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Growing Lavender

Lavender is a great herb that can be used to create essential oils or used for relaxation. Learn the best way to grow your lavender. Click here to see more gardening guides from Ashcombe.

Lavender is a wonderful perennial herb, best known for its magnificent spicy fragrance. Its fresh, clear scent was a favorite soap and bathwater additive in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. The word “lavender” is derived from the Latin verb lavare, meaning “to wash.” The Romans put lavender in their bathwater for both its therapeutic properties and its fragrance.


Lavender has historically been a “strewing” herb, popular both for its insect-repellent properties and its long-lasting fragrance. In Medieval times, it was used for masking household smells and stinking streets. Lavender has some medicinal properties, commonly used to relieve headaches and to soothe nervousness, hoarseness, toothaches, sore joints, and colic.


Today, most lavender is grown for use in perfumed products. There are many varieties of this plant, and with the varieties are just as many uses. It is used in household products, cosmetics, aromatic agents, some medicines, repellents, for ornamental uses, in tea, for bee and companion gardening, in crafts, and, of course, in culinary dishes. With such qualities, it is little wonder that for centuries lavender has been a popular garden plant.


The muted gray foliage beautifully sets off other plants in the garden. Of Mediterranean origin, it must be placed in a sunny location that is well drained with good air circulation. Although it started in the mountain region of the Mediterranean, it can be found all over the world now.


PROPAGATION
Lavender can be propagated by several methods: seeds, stem cuttings, layering, and root division. If you plant seed, you need to give it at least one month to germinate (most likely quite sporadically) and allow another 2–3 months before transplanting outside. If you are taking cuttings, the best time to do so is in the summer months. Start cuttings in a flat of sandy soil in a shaded area. Keep the root medium of these cuttings evenly moist.


GROWING
Grow lavender on the dry side in an alkaline soil with a pH of 6.5 to 8.3. To encourage your lavender to spread over a wide area, try adding some lime to the soil. The plants are subject to fungus diseases and should be planted in a sunny location with good air circulation around them. Watch your plants for caterpillars and aphids.


DRYING
When cutting lavender for drying, harvest the flower stem just as the flowers start to open. You can pick it any time of the day, as long as the morning dew has dried. Plants yield best from the second to fifth year of growth. The best method is air drying. Simply hang the bunches of lavender upside-down in an airy, dark location that is free of dust. It will take about two weeks for these to dry, depending on the air movement and humidity. Your lavender flowers should remain aromatic for a long period of time.

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