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Lavender: An Intoxicating Aroma

Lavender Delights: An Intoxicating Aroma, Photo Courtesy: Garden Select

Lavender has long been considered an essential addition to any herb garden. Known for its sweet and subtle fragrance, beautiful blooms, and calming effects on the body, it has been cherished for generations.

Lavender is a group of 47 known species of flowering plants in the mint family. Native to the Old World, Lavender can be found from the Canary Islands, across Europe to eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, and into southwest Asia and southeast India. Lavender is cultivated extensively for ornamental use in gardens and landscaping, herbs for culinary use, and commercially for the perfume industry. The most widely cultivated species, Lavandula angustifolia, or English Lavender, is also the most known and recognized variety for home gardening in moderate climate zones.

With the enormous number of varieties and sub-varieties of Lavender available, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best species to grow in your own garden. The Pacific Northwest climate is primarily moderate and rated for plants that thrive in zones 5-6. Many sub-varieties of English Lavender are categorized into zone 5 and are known for their unique tolerance to winter moisture; making them an excellent choice for the Northwest.

Recently, a sub-variety of English Lavender named Hidcote has garnered some attention for its silvery foliage, dark purple-blue flowers, and potent fragrance, causing it to become a fast favorite for the home garden. Hidcote blooms from late spring to early summer and grows about 24 inches high and 30 inches wide; an ideal option for smaller spaces.

While English Lavender is generally known to be a relatively hardy species, it is important to pay close attention to its care instructions. After purchasing your plant, carefully transplant it to a garden bed or large container. Like many other varieties of Lavender, English Lavender does best when in full sunlight and well-draining soil. The plant should be watered deeply, but infrequently due to its intolerance to continually wet or exceedingly heavy soils. Lavender is normally pruned back to two-thirds of its size in early spring and fall, leaving a few inches of green growth above the woody stem to promote fuller growth throughout the season and subsequent year. Avoid cutting into the woody stems to reduce the risk of unnecessary exposure to diseases and plant shock.

Once the Lavender plants have begun blossoming, the flowers can be picked. If you plan to use your lavender for culinary purposes or to fill sachets, harvest the flowers when three-fourths of them have bloomed and hang the picked flowers upside-down to dry. For a fresh bouquet of Lavender, harvest when only half of the flowers have blossomed. As fall approaches, remove all remaining flowers before final pruning.

Lavender is a beautiful addition to any herb garden. Its varying shades of purple, blue, pink, and white blooms can liven up any location and its intoxicating aroma is hard to miss!

Try adding English Lavender to your culinary experience with this delicious recipe:

Chocolate Lavender Brownie recipe from The Lavender Cookbook, by Sharon Shipley.

2 teaspoon dried English lavender

3 cups sugar

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon instant expresso powder or instant coffee powder

¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


-Preheat the oven to 325 F and butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

-Place the lavender in a spice grinder (or mortar & pestle) with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Pulse until the lavender is finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add the flour, cocoa, salt espresso or coffee powder, and the remaining sugar. Mix well.

-Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power for 1 minute at a time until melted. Let cool for a few minutes. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

-Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined. Stir in the nuts (if using). Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

-Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.


Contributed by Bailie Welton, Community Outreach and Marketing Coordinator