Many of us enjoy growing lavender in our gardens and for most of us having it grow along the side of paths to brush past and enjoy its scent is enough. However, there is a lot more you can do with the lavender you grow in your garden. Lavender has all sorts of culinary uses; it is also highly praised for its aromatherapy properties. The fragrance is known to have a calming effect that aids relaxation and sleep. One way of benefiting from lavender's relaxing properties is to make a lavender bath bag. Relax and let the warm water flow over the bag to create an aromatic, soothing bath.
To make your lavender bag you will need a square of muslin, some dried lavender, string and a pair of scissors. The best time to pick lavender for drying is when the flowers are just about to open. This is when the fragrance is at its most pungent as the aromatic oil builds up behind the flower head. Cut a handful of stems and cut down to a few centimetres below the flowering part of the stem. Place the lavender stems on the square of muslin. Then take the four corners of the muslin square and tie them together securely with a piece of string. If you want your lavender bag to look a little less rustic, then use a colourful piece of ribbon.
To dry lavender to use at a later date, tie bunches together with string or secure with a rubber band. Hang the bunches of lavender up to dry in a warm place away from direct sunlight, such as an airing cupboard. It can take up to 10 days for lavender to dry out completely, but if done correctly, the scent should remain strong for many months.
Best varieties for drying
I find that the best varieties of lavender for drying are those with strong blue flowers as they tend to retain their colour better when dried. Therefore I prefer the English 'angustifolia' varieties. Hidcote is a particularly good variety for drying. Munstead is an old-fashioned variety that is also good for drying. The distinctive purple flowers of Imperial gem make it a good choice for drying. The hybrid variety Grosso has light blue-grey flower heads but they are especially fragrant and therefore perfect for drying. Seal has long mid-purple flowers on long stems with grey-green leaves in summer and is excellent for cutting and drying.
I grow my lavender varieties for drying all together in garden planters. This way I can easily monitor exactly when the flowers are ready to harvest as well as them making a very decorative and fragrant display.
Jo Poultney is one of two people behind Garden Planters. I have an RHS general certificate in horticulture. Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. I believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs. If you would like to know more about Garden Planters, visit our website at http://www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
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