Who doesn't love Lavender? Used since time immemorial as a medicinal herb, an insect repellent, an aromatic oil and a general all round house-hold essential especially when there was a bit of strewing* to be done. The Romans and Greeks used Lavender when bathing and that is the origin of the botanical name Lavandula (la-van-dew-la) which comes from the Latin word lavare meaning to bathe or wash. Lavender's natural home is the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and India.
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Believe it or not the much loved English Lavender does not come from England at all. It was probably introduced by a conqueror who like to smell nice and wouldn't travel anywhere without his favourite herb. History tells us that Lavender grew in England from about 1265 onwards. Talking of smelling nice Lavender is one of the main ingredients in the world famous Eau de Cologne, 4711, named after the street number of the 18th century inventor of "water from Cologne".
Lavender has a strong biblical connection too; it is mentioned several times under the name 'Spikenard'. Spikenard i.e. Lavender Oil was a precious and expensive commodity and it is written that Mary used this oil to anoint the feet of Jesus.
There are about 30 species of Lavender. They are described variously has shrubs, sub shrubs, herbs, or herbaceous perennials. They all have highly aromatic foliage and flowers but it is Lavandula angustifolia and its various cultivars that is the most popular for the production of Lavender Oil. The pungent oil is collected from the oil glands at the base of the flower spikes. Lavenders are generally short lived and in their natural habitat the volatile oil can cause spontaneous combustion which means they would be very short lived indeed!
All Lavenders are sun lovers and they prefer to grow in well drained soil. They will grow happily with little or no fertilizer. Lavenders are best trimmed after flowering. If you wish the discarded flowers can be dried for pot pourri etc. Bees love Lavender flowers so make sure you plant a couple of bushes near the vegetable plot or orchard for pollination purposes. Great for hedging or edging, perfect in the perennial border and lovely in a pot. Love Lavender? We certainly do.
*Lavender was strewed throughout houses during the Great Plague of London (1665) as it was thought to be a protection against disease.