Herb of the Month: Lavender (Lavandula sp.) Part 1

March’s herb of the month is lavender.

grosso lavender plants

This growing information is for Grosso lavender (the variety that I planted in my front garden last year), but other lavender should have similar growing requirements. Grosso lavender is hybrid of cold-hardy English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and heat-tolerant Portuguese Lavender (L. latifolia). It is the primary commercial variety for the production of lavender oil.

Grosso Lavender Care

Size: The Grosso variety of lavender can get up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall and wide.

Water Requirements: This lavender prefers soil that is kept between dry and moist.

Soil Requirements: Grosso lavender grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil that is well drained.

Light Requirements: Grosso lavender does best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: This lavender grows well in USDA zones 5 to 8, though may not survive the winter if the temperature gets below 0F and there is no snow to insulate the plant.

Nutrient Requirements: Lavender actually prefers a soil with somewhat low fertility.

Pruning: For continued blooming, remove faded flowers. About every three years, prune back to 8 inches (20 cm) tall in the spring.

Pests: This lavender is susceptible to root rot and leaf spot.

Blooms: The blooms of this lavender are lavender in color and very fragrant. Blooms appear from June to August.

Sources

Missouri Botanical Garden
Pantry Garden Herbs – Lavender, Grosso 
Mother Earth News – Herb to Know: Lavender ‘Grosso’ Plant 

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Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

Winter Lavender Calendula Salve

If you’re anything like me, winter can be tough on your skin. During my no-technology week last month I whipped up this salve to soothe skin and brighten spirits (and because I needed some last minute gifts this holiday season). I think it may be the best thing of this sort that I’ve ever made and I’m very pleased with how it turned out so I figured I’d share.

What’s in it?

Lavender – Not only does lavender have a calming scent and the ability to lift moods but it also has antiseptic and pain relieving properties.

Calendula – Calendula is sometimes known as pot marigold and is an herb that is valued for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to stimulate wound healing and soothe irritated skin. It can be used to treat burns, bruises, and injuries. Calendula also gives the salve a sunny yellow color that reminds me of the much missed summer sun.

Olive Oil – Olive oil is moisturizing and soothing to dry skin. For this recipe I infused the olive oil with herbs following the solar infusing method from the Herbal Academy of New England though the other methods would work as well.

Beeswax – This is what thickens the oil to a salve consistency. It also has a slight honey scent, which I love. I used natural beeswax for this recipe.

For this salve I was shooting for a medium hardness and used the beeswax/oil ratios from Humblebee and Me. If you’re into DIY bath and beauty products I definitely recommend her site; she makes the coolest stuff and has tons of recipes.

 

Brick of beeswax, bottles of infused oil

Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

(makes 4.5 oz)

45g* Calendula infused Olive Oil
45g* Lavender infused Olive Oil
20g* Beeswax
Tins
Clean can for melting
Small Pan
Water

  1. Measure out ingredients
  2. Place ingredients in your clean can.
  3. Place can in a small pan and surround it with between one and two inches of water.
  4. Heat the pan with the can over medium heat. Stir mixture in the can occasionally to facilitate melting.
  5. Once all the beeswax has melted, remove the can from the pan and pour salve into tins (I used these from Mountain rose herbs).
  6. Allow salve to cool. Label tins and give as gifts (or keep for yourself).

*The wax:oil ratio I used was 1:4.5. This means that you can scale up this recipe and use 40g beeswax and 90g of each of the infused oils, or scale it down and use 10g beeswax and 22.5g of each of the infused oils. Just remember it is the ratio that is important.

Beeswax in a cup on a scale
Weighing the beeswax
Can in a pan with water around it
Can-pan set up. Note how the water surrounds the can.
Beeswax and oil melting in can
Melting the beeswax
Salve cooling in metal tins
Cooling in tins from Mountain Rose Herbs
Harden salve in tins
Ready for gifting

 

Grosso Lavender (Lavandula × intermedia)

Funny story time: When I was young my mom had a lavender plant in our herb garden. I often helped out and had learned that removing the flower buds kept herbs from bolting (something that was not wanted). One day I decided to be helpful and I took it upon myself to keep the lavender from bolting. With small garden shears in hand I carefully cut each and every bud from the lavender plant. I was so proud of myself for doing something without being told to and thought mom would be so happy. She wasn’t.

I give my mom a lot of credit, she didn’t get mad. Like many times in my childhood she managed to see past what I had done and understand that I was only trying to help. She explained to me that unlike the other herbs, we wanted the lavender to flower because it was the flowers that smelled so nice. We did end up getting a few flowers that year since I had missed some of the buds and I never prematurely cut lavender blossoms again.

grosso lavender plants

Source

Lavender has been around for a long time, over 2000 years. It originated in the Mediterranean and the Egyptians used it as a perfume and for mummification. The Greeks used lavender to cure many different ailments and the Romans used it to perfume their bathwater. This is actually how Lavender got its current name (lavare means “to wash” in Latin). In the Middle Ages lavender was used as a disinfectant, deodorant, and medicinal herb. During the Black Plague, lavender was used ward off the disease. Today lavender is used in bath and beauty products, potpourris, and in the kitchen.

Grosso lavender is hybrid of cold-hardy English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and heat-tolerant Portuguese Lavender (L. latifolia). It is the primary commercial variety for the production of lavender oil. This is the variety that I planted in my front garden this past fall.

Grosso Lavender Care

Size: The Grosso variety of lavender can get up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall and wide.

Water Requirements: This lavender prefers soil that is kept between dry and moist.

Soil Requirements: Grosso lavender grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil that is well drained.

Light Requirements: Grosso lavender does best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: This lavender grows well in USDA zones 5 to 8, though may not survive the winter if the temperature gets below 0F and there is no snow to insulate the plant.

Nutrient Requirements: Lavender actually prefers a soil with somewhat low fertility.

Pruning: For continued blooming, remove faded flowers. About every three years, prune back to 8 inches (20 cm) tall in the spring.

Pests: This lavender is susceptible to root rot and leaf spot.

Blooms: The blooms of this lavender are lavender in color and very fragrant. Blooms appear from June to August.

Harvesting and Use: Grosso lavender can be used for culinary purposes but is most often used for its fragrance (i.e. in sachets and potpourris). The leaves of this variety are also quite aromatic. In the garden it is a nice border plant and does well in containers. One of my favorite ways to consume lavender is to add a pinch of dried flowers to my mug whenever I make Earl Grey tea.

 

Sources

Missouri Botanical Garden

Pantry Garden Herbs – Lavender, Grosso 

Mother Earth News – Herb to Know: Lavender ‘Grosso’ Plant 

Aura Cacia – The History of Lavender 

Lavender Valley – History of Lavender