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Drying Lavender – Methods and Uses

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One of the beauties of lavender is how easy it is to dry. Add to that the fact that lavender holds its fragrance and you will absolutely want it in your garden.
Basic Drying
Lavender and all herbs that are going to be dried benefit from being picked at the right time. Most plants emit the maximum fragrance as the flower opens. Once the flower has been pollinated and the seed is being formed, the fragrance decreases. Plants, including lavender, tend to look rather ragged as the season progresses in part because the plants are putting energy into seed production rather than fresh leaves and scent. So watch as the lavender blossoms form and time your harvest when the flowers just begin to emerge.

Pick a cool, dry and cloudy day, if possible to harvest so that the plants are less stressed. On a hot and dry afternoon the plants evaporate the oils at a higher rate than cooler days. The ideal time to pick your lavender, or any herb, is in the morning, just after the dew has evaporated. On humid or damp days the extra moisture in the air will rest on the leaves and thus take longer to dry.
Pick the flower head and stem together. With English lavenders you will have a long stem with no leaves to strip, and this is a natural picking point. Harvest the stems that have leaves separately. If you are drying the whole stem and leaves, pick about 8 inches of the stalk and strip the lower leaves off.
Bind a small group of stems together with twine and hang in a dry, warm place for a week or two until dry. Lavender dries so easily though that you can also place a selection of stems into a small vase with no water, and enjoy the flowers as they dry. Alternately place a few stems together and secure with a ribbon, then lay on a nightstand or dresser to scent the area as they dry.
Using Dried Lavender
Once dried, the lavender heads can be used in potpourris and sachets, or left on the stem for weaving into wreaths or other decorative items. The gray leaves can add scented bulk to sachets and mixed herb combinations for crafts and pillow and other crafts where the scent is more important than appearance.
Household uses such as laundry or bath bags, where the lavender is inside a muslin bag and put into the dryer with your clothes or in the bathtub, is a perfect use for lavender leaves.
Lavender soaps though generally use the flowers to give color and improve appearance.
For potpourri, try mixing lavender with red rose petals for a Victorian appeal.

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