By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 24 July 2016.
Lavender is blooming in gardens all around me in the South West of England and, with a soundtrack of buzzing bees and a wonderful scent on warm evenings, summer really seems to be here.
Hold onto summer!
Summer goes too fast. Enjoy the summer scent of lavender in winter with dried lavender – and provide a school holiday project too.
Make a fresh lavender wand
Making a fresh lavender ‘wand’ is a lovely school holiday project – for parents and children alike!
You will need: 11 or 13 (it must be an odd number) fresh, long (at least 30 cm long) and bendy stems of lavender in full bloom; about 3 metres of narrow (quarter inch) satin ribbon, a little patience. This website shows you how to do it.
- Cut the lavender stems early in the day, making sure they are not damp with dew or rain, and strip off all the leaves.
- Line up the flower heads so they are all together, use one end of the ribbon to tie the stems together about 3-5 cm below the bottom of the flower heads and turn this bunch upside down (flowers to the floor).
- Gently bend each stem over its flower head and hold the stems carefully to create a cage around the flower heads and the ribbon tie. Pull the long length of ribbon to the outside of the cage at the top.
- Hold the cage gently and weave the ribbon under and over the stems. Do this quite firmly so that the ribbon makes a basket enclosing the flower heads. The first two rows are the hardest, but the scent of lavender will calm you!
- As you weave, pull the stems closer together to create a sort of stick and keep weaving until all the heads are covered.
- Knot the ribbon around the bottom of the cage, making a bow with any left over, and trim the ends of the stems to the same length.
To dry lavender for bunches of dried flowers, bowls or bags of dried flower heads, you need to cut the flower stems before all the flowers are in full bloom. That’s NOW in some areas and for some plants. When the first few flowers on a stem are showing colour, cut some of the stems as near to the plant as you can. Hang the stems upside down somewhere cool and dark where the air can reach them.
When the stems are dry and brittle (how long this takes depends on the weather, but it is at least a couple of weeks – ready for the end of the school holidays!), spread them on a tray or clean paper. You can use them as they are in bunches. Or gently rub the flower heads off (breathe in the scent!) to make the filling for lavender bags or bowls. Store these flower heads somewhere cool and dark (a screw top jar is good) until you want to use them. Making a lavender bag is a perfect job for a wet afternoon.
Make a lavender bag
You will need: thin cotton fabric measuring about 18x15cm (7x6inches); about 30cm (10inches) length of narrow ribbon; needle and thread.
- Fold the fabric in half widthways, wrong side outside. Pin and stitch the two sides together about 1cm (1/3in) from the edge. This creates a small bag.
- Diagonally snip the bottom corners of the bag then turn it the right side out.
- Fold the ribbon in half to find the centre point and stitch that to one side of the bag about 3cm (1¼in) from the top (not stitched) edge.
- Fill the bag with dried lavender heads until they reach the ribbon. Don’t overstuff the bag.
- Stitch along the top of the bag to hold the lavender in.
- Tie the ribbon around to look pretty.
Make your lavender bags personal: cut fabric into the shape of a heart; decorate the fabric before you start; use favourite fabrics; or make larger or smaller bags.
With flowers filling our gardens with scent – try eating it. My sister sprinkles fresh lavender flowers in her shortbread. At this time of year I use sprigs of the leaves in roast lamb joints (makes a change from rosemary), and mix a few small drops of lavender oil with the garden gooseberries that are heading for the fruit crumble this Sunday.
The antiseptic and healing qualities of lavender oil have been known for centuries, and it’s well known as a remedy for feeling good all round (and see our blog about how to use it in times of stress).
Sitting in a garden, enjoying the sight, sound and scent of lavender has just got to be good for you. Take a break, find a seat and sit back…..