-Image via Kirsty Michell please follow link below for more on this extraordinary artist –
Welcome to Lavenderland : part II of the lavender blogs. Lavender has held steadfast through centuries of use, as popular now as it was 2500 years ago. As worlds and cultures have evolved lavender has remained in constant use thanks to its vast range of properties and applications, both real and imaginary.
Spiritually lavender was considered to be a plant that raised perceptiveness and could take an individual to a higher state of consciousness during meditation. Since fabled Lemurian times, special devas were appointed to guard lavender plants until a time when mankind was able to absorb greater knowledge.
Unmistakeable for its perfume, lavender has been recognized since Roman times for its healing and antiseptic qualities, its ability to deter insects and for washing and bathing. There are even biblical references to lavender, using its ancient name of spikenard.
Although today lavender is strongly associated with England it is not native to northern Europe but to the warmer climate of the Mediterranean. Originally it was probably put under domesticate production in Arabia. In Egypt, Phoenicia, and Arabia, lavender was used as a perfume and for mummification. It spread from Greece into Europe around 600 BCE. The Romans made use of it in their elaborate baths.
By the early middle ages, washerwomen spread out clothes to dry on lavender bushes and used dried lavender to scent clean clothes in storage.
It was during the same eras that monasteries began cultivating lavender in their “physic gardens". Hildegard von Bingen made lavender water, a mixture of lavender and gin or brandy, as a remedy for migraine.
Over the centuries biblical and historical lavender references have become entwined with folklore. Traditionally lavender crosses were hung above doors for protection. In our ancestors minds lavender did appear to ward off evil because it appeared to guard against disease. Amidst the Great London Plague in the 17th century it was suggested that lavender bundles bound to each of a persons wrists would protect against the infection, when actually it probably repelled the fleas whose bites caused spread of the disease.
Grave robbers of the time washed up in Four Thieves Vinegar which contained lavender and it is believed they rarely contracted the disease.
In France, it was noted that glovers, who perfumed their products with the herb, never contracted cholera.
Nowadays the popular folklore surrounding lavender associates it with love... Lavenderlore
Cleopatra is said to have worn its scent as her secret weapon to seduce Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, and some fables claim that the asp snake that delivered her fatal bite was actually hidden among her lavender bushes and she did not inflict it upon herself at all.
Lavender was first introduced to England around 1568. English farmers wore spikes of lavender flowers under their hats to prevent sunstroke and headaches. The dried flowers were sewn into pillows to prevent insomnia.
In Tuscany, Lavender was used to remove the ‘evil eye’ from children. A decoction was made from the herb, and a child was washed in the liquid. If the water became turbid, it was said that the evil eye had been removed.
Lavender was used in Portugal and Spain as a strewing herb to scent churches on important occasions. Lavender was also burned to keep the evil spirits away.
In Tudor times lavender's love associations started to lather up… young maidens would sip on lavender tea to conjure up the identity of their true love whilst Alpine girls tucked lavender under their lover’s pillow to foster romantic thoughts. Once married they would put some lavender under the mattress to ensure marital passion and avoid quarrels.
- Lavender became an essential feature of the Tudor knot gardens -
During the 16th Century, the use of lavender became more popular due to its medicinal and calming effect. It came in different forms like lavender tea which Queen Elizabeth I drank copius amounts of to get relief from her frequent migraines.
Lavender was used right up until World War 1 as an infusion to treat and disinfect wounds and as a popular fragrance in England.
With the event of the war lavender growing in England went into decline with changes in fashion, the spread of London and diseases in lavender fields. It became more profitable to ‘farm’ houses than it was to farm lavender.
But in the nick of time Linn Chilvers founded Norfolk Lavender farm in 1932 and preserved our great tradition of lavender growing in England. Norfolk Lavender remains to this day with massive produce and exports.
Receiving thousands of visitors a year it is a full day out with the famous lavender gardens to view along with the Lavender Oil Distillery, National Lavender Collection, The Herb Garden, some rare animal breeds and the Lavender Kitchen Restaurant.
In 2010 the landscaped Meadow Gardens were opened to the public. For more visitor and location information please follow the link at the end of this blog post.
Gradually more Lavender Farms are starting up again in the UK. There’s a lovely one in Wales, simply known as The Welsh Lavender Farm. If you follow the link at the end of this blog post you can learn more about it. We particularly love how Nancy Durham, (cofounder and owner of the farm) describes in her own words how the first lavender fields were born in 2003… but we will let you discover this yourself from their website.
In the leader images of this blog post (and the representation of Queen Elizabeth I) you are seeing the works of Kirsty Mitchell. She is a former fashion designer who worked under both Alexander McQueen and Hussien Chalayan as a student, but who found her ultimate calling in photography. Her imaginative series 'Wonderland' takes you to alternate worlds where umbrellas drip with lavenders and limbs get lost in tree branches. This faraway world was inspired by the loss of her mother to brain cancer. Her hauntingly beautiful imagery and ethereal vision of native landscapes and woodlands is simply stunning.
Thank you and welcome to the many hundreds of you who have subscribed to this blog in the last 6 months since subscription became available. We hope you are enjoying our journey into Lavenderland as we continue on with the next posting on the 6th July. This will be the grower’s guide to Lavender for all styles of gardens and spaces.
Following that, harvesting your lavender and its culinary uses and aromatherapy applications. We invite you to post your lavender images, recipes, remedies and wives tales direct to our facebook page here and use the e mail share options at the bottom of this post with your friends and family.
We’ll leave you with a sneaky little tipple until then...
you will need...
1 1/2 ounces Absolut Vanilla Vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Lavender syrup
fresh lavender sprig
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, lemon juice and lavender syrup and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the lavender sprig. Done. To find out where to buy Lavender syrup or how to make your own follow the link above to our facebook page. Lavender sugar for the rim of the glass recipe to follow too.
Lavenderland image Sourcebook via: Welsh Lavender Farm, Norfolk lavender, loqueldijealpapel, Daisy Green, Allotment 2 Kitchen, Hendy Curzon Gardens Ltd, offline, Mommyhood project, Rosy Rings, Perfeco, Herb Companion, Levandrea, Fabulously French, Cambridge New, Anderra, 123RF, Rythmn of the home, Mohini patel Glanz, Blue Heron Herbary, Live lighter, Savarosa, The lavender bundle, Cambridge news, Eden project, Turkey creek, Curious Country, Craftjuice.