Lavender is to herbs what roses are to flowers: an aristocratic bloom that has fascinated people over the centuries. Besides the distinctive, beguiling smell and the wow factor when looking at a field of the bushes in bloom, lavender is reputed to be able to soothe anything that ails you. Claims are made for its power to fix acne, burns, and insomnia, along with many other complaints in between. It is possible to ingest it as well in small quanitities; my particular experience was in ice cream.
Aside from the Victorians, people all over the world have long admired lavender. Queen Victoria’s subjects who assigned meanings to flowers would have told you that lavender, despite its many glories, signified distrust. This did not stop them from using lavender wands to refresh their wardrobes and to keep out the moths though. Or, from placing bundles of lavender into the hands of women giving birth to provide them with courage.
Testimony to its elevated standing is the fact that lavender never goes out of fashion and periodically roars back to become a headliner again. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal recounts the experience of an East Marion, New York, lavender grower with a 17-acre farm. He has about 1,000 visitors each weekend the flowers are in bloom. This influx overwhelms his hamlet town population of 926 and has necessitated setting up an entrance fee, a parking lot and portable toilets!
The farmer is French who fell in love with lavender when he was a boy and watched a man on a donkey selling it at a market in Paris. He claims that the allure of lavender, the one that brings his many visitors to his farm is the essence of the plant. It is one of the few to go straight to the brain.
Apparently lavender affects the brains of animals as well. One early British work mentions that the lions and tigers in the Zoological gardens “powerfully affected by the smell of lavender water become docile under its influence.”
There is little chance of verifying all the claims made on behalf of lavender, particularly the understanding that it can protect against the plague, the ‘Evil Eye,' or that it will help a woman sustain her virtue. There is a chance, though, that you will always enjoy your encounters with the plant. Which is why a favorite teacher at the Dunn about all matters floral, Jennifer Carlson, is offering a class, September 5 on making lavender wands. Like those cranky Victorians you will be able to place yours in a wardrobe to make the clothes smell pleasant, among your bed linens so you will sleep well or to use as a gift decoration so that the recipient can do those things. Check out the website for details http://dunngardens.org/events/class-lavender-wands-jennifer-carlson,
One comfort is that, according to folklore, should you feel faint, have palpitations, weak giddiness and colic during class the essence of the plant will mitigate such unpleasantness. It will also increase appetite so you will be off for a satisfactory lunch afterwards. I do feel compelled to warn against lavender ice cream though. It is not my go to flavor despite its capacity to cheer up a person.
We look forward to hosting you at the Dunn for a lavender experience.