Plant of the Month: August

Every month I will find a plant, be it a fruit, vegetable, herb or flower, one that has taken my eye, to write about. It may not be an obvious choice for this particular month, however, after reading the reason why I chose it, I promise it will become more obvious! For August, I chose one such plant, a heavenly smelling herb.

LAVENDER

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On first look you will probably be thinking why lavender for the month of August? Hasn’t that plant already finished it’s spectacular flower display? You wouldn’t be wrong, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. Lavender has indeed lost most of its colour by the time August comes around, yet I didn’t choose this plant for this reason! I chose it because during this month, lavender is a really useful plant to have in your garden. Some people grow lavender because it takes care of itself in the garden, the beautiful colour and fragrance not only looks and smells great to humans but also attracts pollinators to the garden. I, along with many others, grow it for another reason, to use the dried flowers in the home.

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Lavender flowers can be picked before the flower buds open at the beginning of summer, which is what some do if they want a really fragrant harvest, in particular for making essential oil. I, however, love to see the lavender flower heads burst into life throughout the summer months, bringing colour to our garden as well as bees and butterflies! It is during August, when the flowers have finished blooming, that I begin to gather the lavender. To be honest, even after the colour in the dying flowers has been drained, there is still a good whiff of fragrance to go around. Just make sure when you are cutting the lavender (with stalks) off the plant during harvesting, that you do so on a dry day. It makes things, including you, a lot less soggy!

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There are still a few remaining flowers on this one.

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This is an example of lavender that has dried on the plant. This would need less drying time in the bunches.

The next step is to tie the stalks of lavender into bunches for drying. You will probably find when harvesting lavender in August, that the old, dead flowers will have dried on the plant already. This is not a problem, it just means that when the stalks have been bunched up, they will need less drying time. I dry mine in the sunshine over a week or so. Please be aware that sunshine can bleach the colour from the dried lavender. This wasn’t a problem for me as my lavender had already dried on the plant and faded in colour (see photo above).

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If however, you have picked the lavender buds before the flowers have opened in early summer, you probably have done so for the colour as well as the more fragrant scent. Drying your flower buds in the sun is therefore not recommended. A dry, dark spot such as a garage will be a perfect place to store your flower bunches for approximately 2-3 weeks. Not only that your scented garage will be the envy of neighbours and friends.

You will know when the lavender is dry and ready to be removed from the stalks just by brushing your fingers against the old, dried flower heads. If the flower heads come off easily, the lavender is ready to be collected. I put dried lavender in homemade lavender bags which then go into my clothes drawers, wardrobes and shoes. Whenever I open a drawer, I am welcomed by an old familiar smell of summer days in the garden. During winter, when surrounded by snow, I grant you this is a somewhat odd combination, but nevertheless a summery blessing in disguise. Did you know that smell of lavender can help you to sleep? No wonder since the moment I put the lavender bags in my bedroom drawers, I have had a good night’s sleep!

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Alternatively, and whilst at first you may think this is a waste, it really isn’t, I sprinkle the dried lavender all over carpets and rugs, then hoover it all up. Not only do you spread the smell of lavender onto the carpet and release a heavenly smell which is good for relaxation but as a bonus you have lavender in your hoover bag which stays lovely and smelly for days, sharing the scent throughout the house!

There are many other ways in which you can use lavender but these are a couple of really easy, simple, effective ways to get the most out of this wonderful herb. I’d love to hear of any other simple ways you may use your dried lavender in the comments below!

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