Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, or Lavandula officinalis) is a hardy, aromatic shrub that is native to the Mediterranean in poor, rocky soils and mild coastal areas but can be grown in similar climates around the world.
History has it that the ancient Egyptians used it as part of the process for mummifying bodies.
Valued highly as a rare herb, the Persians, Greeks and Romans used it in the public baths for aromatic and medicinal purposes, which makes sense since the word lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare, or to wash.
Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches.
Lavender became highly popular in Victorian times and is enjoying a resurgence as modern herbal medicine has found the herb’s calming properties indispensable in the manufacture of antiseptics, muscle soothers, aroma therapy and massage oils.
The oil in lavender’s small, blue violet flowers gives the herb its fragrant scent. The flowers are arranged in spirals of 6 – 10 blossoms, forming interrupted spikes above the foliage.
Unlike other herbs and flowers, lavender has the unique quality of conjuring memories of days gone by, the scent of a grandmother’s house, of sweet-scent lingerie drawers and of comforting bubble baths.
Gardeners like to plant it beside entryways to their beach side homes and take cuttings for fresh flower arrangements for their tables.