One of the many reasons to love July in PEI is that this is the magical month when lavender bursts into bloom. Beautiful blue skies act as a perfect backdrop to rows of deep purple blossoms waving gently, the picture of an idyllic mid-summer day on the island. This imagery alone calms the soul, but the soothing smell is what this plant is widely known for. It has a gentle, relaxing aroma that has been celebrated throughout history. The name "lavender" originates from Latin verb "lavare", which means "to wash". In fact, the Lavender plant was an important part of bathing rituals in ancient Rome - the Romans would put bunches of the flowers in their thermal baths due to their disinfectant and antiseptic properties, as well as the pleasing scent. They also refined the oils for use in perfumes and other infusions to be used on skin and hair. The plant was so celebrated that they classified it as a precious flower, in the same way that diamonds and rubies are classified as precious stones.
This association of value has lasted into our modern era, with lavender still being used consistently in the beauty and wellness market to make skin creams and fine perfumes out of the essential oils found in the blossoms of the plant. However, it may have some other uses that surprise you!
Lavender also has a balsamic action - meaning that it has a healing, soothing and softening phlegm in the respiratory tract, which is why it is used effectively in the treatment of all colds : flu, cough, cold and phlegm. Some studies also suggest that lavender can improve your body’s melatonin levels, supporting a better night’s rest. It is often used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and help create a calm, tranquil environment.
Furthermore, the plant limits the production of gastro-intestinal gas due to its carminative and antispasmodic properties, meaning that it has the ability calm abdominal pains and spasms and helps to relax the abdominal muscles, limiting flatulence. A tea with lavender as a main ingredient can soothe an upset stomach and prevent digestive upset.
Unlike humans, pests such as mice, flies, mosquitoes and moths cannot stand smell of lavender. Many people keep bunches of lavender in their homes to repel unwanted animals. Lavender can be also be used as natural "insecticide" - when planted near the roses, lavender can keep aphids away.
While many varieties of lavender are edible, it is best to use the English variety Lavendula Angustifolia for internal consumption. Others have a more bitter taste profile and can ruin the dish you are adding them to. English Lavender is also a variety that is hardy in PEI and will withstand our harsh winters, so it makes an excellent addition to your garden. Plant it in a spot that gets full, all day sun and where the soil doesn't stay wet too long. It is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East and as such is very drought tolerant, so be careful not to over-water it! It has a pleasing, naturally mounding growth habit that lends itself well to borders of gardens.
We sell both lavender plants for your garden and dried bunches that we harvest from our lavender fields at our sister farm, Cassidy Farms. Come on into the store and bring home some lavender!
Photo: Cassidy Farms Lavender field, Hampton, PEI