Scientific Name: Lavandula officinalis, lavanda
Description: Lavendar essential oils comes from the lavendar plant. It’s a small, straight rustic evergreen shrub may reach over a meter in height, needing support. It is not only grown for the delicate perfume of its flowers but also for its thick silvery leaves. It grows spontaneously in hilly areas. Lavandula spice is found up to 500 meters above sea-level but suffers cold.
Trunk: Elegantly curved, lavander stems become woody after the 2nd year, the branches tending to peel when old.
Foliage: Opposite, linear and covered by fine silvery hairs on the mature leaves but white on those younger. More or less intensely perfumed depending on the variety.
Flowers: These summer blossoms consist of numerous small thick tubular classically lavender in color flowers, sometimes pale or intense blue, white or pink. Each spike develops at the end of a thin straight stem of about 50 cms in length.
Habitat: Lavender likes a temperate climate and is present in most Mediterranean countries, the dry, light, calceous and non-compact earth being ideal for its cultivation.
Cultivation: This presents no difficulty but drainage is essential to protect the roots. Planting on slopes is recommended due not only to the drainage of rain water but also to stop land sliding. Can also be grown in pots if kept outside.
Exposition: All varieties love the sun and fresh air which help prevent the growth of fungus.
Reproduction: The easiest and most common method is to cut 15 cms. talea from the semi-woody branches of young plants when the temperature is mild, preferably during the second year of its growth.
Growth: Plants should be well-pruned at the end of flowering and more lightly in spring, in order to eliminate branches ruined by snow or frost and to encourage new budding.
Harvest: Pick according to variety of plant, exposition and altitude, remembering that once cut, the essence should be extracted immediately. It is important to harvest during the central part of dry days when the flowers are completely closed.
Storage: Shade-dried lavender leaves can be stored in air-tight tins. Fine linen bags can be placed in wardrobes and drawers to perfume clothes.
Beauty: To obtain home-made lavender water place 30 gms of fresh flowers in half a liter of 32o proof alcohol and leave for a month, filtering thoroughly.
Health: Lavender attracts bees which produce an excellent aromatic honey and also keeps mosquitoes at bay. It is therefore advisable to rub lavender water on the body to avoid insect bites. An infusion of 10 gms of lavender flowers placed in 200 mls of hot water for 3 minutes will alleviate headaches caused by slow digestion as well as relaxing and relieving laryngitis, bad breath and flatulence.
Myth and Legends: The Latin origins of this name leave no doubt as to the use that the Romans made of it for perfuming bath water and as a detergent.