Lavender





(Lavendula vera, D. C.; L. Angustifolia, Moench.; L.

spica, Linn.), a half-hardy perennial undershrub, native of dry,

calcareous uplands in southern Europe. Its name is derived from the

Latin word Lavo, to wash, a distillation of the flowers being

anciently used in perfuming water for washing the body. The plant forms

a compact clump 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, has numerous erect stems, bearing

small, linear gray leaves, above which the slender, square, flower stems

arise. The small violet-blue flowers are arranged in a short, terminal

spike, and are followed by little brown, oblong, shiny seeds, with white

dots at the ends, attached to the plant. The seeds remain viable for

about five years.



Cultivation.--Lavender succeeds best on light, limy or chalky soil,

but will do well in any good loam. In gardens it is usually employed as

an edging for flower beds, and is most frequently propagated by division

or cuttings, seed being used only to get a start where plants cannot be

secured in the other ways mentioned. In cold climates the plants must

either be protected or removed to a greenhouse, or at least a cold

frame, which can be covered in severe weather. The seed is sown indoors

during March, and if crowding, pricked out 2 inches asunder. When the

ground has become warm, the plants are set in the open 15 to 20 inches

asunder. It delights in a sunny situation, and is most fragrant on poor

soil. Rich soil makes the plant larger but the flowers poorer in

perfume.



Uses.--The plant is sometimes grown for a condiment and an addition to

salads, dressings, etc., but its chief use is in perfumery, the flowers

being gathered and either dried for use in sachet bags or distilled for

their content of oil. In former years no girl was supposed to be ready

for marriage until, with her own hands, she had made her own linen and

stored it with lavender. And in some sections the lavender is still

used, though the linen is nowadays purchased.



In southern France and in England considerable areas are devoted to

lavender for the perfumery business. The flower stems are cut in August,

covered at once with bast matting to protect them from the sun and taken

to the stills to obtain the thin, pale yellow, fragrant oil.

Four-year-old plants yield the greatest amount of oil, but the product

is greater from a two-year plantation than from an older one, the plants

then being most vigorous. Two grades of oil are made, the best being

used for lavender water, the poorer for soap making. In a good season

about one pound of oil is obtained from 150 to 200 pounds of the cut

plants.





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