Lavender is one of the most popular of all herbs for the fragrance of its dried flowers and the oil distilled from them.
It is used most often in sachets, perfumes, and baking as its aroma is touted for its relaxing powers over the senses and the body.
As summer begins and schedules can get as crammed as any other time of the year, June is prime blooming time for many lavender varieties and offers incentive to clip a fresh bunch and enjoy the fragrance as it dries.
For Debbie Brohawn, who grows about three quarters of an acre of lavender at her Smokey Cat Lavender Farm in Federalsburg, this time of year is unlike any other.
“As soon as the buds start to flower, the amount of bees and butterflies that show up is extraordinary,” she said. “It’s really great to watch.”
Along with the pollinator activity to marvel at, the aroma from the flowers themselves is inviting, Brohawn added.
Brohawn’s farm is one of a handful of lavender farms in Maryland and one of three on the Eastern Shore, along with Calico Fields in Millington, and Lavender Farm Lane of Maryland, also in Federalsburg.
Calico Fields and Smokey Cat Lavender Farm have shops on their property with a variety of lavender derived products.
Brohawn said she’s seen a surge in people interested in natural health remedies and many visitors to her farm use lavender and lavender products for several health-related reasons.
“Just rubbing against the leaves or smelling it has a calming effect and I think people need that in their lives,” she said.
Lavender oil is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to heal minor burns and bug bites.
Research suggests that it may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
Some studies suggest that consuming lavender as a tea can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.
In addition to helping with digestive problems, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores.
It can also be used to prevent hair loss.
As an aromatic, it has a sweet fragrance with a taste of lemon or citrus notes.
It can be used as a spice or condiment in pastas, salads and dressings and desserts.
Physicians note it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be taken in place of approved and prescribed medicines.
As a way to promote the plant’s benefits and attract more people to the farm, Brohawn is hosting a Lavender Festival on June 15, beginning at 10 a.m. at the farm at 5090 Long Swamp Road in Federalsburg.
Once established, lavender is extremely drought-tolerant.
Lavender grows best in rocky, dry, sunny places that have abundant lime in the soil. It can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
“When selecting a location, think “Mediterranean climate” because that is where the lavender plant first came from,” said Susan Perry, a Master Gardener in southwest Virginia.
A good time to harvest lavender is in the morning, after any dew has dried and a few of the flower buds have opened, Perry said.
For drying, try to cut stems as long as possible, bundling 50-75 stems with rubber bands so that you can hang them to dry in a cool, dark place with good airflow.
Larger bundles may mold, so you can always carefully combine smaller dried bundles to make one larger dried bundle.
The three main kinds of lavender are lavandula angustifolia (known as English lavender or True lavender), lavandula x intermedia (known as lavandin), a hybrid of lavandula angustifolia and lavandula latifolia and lavandula stouts (known as Spanish lavender or Butterfly laveder.
Lavandins are usually larger plants that bloom only once in the late summer.
Different cultivars of English lavender and lavandins produce flowers ranging from light blue to dark purple, as well as pink and white.