Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and to deter moths. With the exception of Woolly, these Lavenders start blooming early to mid spring. Spanish and Yellow Lavenders finish up after four or five weeks, with the others blooming for a bit longer. All of these do best with a good pruning about four or five weeks into the bloom cycle, discouraging these large Lavender bushes from becoming untidy and encouraging a second sweep of blooms. The variation in fragrance, size, color, texture, and flower heads among the Lavenders in this group make it a truly exciting group of plants.
Where to find it:
Lavender is native to the mountainous zones of the Mediterranean where it grows in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it flourishes throughout southern Europe, Australia, and the United States. The oil in lavender’s small, blue-violet flowers gives the herb its fragrant scent. The flowers are arranged in spirals of 6 – 10 blossoms, forming interrupted spikes above the foliage.
How Mother Nature Loves it:
The leaves are entire in some species (in which case they tend to be long and narrow). In other species they are innately toothed, or pinnate, sometimes multiple pinnate and dissected. Flowers are borne in whorls, held on spikes rising above the foliage. Flowers may be blue, violet or lilac. The calyx is tubular, with five lobes. The corolla is often asymmetric. Lavender is of fairly easy culture in almost any friable, garden soil. Itgrows best on light soil – sand or gravel – in a dry, open and sunny position. Loam over chalk also suits it. It requires good drainage and freedom from damp in winter.
The plant flourishes best on a warm, well drained loam with a slope to the south or south-west. A loam that is too rich is detrimental to the oil yield, as excessive nourishment tends to the growth of leaf. Protection against summer gales by a copse on the southwest is also of considerable value, as these gales may do great damage to the crop by causing the tall flower-spikes to break away at their junction with the stem. Lavender also is liable to injury by frost and low-lying situations and those prone to become weather bound in winter are to be avoided.
How to Use it:
Many people appreciate lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, or Lavandula officinalis) for its fragrance, used in soaps, shampoos, and sachets for scenting clothes. The name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means “to wash.” Lavender may have earned this name because it was frequently used in baths to help purify the body and spirit. However, this herb has also been used as a remedy for a range of ailments from insomnia and anxiety to depression and fatigue. Research has confirmed that lavender produces slight calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled.
In folklore, pillows were filled with lavender flowers to help restless people fall sleep. Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, people who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than those who received massage alone.
Some people may develop an allergic reaction to lavender. Nausea, vomiting, headache, and chills have also been reported in some people after inhaling or absorbing lavender through the skin.