This is one of my favourite herbs in my Sydney garden, the flowers are beautifully scented and have so many uses. They emerge in late winter and are a lovely silver-grey foliage which contrasts wonderfully in the garden.
When we visited Tassie earlier this year we visited the Lavender fields of Bridgestowe. It was stunning – as the breeze blew, we were overcome with the scent of lavender, and they had many products to try including ice-cream and tea. It was so inspiring and we are attempting to propagate some for Booyong!
Growing – Lavender is a hardy Mediterranean plant that thrives in full sun and requires little care other than pruning after flowering. Lavender is drought tolerant and prefers well-drained soil that doesn’t get too wet and boggy.
At Booyong, due to our heavy clay soil, we’ve added sand when planting lavender and mixed well to promote better drainage.
Lavender is also easily grown in pots or containers.
Care – You can feed every two months although I have to admit I’ve never done so.
Pruning – Prune after flowering to promote more flowers and prevent the plant becoming too woody over time, and never cut into old wood.
Companion Planting – Lavender is a natural repellent of moths and slugs so any plants that suffer from these pests will benefit from having a lavender plant nearby. Wild animals also tend to ignore lavender due to its strong odor, which is a great thing when you have wallabies and kangaroos a plenty. The flowers of the lavender also attract beneficial bees and butterflies to your garden.
In the vegetable garden, lavender is a good companion plant for brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and celery because it repels cabbage moth.
Pests and Diseases – This plant is easy to care for and pest and disease resistant.
Harvest – We cut lavender flowers in July – August and tie with a ribbon and hang to dry.
I also pop some cuttings in a vase and place them next to my children’s beds – the fragrance helps to sooth them before sleep – and I leave lots of flowers on the plant for the bees.
Propagation – Lavender is easily propagated from cuttings in Spring and after flowering.
Benefits –Lavender has a variety of health benefits, one of the most common of which being the calming effect of its scent. Lavender oil is used extensively in aromatherapy, but also as a home remedy for stress and difficulty sleeping. Many people apply a few drops of lavender oil to their temples for relief from stress and headaches. It can also help heal minor cuts, bruises, and burns, and reduce the irritation and pain of bug bites. Its additional potent antibacterial nature makes it a wonderful household cleanser and deodorant.
The smell of lavender essential oil also repels many types of bugs like mosquitoes, midges, and moths. Apply some lavender oil on the exposed skin when outside to prevent these irritating bites.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women: As with many other essential oils, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their healthcare practitioner before using lavender essential oil.
Eating – So many uses – one of our favourites is lavender and lemon shortbread cookies. It can also be infused with sugar to use in baking.
Lavender Bath Salts
I add one cup of Epsom salts, ½ cup coarse salt, 1 cup of rolled oats (blended into fine powder), ¾ cup dried lavender flowers into a bowl, mix and place in store in clean and dry and sealed jars.
When having a bath, add a handful of the mixture into a clean muslin bag, tie tightly and add to the bath with a few drops of lavender oil.
These make a lovely gift for friends. Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing soak in a hot fragrant bath after a busy day?
Lavender Oatmeal Bath Melts
• 5 tablespoons cocoa butter
• 1 ½ tablespoons sweet almond oil
• 1 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
• 1 tablespoons dried rolled oats
This is a great way to relieve dry winter skin and will leave your skin feeling lovely and soft.
Combine the cocoa butter and sweet almond oil in a heatproof jar and place in a saucepan with a few inches of water. Place over medium-low heat until melted.
Grind the lavender flowers and rolled oats to a fine powder (we find the nutribullet does this beautifully).
Combine all ingredients and pour into silicone moulds and place in the freezer until solid. Remove from the mould and place in a Tupperware container or freezer bag and store in the fridge or freezer.
When you’re ready to use, drop one melt into the bath and it will slowly melt away. If you find it too messy you can place the melt in a fine muslin bag tied tightly.
Be careful when leaving the bath as a fine layer of oil will remain and it may be slippery.
