Lavender - Three varieties of lavender used in industry, health and in household preparations are beautiful additions to the garden picture. These are Spike (Lavandula spica), True or English (L. vera), or French (L. Stoechas). The last is easiest to identify. It is a small shrub with long, narrow, gray-green leaves; flowers are dark purple on spikes, topped by purple bracts; smells somewhat like Spike, but is not hardy in cold climates.
Spike lavender differs from True by broader, spatulate, green-gray leaves, more compact inflorescence, and bracts in axils where flowers are found are narrower. Stems of Spike are very long, interrupted and branching way above the body of the plant; flowers yield 3 times as much oil (called Spike oil) but inferior in quality to True, and has a piny note to the fragrance. It is often adulterated with oil of turpentine.
True lavender has narrow, blunt, blue-green leaves and comparatively large blue flowers in spikes on square stems; flowers are arranged in groups of from 6 to 10 in whorls, lower ones far apart from upper ones. Young leaves are apt to be found in groups in axils and are a downy, greenish white. True lavender is quite hardy and Spike less so unless protected.
Propagation: By seed, not easy and slow germination; by root division in spring; but cuttings, very easy.
Nature of Plant: Suitable for gray and for fragrant gardens; both flowers and leaves are fragrant.
Spacing of Mature Plants: From 12 inches to 3 feet, depending on the climate. In mild geographic locations, lavenders will grow to 3 feet in height but in temperate and colder places, the normal height is about 1 foot, with spikes of Spike lavender a foot or 18 inches higher. True lavender will spread if undisturbed.
Cultural Requirements: Light, gravelly or sandy soil in a sunny spot; dig in lime or chalk about roots several times a season. Plants must be grown in poor soil to produce the most fragrance; in good soil plants grow more luxuriantly but fragrant essential oils are lacking. Good drainage is essential or plants will winterkill.
From a few established plants cuttings may be taken in early spring and rooted; the next spring, roots may be divided, and so on to increase stock. Cuttings should be about 6 inches and are best taken by ripping a branch down quickly, thus getting a heel from the parent stalk. When roots have developed, dig the soil deeply and set plant well down.
Old plants must be well pruned every year for they become woody; prune after flower stalks have been cut. Keep young plants from blossoming the first year in order to bush them.
In fall, clear the ground around plants, dig in wood ashes, cover with salt hay or leaves. French lavender must be taken in and Spike is best taken in. Lavenders are subject to shrub disease shown by yellow shoots in the spring, and affected plants must be burned.
Flower: (Industrial) Spike for making oil of lavender and lavender water; True for making oil of aspic to dilute delicate colors for china painting, in varnish, spray to keep moths from clothes, herbal tobacco, snuff, toilet water, to perfume soaps and clean paint brushes; French for an inferior grade of oil;
(Household) packed away with clothes as moth fighter, to polish floors;
(Health) spirit of lavender used as stimulant and carminative when diluted and sweetened, oil rubbed on skin for ticks, as nervine and antiseptic to swab wounds, French for chest complaints.
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Stir 1/4 of a teaspoon into a glass of water and consume 3 times daily, with meals.
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