Harvesting English Lavender & How To Use It
Lavender is by far my very favourite scent. I love it fresh when the plants are in bloom, as it dries around the garden, in sachets tucked into my pillow at night, or as bath salts when I soak away the aches of the gardening day. This magical herb is said to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and even sooth an achy head. Oh and the bees and butterflies love it. We can’t forget the pollinators.
Lavender is commonly grouped into English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) with its delicate flowers and long stems that soar above the woody evergreen plant, and Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) with its showy hat of bracts on a perennial shrub. I grow a few ornamental Spanish lavender plants but for year-round use, it’s English all the way.
The best time to harvest English lavender is when the buds have formed on the plant but the flowers have not yet opened. Lavender harvested at this time of year will fall off the stems more easily when dry making it a tad easier to collect and will retain fragrance and colour longer. The cultivar of your lavender will also determine fragrance, colour, and longevity of the dried properties as well.
To harvest, use sharp bypass pruners and gather a small handful of long flower stems. Snip them at the base and continue collecting stems in your hand until you have a nice sized bundle. Secure the bundle with twine and continue until the plant is fully harvested.
Pruning the plants like this will keep the shrub tidy and evergreen through some colder climates. If your plants are leggy and you see lots of dead wood, it’s a good idea to summer prune them each year until they regain a tidier shape.
To dry the bunches hang in a warm, dry spot out of direct sunlight. Under eaves, in the garage, or somewhere in the garden that is protected is the perfect spot. I found an old painting ladder that works perfectly. In previous years I have dried it along a shady fence and made it into a wreath. Adding some drying lavender around your home will make it smell heavenly. I highly recommend it.
After 2-4 weeks and the lavender has fully dried, you can shake or gently rub the flower buds into a tray or bowl. Store lavender in a lidded jar in a cool dark place and repeat next year.
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