Lavender is a
traditional cottage garden plant. Its gray-green spikes of foliage and
purple flowers provide color all year. Since the Middle Ages, the dried
flowers have been one of the main ingredients of potpourri. Fresh sprigs
are included in herbal bunches known as tussie mussies, which have been
used for hundreds of years to mask unpleasant odors and ward off
The plant may grow to a height of 3 feet, but there are dwarf forms for edging which reach only about 10 inches. The stems are thick and woody, and become straggly if left unpruned. The leaves are long, spiky, and very narrow, and branch out near the ground. The tiny tubular flowers are carried on long spikes in thick clusters that surround the stem from the tip to about 4 inches down.
Cuttings from strong new growth can be propagated in summer or autumn or from seeds sown indoors in trays. Once rooted, plant them in a well drained, poor soil. Foliage will yellow in poorly drained soil. The bushes tend to look after themselves and respond to an annual pruning in fall after flowering or in early spring. Bushes tend to straggle as they mature and it is often necessary to cut back severely in fall to generate strong growth.
Fresh lavender flowers can be used to flavor syrup for jellies. Mix 6 flowerheads into each pint of apple jelly syrup. Remove the lavender before bottling. It is also used to flavor fruit salad and milk and cream for deserts. Flowers be candied to decorate cakes and puddings. Use lavender instead of rosemary when cooking chicken. Lavender ice-cream is a real treat.
Use an infusion of lavender on insect bites. Dried flowers and seeds are used in herbal sleep pillows and baths for soothing and calming frayed nerves. Lavender oil applied at the temples will relieve a headache. Three flowerheads in a cup of boiling water makes a soothing tea at bedtime.
Bunches of lavender are said to ward off insects. Fresh or dried flowers are used in rinsing water for clothes and hair. Dried flowers and seeds are often used in potpourri and sachets. The stems are used to weave decorative baskets.To dry the flowers, cut them as soon as they begin to open and hang upside down in bunches in a well-ventilated area.