Lavender has to be one of the most versatile plants we know – you can use the flowers, both fresh and dried, for decoration; you can eat it; make drinks with it; fill scent sachets and you can even plant it in the garden.
As lavender essential oil, it’s also great for treating minor burns and insect bites and it’s also well known for its soothing and relaxing properties. With the help of online retailer Best 4 Hedging, we set out to to explore some of lavender’s many properties.
The easy one first! Adding a lavender hedge (row of lavender plants) to your garden can help to divide beds, create a focal point or define different areas of the garden. Lavender’s silvery-grey leaves look pretty all year round, and it flowers prolifically from late spring to early summer. It’s really easy to grow, and is equally happy in large pots as in the ground. It likes well-drained soil and a position in full sun.
The only care and attention your lavender hedge will need is a good trim once a year. You need to be quite tough about cutting it back, as otherwise it quickly starts to become leggy and unattractive. Don’t prune young plants for a year or to to give them a chance to establish, but after that, once they’ve flowered at the end of the summer trim off all the dead flower stalk and about an inch of the current year’s growth, leaving some growth behind.
Insects love lavender, and planting a hedge is almost a guarantee of a steady stream of butterflies and bees visiting your garden over the summer.
Lavender is the essence of summer, and it can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. As a rough guide, you can use it wherever the recipe calls for rosemary. You can eat both the seeds and flowers, but the flowers have a much subtler flavour and look prettier for sweet dishes. Here’s what we did with our lavender:
Lavender shortbread recipe
- 100g butter
- 100g sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh lavender flowers or 1 tsp fresh or dried lavender seeds
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius and grease a large baking tray. Put the butter and the lavender into a heatproof bowl and microwave for ten seconds. Beat in the sugar and flour and bring it together with your hands until you have a stiff dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to around 0.5cm thick. Cut into rounds with a pastry cutter, and transfer to the tray. Bake for around 15 minutes until very pale gold. Remove from the baking tray and transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.
The beauty of this tea is that you can vary the ingredients according to what you have available.
You’ll need around two tablespoons of herbs per person – use lavender flowers or seeds, lemonbalm, mint, coriander, lemon verbena and fennel. Lavender goes particularly well with lemon flavours, so if you want to keep it simple use a mixture of lavender and lemonbalm then garnish the finished tea with a wedge of fresh lemon.
Put the herbs into a teapot and fill with water that’s just off the boil. Leave it to infuse for at least five minutes before pouring into cups through a tea strainer. Serve with lavender biscuits as above.