Lavender is a beautiful and aromatic herb that is said to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and soothe headaches.
It is a warm climate perennial grown on farms around the world for its incredible long lasting scent and beautiful purple blossoms that dry and keep perfectly. Here in Canada, you can visit lavender farms in BC and Ontario. Of course, you can also grow this herb at home.
While most lavender varieties are suitable for Zone 7 to 10, according to Sage Gardens, two English lavender varieties, Munstead Lavender and Hidcote Lavender, can survive Zone 3 winters if properly mulched and protected. Other varieties need to be brought indoors during the winter. French and Spanish lavender varieties typically have higher camphorous oil concentrations making them more suitable for decorative purposes than for culinary uses.
I have grown lavender in planters before and treat them more like annuals than perennials. I thoroughly enjoy brushing up against the plant and harvesting the flower stalks. Both the leaves and flowers are very fragrant, a perfume like scent that most people adore but that rabbits and deer do not. In fact, it makes a great border around gardens as most pesky garden visitors do not like the strong scent and will stay away.
I’m fortunate that my mom, who lives in Canada’s Okanagan valley, grows an abundance of lavender that she shares with me. That means, I have plenty for crafting purposes!
How to Grow Lavender
Lavender is much like rosemary – it can be neglected but not totally ignored.
Think Mediterranean like conditions. Sun, good air circulation, good drainage (almost sandy soil) and occasional watering. It does not like to have soggy, wet roots. Overwatering is likely the number one mistake with growing lavender. It likes to be watered, but not too much, water when top 1 inch of soil is dry.
How to Harvest & Dry Lavender
Cut flower stems when the buds have formed but the flowers have not opened. The tight flower buds will retain their color and scent longer than the open blossoms – the ideal for crafting!
Like many woody stemmed herbs, only cut the fresh growth – the green stems, not the woody stems. Cutting the fresh stems will promote regrowth, cutting woody stems will not.
Follow the stem from top to bottom and cut with sharp scissors or gardening shears, leaving at least 2-3 sets of leaves on the stem to ensure the plant has enough foliage to stay strong and regrow.
Bundle 3-5 stems together and hang to dry for 1-2 weeks. A dry, dark location with good air circulation is ideal.
Once dried, you can keep the stalks or remove the buds from their stems and store in a paper bag or glass jar.
Lavender in Baking
Yes! You can use lavender in baking. Check out my recipe for Lemon Lavender Cookies.
Lavender & Oatmeal Tub Tea
Here’s just one of the many ways to use these lovely buds. This is one of the gifts we made at a Herbs for Gift Giving workshop. It smells amazing and is super quick and easy to assemble.
Bath teas are a mix of dried herbs and other soothing ingredients to relieve tension, soothe aching muscles, stimulate circulation and provide overall relaxation. They’re like tea bags for your tub. In this particular mix we use lavender to add a lovely scent, oats to soothe dry, itchy skin and Epsom salt to soothe tired muscles.
To use, simply add a bag to your bath tub while it’s filling and let it hang out in the tub with you while you soak away your troubles. If you’re gentle, you can use the baggy as an exfoliant too. Just don’t rub too hard or your tea bag will split open. This tub tea does not produce any bubbles, but the oats will cause a little cloudiness in the water – that’s how you know it’s working. And, because everything is contained in a baggy, there’s no mess when you drain the tub.
Thanks to Homemade Gifts Made Easy for the original idea and the lovely pillow box. Click the link to download the free template for your gift giving pleasure.
You can use fillable tea bags (bulk stores and bulk tea stores have them), organza baggies, old lace curtains cut in squares and tied into small bundles or you can sew little muslin baggies. Alternatively you can fill a large jar and attach a fancy scoop and tea diffuser.
Lavender and Oat Tub Tea
- 1/4 cup oats quick cooking
- 1/4 cup Epsom salt – lavender scented*
- 1/2 Tbsp lavender blossoms
- 2 fillable tea bags or organza bags with drawstring
- Mix all ingredients together.
- Divide into two tea bags.
- Attach labels.
- Decorate for gift giving.
- To use, add one tea bag to tub of water and leave in while you enjoy a nice, soothing soak.
To get the free download for the tea bag tags and the pillow box visit Homemade Gifts Made Easy. Adapted from from Homemade Gifts Made Easy
Do you grow lavender? What are your favorite ways to use this gorgeous herb?
Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.