Lavender is a beautiful and useful plant that is a must have for gardens! Not only does it smell and look great, but it is beneficial for pollinators, too. Not to mention you can use its fragrant flowers and leaves to scent soap or candles and flavor food and beverages. Making lavender sachets or using dried lavender for decoration are also popular uses of this wonderful plant.
Lavender is in the plant genus Lavandula. It is native to the Mediterranean region, and it grows well in other Mediterranean climates such as here in Sacramento. Once established, the plant has low water requirements, so it is great for drought-resistant landscaping. There are many species and varieties of Lavandula, including hybrids. Lavandula angustifolia and L. x heterophylla are edible lavenders which can be used to flavor drinks and foods (Brenzel 2001).
I am growing a variety called Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ which is a hybrid of English lavender. It has beautiful light green stems and narrow leaves with long wispy flower spikes. In her HGTV.com article on culinary lavender, Julie Martens Forney says L. ‘Grosso’ has an “intensely intricate flavor” and “makes a wonderful culinary lavender.” After using some of my lavender to make a simple syrup and using the syrup to flavor some of my favorite drinks, I have to agree! (Lavender Simple Syrup recipe below).
I highly recommend growing lavender even if you only have room for a potted plant. Lavender can do well as a container plant, and you can still enjoy its delightful aroma and cheerful blooms! Not to mention lavender is supposed to help ease anxieties, and we could all use a little less stress in our lives right now!
Lavender Simple Syrup
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
½ Cup Lavender flowers and leaves
Combine in a small saucepan on the stove. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer for one minute, then remove from the heat and let syrup steep for 30 mins. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. I like to add lavender simple syrup to coffee, tea, and cocktails to give them a lovely herbal twist. Also great in lemonade!
Brenzel, K. N. (Ed.). (2001). Sunset Western Garden Book (7th ed.). Sunset Publishing Corporation.
Forney, J.M. (n.d.) Culinary Lavender. HGTV. https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/herbs/culinary-lavender.