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Lavender is a herbaceous plant that develops in the form of a shrub, does not reach large dimensions (generally reaching a maximum height of half a meter) but tends to develop very wide, in fact its branching makes it a very thick plant starting already from the ground level.
Its leaves are positioned with respect to the stem in an opposite way to each other and are of an acute form; while at the base of the shrub they are very thick they become more sparse and arranged in a linear way towards the tip of the branches. The ears of lavender have the characteristic pedunculate shape while the fruits are found inside the persistent calyx.
There are many varieties of lavender, about forty, which differ in terms of aesthetics, size, intensity of perfume and color, but retain their strength and their ability to bloom and develop even in situations of arid climate and almost without total water.
Also with regard to the medicinal characteristics of lavender they remain unchanged even as the species varies.
The habitat suitable for lavender is very varied precisely because of its resistance even in adverse weather conditions, it is a rustic plant and grows spontaneously, especially in the hills, where the soils are dry and stony.
It can be found practically all over Italy, particularly on the Tyrrhenian side, along the entire hilly area adjacent to the Apennines (from Liguria to Sicily) at altitudes between 800 and 1500 meters above sea level.
Cultivation on an industrial level can cover quite large areas, even flat areas.
Lavender does not fear the heat or even the cold, even if it is a must to use some caution in the case of massive frosts. Lavender becomes particularly luxuriant if planted in areas well exposed to the sun and widely ventilated, it does not need much water and indeed, its massive presence can be a cause of stagnation which damages its health.
Lavender must be watered without exaggerating, it is advisable to check that the soil in which it grows has dried completely and once it is dry, it is better to let a few days pass without water, in this way you do not risk wetting the plants too much or too often.
As for the land, lavender it does not need the soil to be fertilized but it can be discretionally chosen to fertilize lightly during the month of April, when the vegetative season begins.
|Plant||Herbaceous, reaches the height of 50-100 cm|
|Frame||Lower woody and without leaves, the herbaceous stems depart from it|
|leaves||Stretched, narrow, gray-green|
|Flowers||Collected in spikes, of blue-violet color|
|Parts to use||The flowers|
|When it gathers||During flowering in early summer|
For those who cultivate lavender the time of harvest is a very delicate phase, because although lavender does not require much care during cultivation, it has instead a precise ritual to follow during the harvest. Generally we collect all the summits with flowers that are normally used after a drying process, to be carried out in a closed, cool, shady and very ventilated place to favor a rapid procedure that brings optimal results. If the drying is done in a workmanlike manner the flower spikes will have the ability to maintain their perfume very long.
The lavender flowers are then used to make perfumed bags (rather small) to be inserted in the linen, they can be made with paper bags or canvas, or compositions can be made to be inserted into small glass vases where the elegant scent of lavender with beauty for its very characteristic violet color.
Another process to which lavender can be subjected is that of steam distillation to obtain the essential oil of lavender using freshly picked flowers, a yellow liquid is obtained, with a bitter taste and a particularly intense fragrance.
If you love lavender in particular due to its unmistakable scent, cultivation is also possible at home and not only on plantations, although it may be more laborious than crops in the field.
You must have a plant available, a sunny place for most of the day, a big pot, soil, sand and fertilizer.
Choose among the different varieties of lavender the one you prefer, roughly the most suitable to be cultivated at home is the French lavender (which is recognized by the serrated leaves) even if it is the least perfumed variety. You can buy the lavender plant directly at a nursery or a florist.
Choose a very large vase since lavender does not tolerate constriction, then mix some generic soil with a generous amount of sand, then add calcareous type fertilizer and you will have created the right habitat for your plant. Place the plant with its original soil in the center of the pot and water carefully. Repeat watering only when the earth is completely dry, lavender loves water but stagnation seriously compromises health, so it is better not to overdo it.
Then choose where to place the vase, it is important that the chosen place is very ventilated to recreate the climatic conditions on the hills, a balcony facing the mountains could be a good solution. Another fundamental condition is that the vase is in a sunny area for many hours during the day, you can choose a balcony or a terrace exposed to su or choose an area inside the house near a window from which the plant can be well irradiated.
If you choose to place the vase inside the house it will be advisable to take it outside towards the end of the summer by choosing a sunny but sheltered place, lavender needs a period of aeration that stimulates growth.
Furthermore, if the home environment is characterized by a low humidity it will be advisable to put in the saucer some gravel to keep moist, this device will keep the environment surrounding the plant with the right humidity without running the risk of damaging the roots with excessive watering that can become lethal causing root rot to which lavender is very subject.
Therefore keep the environment moist but the lavender roots dry, choose a place exposed to the sun and wind and your plant will grow lush and fragrant.
History and curiosity about lavender
The Latin name literally incorporated in our language is the gerund of washing, in fact the lavender flower was used to perfume the water for washing; it was used a lot during the Roman era during the bath, a ritual moment in their daily life.
