A little bit about Lavender

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On July 27, 2010 by Team EO in INSIDE INFORMATION, RETURN TO THE ESSENTIALS

Lavender, isn’t just lavender.  There are many layers to this remarkable herb that can be at first glance, an overwhelming swirl of information, so in honor of EO Products 2010 lavender harvest, Love Life with EO will, over the next few days, try to help sort it all out.

First off it should be known that there is Lavender, and then there are Lavandins.   Lavender, or Lavendula Angustifolia is the traditional English garden lavender variety, and Lavandins are a cross between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia and were developed in the late 1920’s.  Lavender has narrow leaves, shorter stems with flower heads that are barrel shaped as opposed to spiky. Their fragrance is sweeter than their hybrid cousins the Lavandins, and because of this, their oil is coveted for aromatherapy and perfume. They bloom earlier in the year than the lavandins. In the winter months, the Angustifolias can often look dead because of the smallness of the leaves. Their dried blossoms are used in cooking, crafting and cosmetics. The Angustifolias produce seeds that are viable, and young plants will often appear below the parent plant.

Lavandins typically have larger leaves, longer stems and larger flower heads that are pointed at the top instead of barrel shaped. They have a more camphorous quality to their fragrance, and because of this are typically used in soaps and detergents. Lavandins are hardy and disease resistant; they have a more attractive look in the winter months. Because of their sterility, the seeds in these plants are infertile, and the preferred method of reproduction is with cuttings.

One of the Lavandins harvested today in Healdsburg was Grosso, named after Pierre Grosso, who began to cultivate lavandin from his arrival in France, at the beginning of the thirties. Probably at the beginning of the fifties, he found an old abandoned lavender field at Caseneuve, near Apt. Here, among dead plants, there was just one still living, a beautiful lavandin plant. He collected it, took some cuttings and in April the following year planted them out. He then began to produce and sell this new lavender. People bought the lavandin of the Grosso farm because it grew quickly and proved to be resistant to dépérissement, a progressive drying disease of plants, transmitted by insects. At the beginning of the seventies, he decided to register his new variety at the Syndicat of Sault. Now it represents about three quarters of the cultivated lavender in Provence and is one of the best known cultivars all over the world. Pierre’s lavender farm went on to produce two or three millions cuttings a year, prepared by French and Spanish female workers, and has turned into a commercial, all-purpose plant that is very hardy. Its long stems are excellent for dried bouquets and potpourris. Because Grosso is such a high-yielding plant, it has become the most widely used lavender variety for oil production in the world.