Growing and Using Lavender

Growing and Using Lavender
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flowerLavender is a beautiful and fragrant herb that every gardener should grow. You'll find it hard to limit yourself to just one plant once you start growing this lovely herb. I grow Lavandula angustifolias because it's a sturdy, cold tolerant variety that works perfectly in my limited space. There are dozens of varieties that can be found. Always check the zone hardiness when buying a plant.

I've found lavender to be easy to care for, but it does require a dry sunny spot. It's not happy if it's too wet or humid. The spot I have it in is in full sun, and I rarely water it, unless we are in drought conditions. You also want to make sure to give it space for air circulation, which at first, meant I had to move some plants that ended up being too close. It needs a loose soil-you can add compost if you wish, but make sure it's not "packed" or heavy. I even added a little sand in the herb bed before planting. Plant lavender with other herbs that prefer this type of soil such as sage oregano, thyme, summer savory or rosemary.

Lavender blooms should be harvested when the bottom third of the flower spike is in bloom. Wait until the sun has dried the morning dew, and it's a dry day. You can cut the entire stem, strip the foliage and dry standing up in a vase, bunched together and hung upside down, or on a screen laying flat. One year I even dried them laying loosely in a big wicker basket. Keep them out of direct sun while drying, and again, make sure they are dry and warm, not humid. An attic, closet or shed can work well. When they are dry, rub the flower heads over a bowl to loosen them from the stem. Store these in a glass container in a darkened place to keep them fresh. You'll notice the key to growing, harvesting and storing lavender is dry conditions. Moisture can lead to mold or mildew.

Lavenders need pruning, but the advice is varied. Prune, but not heavily, seems to be the way to go. After blooming you want to prune some of the older stems, but don't go too heavy. I'm very cautious and prune lightly in the spring and fall. I've also transplanted in the spring when I needed to move the plant with good success. Dig as deeply as you can and move it quickly. You can also take cuttings from a lavender plant to propagate. Cut a 3-4 inch piece of the plant that is newer, not woody. Trim the leaves from the bottom half, remove any blooms, and dip lightly in a rooting hormone, then place in a sterile potting mix or sand. Keep moist, but not soggy--just barely moist. It will take several weeks to root. Keep out of the sun-- temperature around 70 degrees-and in a well ventilated area. When the roots have formed, transplant it to a pot and transfer to the garden in the fall before frost. Mulch it for the winter for a little added protection.

I use dried lavender in bath teas. I use it alone and brew a 1/4 of a cup or so in a bowl covered with boiling water for about 20 minutes. I then strain and add to the bath. I also mix with chamomile half and half or mint, or a little of all three using the same method. Below are recipes using fresh lavender. It's best to pick for the recipes later in the morning, right before making.

Make an easy herbal eye pillow for heating or cooling and placing on your eyes by mixing 1/2 cup flax seed and 1/2 cup lavender and placing in a simple sewn muslin square.

A lovely accent for a luncheon table can be made with lavender braids. Simply braid six lavender branches with the blossoms into a braid. Hold two braids together and loop each one the opposite direction to form two loops. Tie with a raffia or silk bow to hold in place. These can be given as favors, placed at each place setting or used as a package accent instead of a bow. Recipes With Lavender

I personally like to grind the lavender after it has dried before using it recipes, but many people use the buds as is.

Lavender Cookies


2 sticks butter or margarine, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs, well beaten

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. dried lavender buds

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Cream the butter, sugar, and salt until light. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add in the flour using low speed just until the dough is starting to form. Sprinkle in the lavender fold in gently. Divide the dough into two rounded sections. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Placed one of the chilled dough sections on a floured surface. Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin, taking care not to overwork it. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place them 1/2 inch apart on a ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes until just golden brown. Cool on rack.

Lavender Tea Cake


1 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain fat-free or lowfat yogurt

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lavender leaves


1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla at medium speed until well-blended. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beat well after each addition. Sift flour and carefully measure.Combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stir well. (I often sift again) Add flour the mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in lavender. Pour the batter into an 8-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients. Spread on the warm cake. Cool in pan 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pan. To serve slice thinly and present on a pretty platter.

Lavender and Honey Dressing


6 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp. hearty mustard

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. dried lavender buds

Whisk together all ingredients. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Mix again before serving.

Lavender Herb Bread


1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup lowfat cottage cheese

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp. butter or stick margarine

1 tsp. dried lavender buds

1 tsp. fresh lemon thyme, minced

1/2 tbsp. fresh basil, minced

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water. In a larger bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, honey, butter, herbs, baking soda and eggs. Stir in the yeast mixture. Gradually add flour to form a stiff dough, beating well after each addition. Cover and let rise about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. Stir the dough down with a large wooden spoon. Place in a well greased 1 1/2 or 2 qt. casserole. Allow to rise 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 350 F. for one hour. When finished, remove and turn onto a cooling rack,. Brush top with butter while warm.

Lavender Sugar

1/3 cup fresh lavender flowers

1 cup white granulated sugar

Make layers of the lavender and the sugar into a glass jar. You can double this for a larger jar if you wish. Seal the jar and keep in a dark place for 2-3 weeks. You can combine the lavender and sugars after they are dried and continue to store in the covered jar. Use them in place of a portion of sugar in recipes for sugar cookies, plain scones, tea cakes or muffins.

Lavender Lemonade


5 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

12 stems fresh lavender

2 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice

Mix the 2 1/2 cups of water with the sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove the flowers from the stem (whole is okay) and add to the sugar/water mixture. Remove from the heat. Cover and allow to cool. When cool, add 2 1/2 cups cold water and the lemon juice. Strain out the lavender. Serve over crushed ice and garnish with lavender blossoms. Serves 8.

Lavender Tea Blend


1 teaspoon fresh lavender flowers

2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoon fresh lemon balm

2 cups boiling water

In a teapot, combine the herbs. Add boiling water to the pot and steep 5 minutes. Serve with honey. Makes two cups of tea. If you want to add a black tea bag or loose tea of your choice you can add another cup of boiling water and make 3 cups of a stronger tea.

Charming Lavender Tea Gift

You will need:

1/3 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

4 teaspoons orange pekoe tea

New or vintage tea cup and saucer

small plastic bag, or plastic wrap

Tea Ball


Mix the herbs and tea then place in a piece of plastic wrap or a small bag and tie tightly with a ribbon. Place in the clean dry tea cup, with the tea ball (they are very inexpensive and can be found in most store kitchen sections) Include a note that this should steep for five minutes in boiled water. Wrap in tissue paper and place in a gift bag for a great gift for teachers and co-workers.

Lavender and Lemon Sugar Cookies


1/4 tsp. dried Lavender buds

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup soft butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 large egg

2 1/8 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp.lemon extract

In a food processor or blender, grind lavender with sugar. Cream sugar with butter and powdered sugar, and add egg. Stir in lemon extract, then flour, soda, tartar and salt; blending well. Place a tablespoon of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten dough with the bottom of a glass that has been dipped in sugar, and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden.




About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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