A popular legend tells that lavender is an effective antidote against the poisonous snake bite and recommends rubbing the flowers soaked in water on the wound area. The hunters, in fact, used to use it to treat their dogs.
In addition to being an antidote, lavender has always been indicated as a nest preferred by snakes and the ancients approached it with great caution. This gave rise to the meaning of lavender in the language of flowers, synonymous with distrust. In the Middle Ages and in the eighteenth century it was sprinkled on the floor to perfume the environment and repel parasites.
Four species of Lavender
The four most common species of lavender alone: Lavanda angustifolia, Lavender dentata, Lavanda lanata and Lavanda stoechas.
There Lavender angustifolia It is the highest and most rustic, in fact it can reach a height of one meter, the leaves are light and the mauve flowers appear from mid to late summer.
There Toothed lavender It is semirustica, about 75 cm high, with serrated leaves and a very delicate perfume. The lilac-colored flowers appear in late autumn; it is advisable to grow it in pots in order to be able to repair it in winter.
There Lavender wool It is also delicate and must be protected during the winter, it has wider leaves than the previous species and dark violet flowers with a scent that resembles camphor and appear at the end of summer.
Finally, the Lavanda stoechas, also known as wild lavender, is native to cold climates and is about 60 cm high.
How to choose it
Being widespread in Mediterranean gardens, nurserymen have selected numerous varieties of lavender that can satisfy all conceivable needs. For example, if you want a lavender that blooms in May, choose the Lavandula angustifolia variety Munstead that produces a beautiful bush up to 70 cm high, very suitable for hedges and borders.
The variety Lavandula angustifolia Alba produces white flowers instead and is only 30 cm high, suitable instead for small bushes along with other aromatic plants, such as sage and rosemary.
The Lavandula dentata, also called spigonardo, has serrated leaves and blooms in spring. The most widespread lavender on the market is a hybrid that does not produce seeds and it is therefore necessary to buy it in seedlings produced by cuttings that cost a few euros.
Lavender is an effective disinfectant due to its antiseptic properties; it can in fact be used on small cutting wounds by macerating flowers in alcohol. Another property is to calm respiratory problems, coughs and colds, making inhalation of a very hot infusion of water and flowers or essential oil.
If you are cool, try sleeping with a bag of dried lavender flowers under the pillow. The scent of lavender is also used for aromatherapy and for relaxing and anti-stress baths. It is effective against headaches: just put pieces soaked in vinegar flavored with lavender on the temples.
The infusion of flowers, used for gargling, is an excellent disinfectant and refreshes the breath. The essential oil gives a pleasant relief in case of insect bites.
The use of lavender as a scent for bath water has very ancient origins. A light infusion is an excellent degreaser for the hair while the oil applied by massaging the scalp, seems to favor regrowth. The light infusion can be prepared by soaking about 5 g of dried flowers in 1 dl of water while for the oil the same quantity is macerated in 1 dl of olive oil.
To prepare an astringent tonic, it is recommended to make a mixture of three quarters of lavender flowers and a quarter of iris root powder, let it rest for about 20 days in apple vinegar, and then filter it.
Lavender essential oil is also an excellent natural remedy for stretch marks, cellulite and orange peel skin. It can be added to any type of cosmetic and adapts to all skin types.
The uses of lavender in gastronomy are very numerous. Among these can be used as an aroma for the wine to be served fresh. The lavender-flavored wine is prepared by leaving 6 g of dried flowers in a bottle of white wine to macerate for a day, after which it is filtered and about 10 g of sugar, previously boiled in a cup of water and a small glass of brandy, are added.
Alternatively, lavender flowers can be added to jams, tea, our desserts and there are those who even make lavender risotto. In the market you can find mixtures of Provencal herbs that always contain both flowers and lavender leaves mixed with other Mediterranean herbs and can be used perfectly to flavor fresh cheeses, vegetables, salads, grilled meats and the first creams.
Lavender cultivation: How to extract the lavender essential oil
If you have cultivated lavender in a particularly sunny position, with a particularly fertile soil and with a reasonable availability of water, very probably every summer you find yourself in front of an abundant lavender bloom made of rich seedlings and large flowers. Surely already the very intense scent of this species will have satisfied you with your choice but perhaps not everyone knows that in addition to the cultivation as an end in itself, it is possible to use lavender also in other very useful and amusing ways. One of these is the production of essential oil.
To produce lavender essential oil with the raw material of your garden, you will need some small purchases that at an amateur level can also be dealt with at an affordable price after all. The first purchase to make is that of the distiller of essential oils. On the net you will find different models with different characteristics and according to your real needs you can make the purchase that suits you best.
The distiller is essential for boiling lavender inflorescences and extracting essential oils from lavender water. The extraction is a process that is not difficult to do even if it requires a little practice, some time and as much patience.
At the end of each cycle you can collect the extracted oil in special vials in which to store your lavender essential oil. On the net you will find many tutorials on the use of distillers and on the production of essential oils and once you have learned the process you can replicate the extraction with many other types of aromatic herbs.
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