March 04 2021
When the world gets to be a bit too much, I go out and let nature talk to me. She doesn’t speak in words of course, but you can hear something if you’re quiet. Yes, you can hear the wind in the trees, the trickle of water, or the chirp of birds, but better yet, you can hear the song of silence. Nature’s greatest gift. Those times when there is not a breath of air, not a bird, not even a bee moving. All you have to do is stop moving yourself. Stop and listen to nothing.
You can find this in a forest, on a grassy hillside, on your back porch, or even lying in bed with the window open and moonlight coming in-even in winter.
If I could package calm, I’d want it to come with the scent of the earth after a rain, but I think only the real thing will suffice or it’s just perfume. Turns out, you can buy calm in a bottle and it smells like lavender. The essential oil made from lavender plants or the plant itself. If you ever get a chance to see essential oils distilled, it’s pretty cool. Bundles of the plant or flowers are steamed and the steam is captured and condensed. As it cools, the oils separate from the water vapor, floats on top, and is siphoned into separate tubes. The scented water captured is called a hydrosol. It takes about three pounds of lavender flowers to make 15ml or one half ounce of essential oil. For comparison, it takes 105 pounds of rose petals to make 5ml of rose oil-242,000 petals if you’re counting!
Lavender is an old world plant, native to the Mediterranean, Africa, Arabia, and India. It really thrives on hot summer days. I have a friend who has a wonderful little microclimate on the south side of her house. It is protected on three sides which creates a pocket of heat. Her lavender is not only surviving our winters, it seeds itself abundantly. I have dug up plants from her patch and planted them in the hottest spots I could find in my gardens, along with some purchased plants and some I grew from seeds. Sometimes they make it through the winters and sometimes they don’t. Que sera, you know. One hybrid lavender on my wish list is called ‘Phenomenon’. It’s supposed to be hardy to zone 4 and more tolerant of moisture.
Another delightful way to use lavender is to make lavender lemonade. Simply simmer a handful of the flowers for five minutes or more, strain and add to your lemonade. Taste tests will tell you your proportions, as well as with sugar-I prefer my lemonade on the tart side. Lavender shortbread cookies complete your celebration of summer. Go on now, the porch swing is calling.
Lavandula angustifolium-English lavender, ‘Hidcote’, ‘Munstead’, zone 5-8 (optimally)
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenon’.