Spring is the season of growth. It’s not too hot, not too cold, warmer weather, farmer’s markets, birds singing, squirrels dancing, children playing, walks in the park, and new beginnings. Each year I await the beauty of spring with a view through my gardener’s lens and think of the season with one exciting thought – the purple is on the way!
Springtime presents us with genuinely splendid views of the garden, and each shade of purple is magnificent and everywhere to be found. Peeking through first are the crocus, hyacinth, lilac, iris, tulip, violet, and bluebell, a few of the short-lived flowering beauties. Most are edible, some are not, all can display different shades of purple. Garlic and other Allium family members, like chives, shallots, and onions, come through with wonderful purple flowers of their own. Even the long-living herbs take time to show off in spring with the purples of sage, thyme, oregano, anise, and rosemary. The most majestic to me is the lovely lavender.
This versatile beauty, used in many everyday products, is loved for its smell, taste, healing powers, and delightful flowers. Cultivated in most parts of the world, the plant originated in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Grown best in full sun, it likes well-drained, dry, sandy soil. It thrives in rock gardens and pots, both indoors and out. Lavender proves toxic to cats, dogs, and horses but is also garden-friendly, keeping mosquitos, aphids, deer, squirrels, and other pests away.
Available in garden shops during the early spring, more than 40 species with over 450 varieties are available. English Lavender is widely obtainable in North America. Types include Common Lavender, Hidcote, and Munstead. English Lavender will survive colder winters better than its cousin French Lavender, also called Spanish, Portuguese, and Fringed Lavender. Both plants flower beautifully, dry, and store easily.
The French variety, often grown for its flowers, blooms spring to fall. English Lavender has about a four-week flowering period in June. Still, it is prized for its heartier flower and used more readily in making essential oils, tinctures, flavorings, and potpourris.
Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy for its calming and relaxing effects to relieve anxiety and stress. Lavender candles, lotions, soaps, tinctures, and poultices help with the difficulties associated with insomnia, depression, dementia, pain relief, and as an antibacterial and anti-fungal. The plant’s flowers and leaves are edible, baked into cookies, breads, cakes, and other sweets, in addition to being used in more savory soups, pasta, and meat dishes. I love the tea and personally find a few flowers in an indoor vase simply extraordinary – a welcome to spring.
Learn to love lavender this year yourself. Plant some this spring and fall in love with this stress-relieving, versatile, purple-flowering beauty.
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