Wintering Lavender in 2017

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America and Laurie Hejduk, owner of Luvin Lavender Farm, Madison, Ohio

20150923_110406If you live in the snow zone, it’s time think wintering your lavender in 2017.

That’s no typo. If you’re planning your 2016 garden – I am – you’re perusing plant and seed catalogs. Then, you’re determining  location. My garden sketches call for moving and removing some herbs while making room for new.

Locating lavender in 2016 will help it winter well in 2017.

Laurie Hejduk of Luvin Lavender Farm in Northeast Ohio says well-drained, sunny and protected are key for this Mediterranean herb. That means close to the house, a chimney, on the Southside, or somewhere that will provide a microclimate conducive to the needs of the plant.

20150923_110156“In the case of a few plants or in a small garden situation, covering with burlap or a sheet or buying a  winter cover from a garden center surely will help,” she says. “It is important to allow the plant to go dormant. It’s also important to remove the cover when temperatures consistently stabilize in spring.”

You may still fail. A little.

“Being so far north, we expect to lose some plants every year. We do what we can to minimize these losses,” she notes. “During the 2013-14 winter we lost about 20 percent of our crop because of extreme conditions. That year was difficult for lavender farmers nationwide, fruit crops and pretty much all farming operations.”

Farming can be fickle. “It’s very difficult to put anything into a firm timeline as each year presents unique challenges and weather conditions,” she says. “It’s always good to refer to the good old Farmer’s Almanac and to be aware of weather trends like El Niño.”

Well-located plants still require loving in the fall. “In November we finish shaping the plants and cutting back and monitoring the plants for signs of disease or deficiency,” explains Laurie. “Some good indicators of problems could include yellowing of the leaves, or weak stems or abnormal dieback. We, then, address any of these issues or create a plan for the upcoming season.”

20150923_105648“In December we are closely watching the weather and waiting for about a week of continuous below freezing temperatures. This is important to ensure that the plants have gone into dormancy before covering. 2015-2016 put us all the way into January.”

Of course, selecting the right variety helps.  “There are more hardy varieties than others. English (angustifolia) varieties tend to be hardier. Whereas French (intermedia) need to be treated a little more gingerly,” says Laurie. “This is actually the reason we have so many varieties on the farm. In addition to avoiding a monoculture, it is also research into what varieties will do well in Northeast Ohio and gives us a good idea what to offer and recommend to local gardeners.”

At that point, it’s time to take a break from farm work and prepare for spring. And, we’re back to the beginning. Time to get started.

Do you have tips for growing lavender? Enlighten us with comments below.

Handmade: Sachets from Vintage Hankies

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Craft sachets (18)In mid-August I was at a garage sale full of 1940s and 1950s household paraphernalia. Among the milky salt shakers, bakelite jewelry and vanity sets were two tins of vintage hankies. Impressed with the old prints and even more impressed with crochet borders and embroidered designs, I wanted the colorful lot. So, $20 later, they were mine.

Unfolding my treasurers I counted forty hankies … about 50 cents each. Not a bad price in the Northeast Ohio collectible market.

Now what? I was waiting for inspiration. I, too often, buy stuff because it’s pretty and/or a bargain. Just ask me about those vintage patchwork quilts that match nothing in my home décor. But, I digress…

I washed the hankies on delicate and ironed them crisp. Folded twice, they’re smallish squares. Craft sachets (4)

I tend be OCD sometimes, so I organized them by color, then embellishment.

Eureka! Sachets!

Lavender-filled squares to scent clothing drawers. Hops-filled sachets for inducing sleep. Eucalyptus sachets for winter colds. Rose-filled sachets, well … just because. Gifts for everyone.

I decided to keep them folded, machine sew two sides, stuff them and close them. Then, overthinking I contemplated threadCraft sachets (7) color. Fortunately, I returned to my senses and went with white because it’s universal.

Finally, it was show time. The sewing went quickly.

With the first batch I was on a lavender high. I could just roll around in those. I picked the prettiest, frilliest hankies because the flowers seem so delicate despite the intense aroma.

The hops, meanwhile, had been vacuum sealed into plastic so I used my fingers to loosen the tight wads. Not long and my fingers were a bit oily-sticky from the herbaceous brewing ingredient. And, yes, smelling a bit like a bitter hoppy beer. I guess I won’t give these sachets to my lager swigging friends.

While roses haven’t been known to induce sleep, they’d make feminine drawer sachets. I could even see vintage ladies Craft sachets (14)tucking the smallest into their ample bosoms to release perfume in the summer’s heat.

Eucalyptus was a last-minute addition when all that herb sniffing left me with a stuffy head. Why not make sachets to tuck inside the pillow when you have a cold.

Forty herb packages later and I’ve started my Christmas crafting. I just might go with an aromatherapy basket for friends and family this year. Next up? Soap.

Stay tuned.

P.S. Be selective about hops. Seek out the sweetest. Those used for bitter India Pale Ales are only for the hardcore herb or beer lover. At first whiff, they smell like day-old, spilled beer. If you can hold out for 2 seconds the scent mellows into something sleep inducing. If your budget is tight, don’t bother.

What’s on your holiday crafting gift list? What are you making for friends and family. Tell us in the comments below.