Last week Jonathan and I stayed with our friends the Rawsons and the McGahheys in Southern California (while we were in the area for the Iron Man 3 release and the LA Fashion District). They live in the beautiful hills of Temecula and are surrounded by a veritable Eden of fruit trees and herbs of all varieties. On the winding drive up to their house on a hill, I geeked out as we passed through tons of sprawling English Lavender plants becaaaaaause….
I had been tossing around the idea of finding some lavender to make Victorian potpourri satchets with for some time – I actually had it in my “list of things to do while Jonathan is in boot camp so you don’t go crazy and set fire to the neighborhood” – but I didn’t want to go buy some poor baby lavender plant at Home Depot or whatever just to mutilate it. So I asked demanded that I be able to harvest a handful or two.
I have used lavender essential oils many times in the past. Lavender oil is known to have a soothing and calming effect on the nerves – relieving tension, depression and nervous exhaustion in general and is very effective for headaches, migraines and insomnia. So I was pleased to learn that lavender is one of the safest and best herbs to use for aromatherapy to combat the daily stresses and strains of pregnancy!
Lavender became quite popular during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and preferred her tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches. Around this time a popular method of aromatherapy in regards to lavender, was to dry flowers and leaves of the lavender plant and then sew them into a pouch to be tucked under your pillow. Not only will you reap all the benefits of lavender aromatherapy, but it will help to restore restful sleep (and keep your bed smelling pretty!)
So the morning before we left for home, I got up early and trudged down the hill with some strips of silk (from our bag of booty gotten at the LA Fabric District) and started picking me my lavender. After a couple minutes I looked up to see my swoon-tastic stud muffin of a husband walking down the hill with a cup of hot coffee in his hand that he’d brought me. The cool morning air, the hot coffee, the wafting scent of lavender in the rising sun and my handsome husband with his tousled Thor hair really filled up my happy.
Anyway, harvesting lavender is really simple. There’s not much to elaborate on. But here’s some basic tips:
1. Pick the flowers in the morning.
The best time to harvest your lavender is in the morning, preferably after the dew has dried but before the heat of the sun draws out too much of the essential oils.
2. Pluck with a few inches of growth still on the stem.
When you cut each blossom, be sure to leave a few inches of green growth on the plant. While you can use the leaves (they have a good portion of oil in them) be sure to leave some room for growth to replenish the bush with more buds. In general, lavender is like any other flowering plant – when they are deflowered, at the base of the stem a new flower will grow, giving you 3-6 effective harvests in a year.
3. Gather the lavender in bunches.
When you have enough blossoms to fill your hand (about 1 ½ inches across at the base – any more than this runs the risk of your bouquet mildewing), then tie the bundle tightly at the stems. I collected one bundle with leaves intact, and one stripped of leaves so I could have more of the actual blooms. Now that you have your lavender bunch, it’s all ready for drying out! The bouquets I went home with were so simple and woodsy chic that I am confused as to why these little beauties aren’t used in weddings more often.
4. Dry your lavender for about two weeks.
To dry the lavender, hang the bundle upside down in a dry, dark place. The darkness helps the lavender retain its color, and drying it upside down helps lavender retain its blossom shape. You’ll know your lavender bundle is done when there is no moisture remaining on the stems in the very center of the bundle. Mine are still sitting over my bookshelf, waiting to be turned into Victorian potpourri satchets. I’ll be sure to blog about THAT process soon. 😉
In the language of flowers, lavender means devotion, luck and happiness.