Lavender is a traditional cottage-garden plant, its gray-green spiky foliage and spires of mauve-blue flowers providing color throughout the year. It is native to the Mediterranean and grows in profusion in the sun-baked Maquis region of southern France.
The Greeks and Romans used this highly aromatic plant to make perfumes and ointments. Since the Middle Ages, the dried flowers have been one of the main ingredients of potpourri and fresh sprigs were included in herbal bunches, known as "tussie mussies," to mask unpleasant household odors and ward off fevers.
The plant may grow to a height of 36 inches, but there are dwarf forms for edging. The stems are thick and woody, and become straggly if left unpruned. The leaves are long (about 3 inches), spiky, and very narrow. The tiny tubular flowers are carried on long spikes in thick clusters. The fibrous roots are shallow and wide spreading.
The plants like a dry, well-drained, and preferably stony soil and a warm, sunny position. They should be lightly pruned in spring. Propagation of this evergreen shrub is by cuttings taken in spring or late summer.
How to Use
Fresh lavender flowers may be used to flavor syrup for jellies and fruit salad, and milk and cream for desserts. They may also be candied to decorate cakes.
Lavender is used extensively to make antiseptic, perfumed infusions, liquid extracts, herbal oils, cosmetic creams and lotions, toilet water, powders and deodorants, insect repellent and potpourri.
Health-wise,it is said to have antidepressant and mood-elevating effects, and has been used internally for the potential to help support symptoms of digestive problems, anxiety, joint pain, irritability, and tension and migraine headaches. Applied externally, lavender is of benefit to burns and rheumatic pains.
Stir 1/4 of a teaspoon into a glass of water and consume 3 times daily, with meals.
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