Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lavender in All Its Stages

I grow my own lavender as a perennial, and use it primarily for sachets that my Panoply sister, M, fashions out of vintage textiles and buttons.
Lavender sachets with vintage textiles, handpainted buttons
Lavender is fairly easy to grow, but requires good drainage and good sun exposure. Most of my lavender plants are planted on slightly mounded dirt, rooted at the base of my climbing roses, against a brick wall with southwest sun exposure. The space is also totally enclosed (a courtyard), where the plants are somewhat sheltered from strong winds in winter (we have all four seasons in my region). Just after winter, though, the plants can look pretty scruffy, even up until April in my Zone 7a region.
Lavender perennials - mid April - Zone 7a - new growth on old plants pruned hard
By early June, however, the plants are sending out their buds, the perfect time to harvest them (before the bloom opens).
Lavender perennials - June - Zone 7a
Lavender ready to harvest for drying
Cutting the lavender is time-consuming, as each plant needs a visual look-see to determine which stems are best for cutting in order to dry. It's a good piddling activity in the garden. I usually cut the center stems first, down to the first juncture of outliers on either side of the center stem. I remove any leaves by holding the stem between my thumb and index finger and shearing the stem. Those outlying stems will grow for a later cut, a week or two later.
Cut lavender, ready to dry 
After the "bouquets" are cut, I trim the ends and either tie them with garden string or bind them with a rubber band. The rubber band is actually better, as it will contract as the bouquet is drying and shrinking. I then hang the bouquets upside down in my sunroom to completely dry out (on S hooks). As you can see from the photo below, the stacks of lavender bouquets were already piled high in the antique wash basin. That basin shows nearly two years' worth of harvest from my row of 8 or 9 plants in the courtyard.
Drying harvested lavender
I finally got around to shucking all the buds off of the stems recently. Mr. P. is highly sensitive to anything with fragrance, so I started outside on a day when it wasn't windy and wasn't raining (a rarity in June and July this year). The air was ideally calm, but it was too hot, so I went to the basement to finish the job.
Shucking lavender buds - Before
It took me nearly 2 hours to finish the totally manual job. I thought I had a brilliant idea of using an old colander and placing the stems in the holes to pull through and facilitate the job of shucking, but it ultimately didn't work well enough to keep doing it beyond a few stems.
Shucking lavender buds - After
When completed, I had this wooden bowl nearly 3" deep and 11" across full of lavender buds.
The lavender harvested buds
I still had this year's harvest remaining, leaving it for the time being, in case I want to use the bouquets for decoration throughout the house.
2015 Lavender Harvest to date
There are lots of uses for lavender - soaps, water spritz for linens, lavender wands, sachets - the list goes on. I previously wrote a post on a few crafts and recipes using lavender, which you may want to refer to and/or pin.

Lavender is the only herb I grow currently, but I have grown Italian herbs in the past. While visiting my Panoply sister J in Cincinnati in June (both Panoply sisters also grow lavender), I snapped a photo of her husband's herb garden ladder, all of which they harvest for use in cooking.
Herb garden
Doesn't that herb garden look wonderful ?! J's husband made the ladder, and it's tucked away on the side of the house, separate from their fenced-in vegetable garden. The herb ladder is positioned close by the kitchen door. They're growing chives, parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary (and maybe dill, I can't recall). It makes me want to start my own herb garden again. J's lavender plants are in yet another area of their yard, apart from these herbs and their vegetable garden. They are part of her landscape, but I didn't photograph that section.

Do you grow your own herbs? If so, do you plant them in a bed or containers?

As always, thank you for your visit. It's a pleasure to have you here!
Rita C. at Panoply

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