photo courtesy of Witch's Garden
Common Name: Lavender
Scientific Name: Lavendula officinale
Habitat: Dry grassy slopes amongst rocks, in exposed, usually parched, hot rocky situations often on calcareous soils.
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea. Leaves, petals and flowering tips - raw. Used as a condiment in salads, soups, stews etc. They provide a very aromatic flavour and are too strong to be used in any quantity. The fresh or dried flowers are used as a tea. The fresh flowers are also crystallized or added to jams, ice-creams, vinegars etc as a flavouring. An essential oil from the flowers is used as a food flavouring.
Medicinal Uses: Antihalitosis; Antiseptic; Aromatherapy; Aromatic;Diuretic; Sedative; Stimulant; Tonic.
Lavender is a commonly used household herb, though it is better known for its sweet-scented aroma than for its medicinal qualities. However, it is an important relaxing herb, having a soothing and relaxing affect upon the nervous system. The flowering spikes can be dried and used internally in a tincture, though the extracted essential oil is more commonly used. The essential oil is much more gentle in its action than most other essential oils and can be safely applied direct to the skin as an antiseptic to help heal wounds, burns etc. An essential oil obtained from the flowers is antihalitosis, powerfully antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogue, diuretic, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. It is not often used internally, though it is a useful carminative and nervine. It is mainly used externally where it is an excellent restorative and tonic - when rubbed into the temples, for example, it can cure a nervous headache, and it is a delightful addition to the bathwater. Its powerful antiseptic properties are able to kill many of the common bacteria as well as being a powerful antidote to some snake venoms. It is useful in the treatment of burns, sunburn, scalds, and bites where it also soothes the affected part of the body and can prevent the formation of permanent scar tissue. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy.
Other Uses: Essential; Hedge; Incense; Pot-pourri; Repellent. The essential oil that is obtained from the flower has a very wide range of applications, both in the home and commercially. It is commonly used in soap making, in making high quality perfumes, it is also used as a detergent and cleaning agent, a food flavouring and as an insect repellent. The aromatic leaves and flowers are used in potpourri and as an insect repellent in the linen cupboard etc. They have been used in the past as a strewing herb in order to impart a sweet smell to rooms and to deter insects. The leaves are also added to bath water for their fragrance and therapeutic properties. They are also said to repel mice. The flowering stems, once the flowers have been removed for use in pot-pourri etc, can be tied in small bundles and burnt as incense sticks. Lavender can be grown as a low hedge, responding well to trimming.
Cultivation: Succeeds in almost any soil so long as it is well-drained and not too acid. Prefers a sunny position in a neutral to alkaline soil. Prefers a light warm dry soil. When grown in rich soils the plants tend to produce more leaves but less essential oils. Established plants are drought tolerant. Plants are very tolerant of salt wind exposure. When growing for maximum essential oil content, the plant must be given a very warm sunny position and will do best in a light sandy soil, the fragrance being especially pronounced in a chalky soil. Plants are hardy to between -10 and -15°c. Lavender is a very ornamental plant that is often grown in the herb garden and is also grown commercially for its essential oil. Not a very long-lived plant, it can be trimmed to keep it tidy but is probably best replaced every 10 years. Any trimming is best done in spring and should not be done in the autumn since this can encourage new growth that will not be very cold-hardy.
A good bee plant, also attracting butterflies and moths. Lavender makes a good companion for most plants, growing especially well with cabbages.
Propagation: Seed - sow spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings 7cm with a heel succeed at almost any time of the year. Layering.
Scent: Plant: Fresh Crushed Dried. All parts of the plant are strongly aromatic.
photo courtesy of Witch's Garden
Scientific Name: Mentha piperita
Habitat: Moist soils in ditches, waste places etc
Edible Uses: Condiment; Leaves; Tea.
Leaves - raw or cooked. A strong peppermint flavour, they are used as a flavouring in salads or cooked foods. This plant should not be used by pregnant women. An essential oil from the leaves and flowers is used as a flavouring in sweets, chewing gum, ice cream etc. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves
Medicinal Uses: Abortifacient; Antiseptic; Antispasmodic; Aromatherapy; Refrigerant; Stomachic; Tonic
Peppermint is a very important and commonly used herbal remedy. It is also widely used as a domestic remedy. A tea made from the leaves has traditionally been used in the treatment of fevers, headaches, digestive disorders and various minor ailments. An infusion is used in the treatment of digestive problems. Externally a lotion is applied to the skin to relieve pain and reduce sensitivity. The leaves and stems can be used fresh or dried, they are harvested for drying in August as the flowers start to open. The essential oil in the leaves is antiseptic and strongly antibacterial, though it is toxic in large doses. When diluted it can be used as an inhalantand chest rub for respiratory infections.
Other Uses: Essential; Repellent; Strewing.
An essential oil is obtained from the whole plant. It is used medicinally and as a food flavouring. It is also an ingredient of oral hygiene preparations, toiletries etc. Peppermint leaves are used as an ingredient of potpourris. They were formerly used as a strewing herb. The plant repels insects, rats etc. Rats and mice intensely dislike the smell of mint. The plant was therefore used in homes as a strewing herb and has also been spread in granaries to keep the rodents off the grain.
Cultivation: Succeeds in most soils and situations so long as the soil is not too dry. Grows well in heavy clay soils. A sunny position is best for the production of essential oils, but plants also succeed in partial shade. Prefers a slightly acid soil. A commonly grown herb, it is often cultivated commercially for its essential oil. The black form of peppermint is said to produce a superior essential oil, making it the preferred choice as a food flavouring and for medicinal purposes. The oil is of better quality when the plant is grown on dry soils. Most mints have fairly aggressive spreading roots and, unless you have the space to let them roam, they need to be restrained by some means such as planting them in containers that are buried in the soil. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus.
The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies. A good companion for growing near cabbages and tomatoes, helping to keep them free of insect pests. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Propagation: Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Germination is usually fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Mentha species are very prone to hybridisation and so the seed cannot be relied on to breed true. Even without hybridisation, seedlings will not be uniform and so the content of medicinal oils etc will vary. When growing plants with a particular aroma it is best to propagate them by division.
Division can be easily carried out at almost any time of the year, though it is probably best done in the spring or autumn to allow the plant to establish more quickly. Virtually any part of the root is capable of growing into a new plant. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. However, for maximum increase it is possible to divide the roots up into sections no more than 3cm long and pot these up in light shade in a cold frame. They will quickly beome established and can be planted out in the summer.
Thank you to the Witch's Garden for letting me use her pictures and most of my research came from this site.
Also to Infoplease from providing dictionary and enclycliopedia resources that backed up the research of the Witch's Garden.