• 1 cup butter, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons honey
• 2 cups flour
• pinch of salt
• 2 teaspoons dried lavender
Cream together the butter, sugar, and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and lavender and mix until combined. Place two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment on the counter and divide the dough in half between the sheets. Using the wrap, shape the dough into 2 logs that are approximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Shape the logs into squares if desired by pressing gently on the top with a cookie sheet to flatten the log slightly, then turning the log on its side and pressing again. Freeze thirty minutes or refrigerate 2+ hours, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place 1-2 inches apart on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.
This one sounds interesting – Fill a muslin bag with the dried flower buds and add a few drops of lavender oil. Although it’s always preferable to have laundry airdried in the sun, these would be especially lovely for drying sheets in Winter and can be used many times over before needing to be replaced.
I am yet to try Lavender soap – but intend to do so soon as it’s one of Poppy’s favourite scents.
In 101 Easy homemade products (by Jan Berry) she has a recipe for Lavender Bug Bite Sticks.
• 1.2 cup sunflower oil
• ¼ cup dried lavender flowers
• 1 tbsp bees wax
• A few drops of essential lavender oil
Infuse the sunflower oil with lavender flowers for 4-6 weeks and strain.
In a heatproof jar combine 3 tablespoons of infused lavender oil with the beeswax and set the jar in a saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water. Place the saucepan on a medium heat until the wax is melted. Stir in the lavender essential oil, then pour it into tubes.
Lavender is said to soothe itchiness from bug bites and it also acts as a mild insect repellent. Dab on bee stings, bug bites and other itchy spots as required.
• ¼ Cup dried lavender flowers
• 2 tablespoons beeswax
• 2 tablespoons raw honey
• Lavender essential oil
Infuse the coconut oil with lavender flowers by filling a glass jar ¼ with dried lavender flowers and add desired amount of coconut oil. Set the uncovered jar in a saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and place on a low heat for two hours. Watch it to ensure all of the water doesn’t evaporate and try to keep the temperature at about 46 degrees so you infuse and not cook the oils. After two hours, set aside to cool and strain. Store in a cool, dark place for 9-12 months.
In a heatproof jar combine 3 tablespoons of infused lavender oil with the beeswax and set the jar in a saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water. Place the saucepan on a medium heat until the wax is melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the honey for 3-4 minutes. Allow the balm to thicken undisturbed for 5-10 minutes, then stir again for several more minutes to prevent the honey from separating out of the balm.
Add a few drops of lavender essential oil, then spoon the finished balm into a clean glass jar and seal, storing in a cool place out of the sun. Shelf life 6-9 months.
Massage into dry areas before bed.
Lavender Castile Soapy Facial Cleanser
A great use for oily or acne prone skin.
• 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap
• 1 teaspoon raw honey
• 1 teaspoon lavender infused grapeseed oil
• 1 tablespoon lavender essential oil
In a small bowl stir the soap, honey and infused oil. Pour in water and gently stir until incorporated and add the essential oil.
As it’s a water-based product the shelf life is not long, store in the fridge and use in a week or so.
We use soy wax and add dried flowers and a few drops of essential oils. You could add some colouring, but we prefer to leave the candles white as they contrast beautifully with the dried lavender flowers.
A recently newly discovered idea is to make fire starters out of cut Lavender, I can’t get the Booyong at the moment due to Covid lockdown and I am so grateful for my Neighbour Mette who permitted me to take cuttings from her abundantly growing lavender shrub.
As the lavender can be a little woody, it will burn longer than other green herbs. I basically gathered a cut bunch of lavender and tied it with twine, placing some cut flowers at the front to make it look pretty.
The fire starters, along with some dried bunches of flowers (for other uses) have then been placed on a wire tray to dry.
Following successfully making Calendula oil recently and due to the abundance of flowers we have, I thought I might try to make some lavender oil. It is made by steeping dried lavender flowers in a carrier oil (extra virgin or almond oil) for a period of several weeks.
To avoid water penetrating the oil it is essential to use only dried flowers (this will prevent mould).
Fill a jar with your dried flowers and fill with oil and seal, placing on the window sill (for about 3 weeks) shaking it when you’re walking past. When the period is up, strain the flowers and store the oil in a cool sheltered place. It has a shelf life of about a year.
The oil can then be used on your skin as a moisturiser, on a dried scalp and we will also place some drops in the bath when we use our Lavender bath salts. In the future I’d even like to try Lavender salve.