Lavender originated in the Mediterranean and is presumed to have made its way to England during the Norman Conquest, perhaps with the Benedictine Monks. It was brought to America by early settlers, possibly the Quakers, to complement their herbal pharmacies.
Lavender has long been recognized for its ability to soothe nerves and reduce tension headaches. Its scent has been employed for its sedative effects for centuries.
Clothing and bedding rinsed in lavender water not only smelled fresh, but also repelled moths. Many homes of days long ago had lavender bushes planted outside the laundry door in order that fine linens could be draped across them as they dried to be perfumed with lavender, then tucked away in airing cupboards and drawers.
Lavender is beautiful when left to complete its bloom in the garden, but is also lovely and useful in your home. If you have the space in your garden try to plant a few bushes which are meant to be harvested. When your lavender flowers have opened about 1/4 on most stems, cut them to dry in bunches of about 100-125 stems, hold them together with an elastic and hang them upside down in a dark, well ventilated room. In about 2-3 weeks, depending on your humidity, you should have lovely, fragrant dried lavender which will hold its scent for about two years. This lavender may be displayed bunched in vases or rubbed from the stems to create sachets, eye pillows, sleep pillows or potpourris. To refresh the scent of the stripped buds, gently squeeze your sachet to release the scent stored in the oil glands of the buds.
Grow your lavender organically and you may find cooking an entirely new experience! Find a French Provencal cookbook in your library or an edible flower cookbook and surprise your friends with a new and exotic taste experience! Try our own unique lavender biscotti recipe served with fresh hot coffee or tea for a delightful afternoon treat. Many gardening and cooking magazines publish a variety of recipes using lavender - keep your eyes open for them, especially during the summer months.
Obviously from its Mediterranean origins to its place in international gardens, lavender is a highly adaptable plant which needs only a sunny location and gravelly or sandy soil to thrive. Lavender is a perfect plant for xeriscaping as it prefers dry conditions. Excessive overhead watering will cause it yellow and eventually die out as root rot sets in. Any water requirements are best served by drip irrigation to give lavender the hot, dry conditions it prefers.
Gardens which do not have the ideal conditions for growing lavender can have their soil amended by digging down 20-30 centimeters and filling the hole two-thirds full with a sandy mix, then place your plant in the hole, cover with more of the sandy mix and mound up about 10 centimeters around the base of the plant. If it is impossible for your lavenders to avoid being hit by overhead watering, you can simply take cuttings from healthy stock when your plants start to yellow and propagate new plants when you require them. Lavender roots easily from cuttings as long as you take your cutting with a small leg on one side, dip it in rooting hormone and start it in a mixture of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 sand. Expect your lavenders to thrive for 7-10 years in ideal conditions, then plant with new specimens when they begin to die off. Either purchase new nursery stock or take your own cuttings and propagate them yourself. To keep your plants from getting woody centers that split off when they become heavy with flowers or snow, shear each plant into a compact dense mound when you put your garden to bed each autumn and you will be rewarded with lovely, healthy growth each spring.