After nearly a year of writing We Like it Wild, we kind of can’t believe we haven’t done a post on lavender yet. Apparently, we just hadn’t met the right bush. This week we had a serious date with lavender and now we’re totally smitten. With the lovely Annabelle of Magpie & Rye as our guide (and her rottweiler sidekick, Sophie), we got up close and personal with Lavandula.
Lavender is part of that fabulously fragrant mint family, Lamiaceae, and cousins with basil, rosemary, sage, and just about every other strong smelling herb. The two most common types of lavender are English lavender and French lavender. We had access to an untouched field of English lavender, the more fragrant of the two types and the one more commonly used in perfumes, soaps, and cooking. The slightly arid hills of Napa are the perfect condition for this drought-tolerant plant, but lavender will grow well in pots, too, as long as they get full sun, good drainage, and don’t get over-watered.
Our harvesting field trip yielded armloads of lavender. If you’re cutting lavender yourself it’s best to cut when the little flowers are at the height of their blooming cycle, before they start to lose their petals. But a fully blooming field of lavender is bound to attract more than just a few girls with clippers; an adjacent beehive (and a bottle of rosé) meant our cutting party had to maneuver a little more deftly through the field. The smell in the field as we brushed by the plants was incredible, but we were also amazed by how noisy it was! The bees really created quite a loud hum while they were working.
CLICK HERE for the rest of the most and more beautiful lavender photos after the jump!
Here’s five fun things to do with your lavender!
Bundle your bounty, tie them with twine, and hang them on a line to dry. Lavender will dry fairly quickly and start releasing their sweet scents right away, but if you want to keep it from drying too quickly, a cluster in a vase with water will keep the flowers in tact longer and still fill your home with goodness. We recommend using your freshly cut stems right away if you plan on using them for projects while they are still pliable. Wind some up with floral wire or twine; it’s amazing how much fragrance one little lavender wreath gives off.
Dried lavender buds shake off very easily and are great for making simple sachets to put in drawers or hang on doorknobs. Create your own by doing a simple block print on muslin and sewing up all the sides. If your sachet seems to be losing it’s fragrance, giving it a squeeze will help release some more of the oils. (sachets by Janis- available at Prairie Collective)
Fragrant Bouquet and Boutonniere
If you’re on your way to a party, stop in your garden and bring your host a simple lavender bouquet. You don’t need to add any frills, just let the lavender speak for itself. And grab yourself or your honey a few sprigs to make a boutonniere while your at it, so you can keep the fresh scent near you all day.
Infused Salt or Sugar
Mix some dried lavender buds into your table salt or sugar bowl to enjoy a subtle infusion of the minty scent as a salt rub on your lamb or sweetness in your afternoon tea.
Fresh Summer Arrangement
Finally, a little bit of lavender can go a long way in an already beautiful summer arrangement. Dahlias and poppies may be gorgeous this time of year, but they score low in the scent department. Use lavender to supplement arrangements that could use a little kick.