There is no better feeling than the one a gardener gets when taking an early morning stroll through the yard, a steaming cup of coffee in hand, cherishing blooming flowers in all of their colorful glory! One addition that will brighten your senses as well as your garden, is lavender. Lavender is the perfect pollinator-friendly plant to add to your garden. Lavender and bees are as perfect a pair as peanut butter and jelly. The blueish-purple flowers bloom in early spring. During bloom, one can hear a symphony of buzzing bees as the sweet scent of lavender wafts through the air.
There are three lavender species widely cultivated: English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), French lavender (L. dentata) and Spanish lavender (L. stoechas). Lavender is an evergreen shrub native to countries of the Mediterranean region. It thrives in locations with full-sun and well-draining soil. Although non-native to North America, lavender can be grown as a perennial in USDA grow zones 5 through 10. The Inner and Outer Coastal Plains of South Jersey are situated in Zones 6a-7a/b. The sandy, slightly acidic soil of the New Jersey Pine Barrens provides an ideal substrate for lavender to flourish. One mistake a gardener can make is over-watering. This sun-loving shrub is a candidate for rock gardens and areas where other plants suffer.
The aroma of lavender promotes calm and soothing well-being. Historically, lavender was used for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is commercially harvested for essential oils, household and skincare products. Esters, chemical compounds derived from alcohol and acid that is used in fragrances and essential oils, are responsible for the sweet, unique scent of lavender. The two esters dominantly present in lavender are linalyl acetate and linalyl butyrate. It is in these plant-derived chemicals, containing antimicrobial properties, that make lavender so beneficial.
Harvesting lavender is a fun way to create zero-waste, all-natural handmade products. Be sure to harvest lavender early in bloom because oil and aromatic content decreases with time. Prune the stem by tracing it to the side-leaf junction and then clip it. By pruning lavender early, it will continue to bloom through summer. Hang the lavender in bunches upside-down in a cool, dry area. A dehydrator works perfectly by providing consistent temperature while saving time. Store dried lavender buds in a sealed container, like a mason jar, until use.
There are endless ways to incorporate this edible, aromatic flower into your lifestyle. Infusing lavender oil at home is a simple process. First, select a carrier oil, then steep dried lavender buds in chosen oil. Store steeping oil for at least a week. There are numerous carrier oils to choose from such as sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, almond oil, and olive oil. Each carrier oil has unique properties that provide different benefits. Avocado oil exhibits anti-inflammatory properties whereas jojoba has antibacterial properties. After a few weeks, strain infused oil to complete your final product- handmade, natural lavender oil. Lavender oil is a key ingredient for handmade products:
• Insect repellent
• Body scrub
• Lavender salve
• Facial cleanser
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