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LAVENDER PROGRAM 5/18/20

Created for Mount Laurel Garden Club when not able to meet in person

                  (Pictures not available on this document)

HISTORY

We think of lavender as being English, but it is actually from the Mediterranean, brought to England by the Romans. Its botanical name lavandula is from the Latin verb ‘to wash’ as it was much used for fragrance in bathing.

    In the middle ages, strewing herbs were popular; that is, strong scented herbs were strewn on the floors so, with minimal deodorants, people could smell the herbs, not each other.

GROWING

Lavender is a perennial, evergreen sub-shrub. It has three basic requirements: sun, sun and sun. If you don’t have an absolute minimum six hours of direct sun, you will be wasting your efforts. Do not mulch lavender, it is prone to fungus infections at the base which can be fatal. If you are concerned about the amount of sun, you may put light colored sand under it which will reflect light back through the plant.

    Spring clean-up is important. Remove leaves and debris from inside the plant (Remember that fungus?). Fluff off old dead leaves on branches if you want, and prune out any dead. Keep weeded throughout the season.

     I just had several people who lost their lavenders in similar circumstances. Shade is shade, whether from a tree, wall, building or other plants. Lavender needs its own space. If it is surrounded by taller plants, including annuals, that is also shade.

    Watering should be minimal if in ground. If in large pot water sparingly as needed and make sure there is drainage. Wet feet over time means certain death.  

     Lavenders can live many years. I recently lost several in a group that I planted before I knew there was more than one variety. 25+ years?

SELECTING VARIETIES

Most lavenders are winter hardy, ask the grower or read labels. We are on the cusp of zones 6 and 7. The whole plant is fragrant, dead or alive, not only the blooms but the blooms are usually the part used. Size can vary from ‘Munstead’ less than a foot, to ‘Grappenhall’ almost four feet. (You won’t find Grappenhall easily. We had one once.) Colors range from white to lavender to purple to pink.

      Consider the space you want to fill and pick appropriate size. The angustafolias which can be grown from seed tend to be a bit more free-form. The hybrids, which are grown from cuttings are more regular in shape or can be pruned to shape more easily. Don’t get too hung up on size. They are all within the range of one to three feet tall by two to three feet wide.

     Lavandula stoechas or Spanish lavender is uniquely pretty, not hardy and smells like camphor.

HAVESTING BLOOMS

If you want to cut for some color, you must cut when the first blooms open and hang to dry. If you want to make wands or baskets, you must use blooms as soon as they are cut and flexible. If the blooms are spent you don’t need to hang them. Cut before the stems turn brown. To keep your plant looking nice, you must cut each stem individually about 1/2 inch from potential new growth. Keep whole or strip off, depending on your plans. Think it’s tiresome? We have had thousands to cut in years past.

Fragrance potency is the same, cut early or late. I have some sachets which are at least five years old and just as fragrant as when made.

USING THE BLOOMS

My daughter loves to make lavender wands which take more fingers than I have on my hands. Andy was the first to do this, he taught Jen, and the rest, as they say, is history. Lavender fragrance has been proven to have a calming effect. I have one wand by my phone, one in the minivan, one on my bedside stand and two by the computer!

   Second picture is some of her wands. She likes to be creative with the colors.

   I believe our scheduled speaker was to talk about oils. This is not my area of expertise. You will have to wait.

COOKING WITH BLOOMS

Lavender is strong; don't use too much or your dish will taste like Aunt Sally's sachet.

    Add lavender flowers when making:

         Biscuits or bread sticks         Fruit cup

         Earl Grey tea                         Marinade for chicken

    Make lavender honey; strain and use for:

         Glaze for roast duck or baked fish

         Vinegar

         Butternut squash baked with butter & thyme

Lavender is frequently a part of herbs d'Provence  

Any questions? Email me and I will share. Thank you for inviting me.!

Gloria

Tea For You

  Making a cup of herb tea: Plant material may be fresh or dried in most cases. On the average, one teaspoon of dried material or three teaspoons of fresh should be used, although it can vary a bit with different herbs. Place in the center of a coffee filter, gather sides up to make a pouch and clip on the side of a cup with a clothespin. Add hot water. Don't let your coffee filter hang outside of the cup below the level of the water, or it will wick the water out onto your table, counter or lap. Of course you can use any type of teaball as well.

    Drying plants for tea:   Gather herbs in late morning for best flavor. Dry by hanging out of direct light where there is air circulation (not in a closet), or in the microwave or oven set on low. When dry enough to crumble, store in airtight containers out of direct light.

For a Calming, Soothing Tea

   Add 6 to 8 chamomile flowers and 3 to 5 leaves of lemon balm or catnip. Catnip is exciting for cats but soothing for humans. Brew for 15 minutes. You might want to try the individual herbs first. The combination could be too strong. This can also be used as an aid to sleep.

CAUTION: Do not drink this tea before driving.

 

Comfrey - the best healer for bruises and superficial wounds

    All the bad press in the last few years about comfrey not being recommended for internal use has tended to overshadow the excellent healing properties of this herb. For a person like me with very little grace of form, who frequently bumps into things, comfrey is like a miracle cure.

    A comfrey poultice (see next article) applied as soon as possible after an injury can totally prevent or at least minimize bruising or greatly hasten healing. Make it hot if you prefer, but that isn't really necessary. Twenty to thirty minutes twice a day usually does the job. I have also used comfrey to take the soreness out of a nasty tick bite. The most active healing component in comfrey is allantoin, which is found in many first aid creams. These creams do not, however, have the same fast healing effect.

    Comfrey is a perennial with fairly large fuzzy leaves and blue or white flowers. The two varieties usually found are Russian and common. Russian is a much larger, taller plant than tis the common. It does however contain more pyrroliziidine, which is the substance causing concern about liver damage with regular use. Either kind may be used safely as a poultice since pyrroliziidine is not absorbed through the skin.

    Do we have comfrey plants? Of course we do!

A Poultice for the 21st Century

    Throw away your cheesecloth for poultices if you ever owned any in the first place. Break out the coffee filters! They are easy to use, certainly cheaper than cloth, and they work great.

    Mash (mortar and pestle) the required herb(s) with a little water if needed, or pulverize with a meat tenderizing hammer. Blenders are ok, but a little messy. Fold into filter and apply. If heat is desired, warm very briefly in the microwave.

    If you don't have the time to sit down and relax during treatment, go to any feed store or saddle shop and buy a roll of "Vetrap". This is a marvelous ace bandage type material that sticks to itself and comes in many colors. Great stuff for kids.

    Welcome to the modern poultice!

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