flower spikes can be harvested from the first show of color until fully bloomed. This allows a long harvest period.

Use lavender sparingly in cooking because it has an exotic flavor. A little goes a long way! It adds an unusual tang to cookies, cakes, ice cream, vinegar, syrups and sugar. Lovely Lavender, although a plant of antiquity, is very much at home in the gardens, kitchens and craft rooms of today.

Enjoy a summer filled with the scent, taste and comfort that Lavandula angustifolia provides. Contact me at with your lavender experiences. I wlll schedule lavender wand and craft classes in August. Check my Website for dates after June 15. I can work with requested dates for groups of 5 or more.


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