Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lavender-a life long love.........

I am not afraid to say that I adore Lavender. it's not my favourite plant because I am not sure that I could ever have such a thing for more than a fleeting second until my eyes flickered to something else, hence the Today's Favourite posts, but I cannot imagine a garden without lavender in it.
obviously sometimes it can be a somewhat problematic plant. It does get leggy and woody if it isn't pruned properly and for sure it sulks in a garden that is boggy and wet, and isn't to be advised in those situations, but in the right place, well looked after I think it's a magnificent plant.

There are of course a million varieties and several species within the genera and I have to admit that when I talk about Lavender I do very much mean the English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. I know L. stoechas, or french Lavender has it's charms but it does struggle to be hardy in wet soils in the west of the UK and so I stick with those English varieties in their many colours and heights. I am particularly fond of L. angustifolia Hidcote with it's bushy, short habit and deep violet flowers. As a short hedge it is a delight and can be used alongside other, taller varieties such as L.angustifolia x intermedia Alba, to create the most beautiful planting schemes.

During my time working in nurseries I grew more lavender than one person possibly can imagine in a lifetime, of many varieties and species. One particular season we grew 2,500 for a show garden and I spent many an hour pinching out the tips of the plants to get them bushy and in bud for early May, in the greenhouse that they were growing in. One particular day, a sunny March morning before the chaos of the Chelsea dance had properly begun, I remember almost falling asleep amongst the plants as they gave off their scent in the heat of the closed up greenhouse, and having to open the doors for a while just to stop their amazing scent from persuading me to lie down amongst the pots and have a doze.

Of course as a plant lavender is beautiful and the scent is amazing but it has also been grown for centuries as a medicinal plant. Said to help mild depression and anxiety it is also a powerful sleep aid as can be seen from my nearly falling asleep in the greenhouse, and is a great scent to use in a space where you require calm and serenity. As someone who has spent many years dealing with the joys of insomnia, lavender oil on my pillow at bedtime is a frequent go to, and lavender pillows something I look out for and regularly buy to hang in the bedroom. Of course lavender is also a natural antiseptic and a few drops of lavender oil in water can really help to stop infection in cuts and grazes.

Of course many people use lavender as a flavouring and although I have to admit I am not a fan of it to eat, lavender shortbread and lavender ice cream are very popular. The flowers are definitely very pretty when crumbled over something and make cakes and puddings look delightful too.

I always cut and dry some lavender flowers. it's an easy thing to do, just requiring the cutting of as long a stem as possible, and then tying the flowers into bunches and hanging upside down somewhere warm and dry to dry. The flowers, once dried, can be crumbled into kilner jars and saved for use in pot pourri, in small bowls where the scent will fill the room, or in cooking, and they last for ages.

Recently my largest use of lavender has been in the Bearpit garden, a space designed for calming and so very apt! There are large, billowing hedges of plain Lavandula angustifolia and smaller hedges of Hidcote all around the space, inviting people to sit amongst it and relax, whilst watching the bees busy taking it's nectar as of course it's other great bonus is that it is adored by bees of many species. In fact in the Bearpit, a space in which no pollinators were regularly seen, by the time we had planted the first three plants last year, the bees had arrived and more and more came and followed us along the lines as we planted.

How do you use lavender? I would love to know!!

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