Lavendula angustifolia

26 Jun


English lavender is one of my sister’s favorite plants. Now we grow mostly dwarf varieties suitable for culinary use (try using lavender sugar on top of your favorite snicker doodle type sugar cookie recipe!), but the taller ones are always admired when we see them too.

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Unfortunately I’ve lost the names of the ones we planted, or at least the names we had, since two of them were unidentified seedlings. I suppose it doesn’t matter too much, but when people ask which ones we grow, I can’t tell you. I know we originally had ‘Twice Purple’, and ‘Buena Vista’ but I couldn’t tell you which ones were which.

We got ours out at the Lavender Festival in Sequim, a few years back. I don’t even remember which farms we bought them from, but several had seedlings and cuttings for sale. At least one of the pink ones we have was one of these unnamed seedlings, bought be ause we liked the sweet fragrance of the flowers and foliage.

And really, if you are getting lavender to use in teas and pastries, the best advice is to ignore what other people tell you works, and simply smell the foliage a f flowers. If its yummy sweet, try it! If it smells a little sharp to you, move along to the next variety, cause that sharpness will show up when you taste it too.

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Ok, I mentioned lavender sugar above… Here is how I make it; on a clear dry morning, pick a handful of flowers, preferably stems that are only just barely starting to open. Knock off any bugs and dirt. Carefully strip off the flowers into a bowl or straight into a mason jar. Cover completely with regular sugar. I would say I usually use a out a quarter to a half cup of lavender to one to two cups of sugar, but really, experiment till you find the balance you like.

Try using this mildly infused sugar on top of sugar cookies or Mexican wedding ball cookies, to sweeten lemonade, things like that. It’s especially refreshing on a hot day, and for cookies makes an interesting more adult alternative to the usual cookie fare at Christmas.

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Lavender is fairly easy to grow as long as you give it enough sun, and water the first few years to get it established. Older plants get woody and need to be carefully pruned in late winter as buds break, to renew the stems and keep them from getting overly leggy. Propagation is fairly easy a d straightforward either from cuttings or seed. Seedlings can be highly variable and fun to grow for new plants, so long S you don’t want boring uniformity in your lavender hedge.

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This is a seedling I grew out that is flowering well this year, with a nice dwarf habit and wonderfully sweet fragrance. This one is a keeper. One of its sisters is much stronger smelling, but with a medicinal twang that overpowers the sweet was of the flowers. The bees seem to like it better though, go figure.

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