Lavender love: Why this versatile herb is our plant of the month

A woman holding a hat filled with lavender

Bees and butterflies flock to it, the Romans added it to their baths and its oil is a super-versatile remedy.

Lavender has a bit of an old lady reputation, which it doesn’t deserve. If you take a sprig of lavender and rub its delicate, lilac-mauve flowers between your palms it will give off a wonderful perfume and really lift your day.

Like most good herbs, lavender is native to the Mediterranean, but because it is quite a hardy wee plant it survives all over the world and tends to quite like conditions in most of New Zealand. The Romans used lavender to perfume their baths, of which they were very fond, and it is thought that its name came from the word “lavare”, which means “to wash”.

Ancient Druids used lavender flowers in their love potions and burned branches of it during childbirth to cleanse the air, calm the mother and bless the baby.

These days, lavender makes a useful essential oil, which can be used to treat headaches, help sleep and reduce anxiety. It can also be used to aid the healing of cuts, rashes and insect bites. The flowers can be used in cooking too, and are particularly good in shortbread and vinegars.

Bees are very fond of lavender flowers, as are butterflies, so a lavender bush or two in your garden is a great idea.

Plant lavender where it will get lots of sun and have good drainage. Prune it once a year to maintain a good shape and healthy growth.


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