Lavender herb fields of Provence, France

Beautiful Lavender Fields of Provence

Lavender, (Lavendula vera, D. C.; L. Angustifolia, Moench.; L. spica, Linn.), a half-hardy perennial undershrub, native of dry, calcareous uplands in southern Europe. Its name is derived from the Latin word Lavo, to wash, a distillation of the flowers being anciently used in perfuming water for washing the body. The plant forms a compact clump 2 to 2½ feet tall, has numerous erect stems, bearing small, linear gray leaves, above which the slender, square, flower stems arise. The small violet-blue flowers are arranged in a short, terminal spike, and are followed by little brown, oblong, shiny seeds, with white dots at the ends, attached to the plant. The seeds remain viable for about five years.

Cultivation.—Lavender succeeds best on light, limy or chalky soil, but will do well in any good loam. In gardens it is usually employed as an edging for flower beds, and is most frequently propagated by division or cuttings, seed being used only to get a start where plants cannot be secured in the other ways mentioned. In cold climates the plants must either be protected or removed to a greenhouse, or at least a cold frame, which can be covered in severe weather. The seed is sown indoors during March, and if crowding, pricked out 2 inches asunder. When the ground has become warm, the plants are set in the open 15 to 20 inches asunder. It delights in a sunny situation, and is most fragrant on poor soil. Rich soil makes the plant larger but the flowers poorer in perfume.

Uses.—The plant is sometimes grown for a condiment and an addition to salads, dressings, etc., but its chief use is in perfumery, the flowers being gathered and either dried for use in sachet bags or distilled for their content of oil. In former years no girl was supposed to be ready for marriage until, with her own hands, she had made her own linen and stored it with lavender. And in some sections the lavender is still used, though the linen is nowadays purchased.

   In southern France and in England considerable areas are devoted to lavender for the perfumery business. The flower stems are cut in August, covered at once with bast matting to protect them from the sun and taken to the stills to obtain the thin, pale yellow, fragrant oil. Four-year-old plants yield the greatest amount of oil, but the product is greater from a two-year plantation than from an older one, the plants then being most vigorous. Two grades of oil are made, the best being used for lavender water, the poorer for soap making. In a good season about one pound of oil is obtained from 150 to 200 pounds of the cut plants.

Hyssop Plant Flowers For Landscaping

Hyssop For Landscaping & Colorful Hardy Flowers.

   Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis, Linn.), a perennial evergreen undershrub of the Labiatæ, native of the Mediterranean region. Though well known in ancient times, this plant is probably not the one known as hyssop in Biblical writings. According to the Standard Dictionary the Biblical "hyssop" is "an unidentified plant ... thought by some to have been a species of marjoram (Origanum maru); by others, the caper-bush (Capparis spinosa); and by the author of the 'History of Bible Plants,' to have been the name of any common article in the form of a brush or a broom." In ancient and medieval times hyssop was grown for its fancied medicinal qualities, for ornament and for cookery. Except for ornament, it is now very little cultivated. Occasionally it is found growing wild in other than Mediterranean countries.

  Description.—The smooth, simple stems, which grow about 2 feet tall, bear lanceolate-linear, entire leaves and small clusters of usually blue, though sometimes pink or white flowers, crowded in terminal spikes. The small, brown, glistening three-angled seeds, which have a little white hilum near their apices, retain their viability three years. Leaves, stems and flowers possess a highly aromatic odor and a hot, bitter flavor.

  Cultivation.—Hyssop succeeds best in rather warm, limy soil. It may be readily propagated by division, cuttings, and seed. In cold climates the last way is the most common. Seed is sown in early spring, either in a cold frame or in the open ground, and the seedlings transplanted in early summer. Even where the plants survive the winters, it is advisable to renew them every three or four years. When grown in too rich soil, the growth will be very lush and will lack aroma. Plants should stand not closer than 6 inches in the rows, which should be at least 18 inches apart. They do best in partial shade.

  Uses.—Hyssop has almost entirely disappeared from culinary practice because it is too strong-flavored. Its tender leaves and shoots are, however, occasionally added to salads, to supply a bitter taste. The colorless oil distilled from the leaves has a peculiar odor and an acrid, camphorescent taste. Upon contact with the air it turns yellow and changes to a resin. From 400 to 500 pounds of the fresh plant yield a pound of oil. The oil is used to some extent in the preparation of toilet articles.

Fennel (Fœniculum officinale, All.), a biennial or perennial herb, generally considered a native of southern Europe, though common on all Mediterranean shores. The old Latin name  derived from fœnum or hay. It has spread with civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world, upon dry soils near the sea coast and upon river banks.

Sweet Fennel
Sweet Fennel

It seems to be partial to limestone soils, such as the chalky lands of England and the shelly formation of Bermuda. In this latter community I have seen it thriving upon cliffs where there seemed to be only a pinch of soil, and where the rock was so dry and porous that it would crumble to coarse dust when crushed in the hand. The plant was cultivated by the ancient Romans for its aromatic fruits and succulent, edible shoots.


Dill -  The Pickle Herb

Dill Herb, of pickle fame.

Dill (Anethum graveolens, Linn.), a hardy annual, native of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, smaller than common fennel, which it somewhat resembles both in appearance and in the flavor of the green parts, which are, however, less agreeable.

In ancient times it was grown in Palestine. The word translated, "anise" in Matthew xxiii, 23, is said to have been "dill" in the original Greek. It was well known in Pliny's time, and is often discussed by writers in the middle ages. According to American writings, it has been grown in this country for more than 100 years and has become spontaneous in many places.

Description.—Ordinarily the plants grow 2 to 2½ feet tall. The glaucous, smooth, hollow, branching stems bear very threadlike leaves and in midsummer compound umbels with numerous yellow flowers, whose small petals are rolled inward. Very flat, pungent, bitter seeds are freely produced, and unless gathered early are sure to stock the garden with volunteer seedlings for the following year. Under fair storage conditions, the seeds continue viable for three years. They are rather light; a quart of them weighs about 11 ounces, and an ounce is said to contain over 25,000 seeds.

Cultivation.—Where dill has not already been grown seed may be sown in early spring, preferably in a warm sandy soil, where the plants are to remain. Any well-drained soil will do. The drills should be 1 foot apart, the seeds scattered thinly and covered very shallow; a bed 12 feet square should supply abundance of seed for any ordinary family. To sow this area ¼ to ½ ounce of seed is ample. For field use the rows may be 15 inches apart and the seed sown more thinly. It should not be covered much more than ¼ inch. Some growers favor fall sowing, because they claim the seed is more likely to germinate than in the spring, and also to produce better plants than spring-sown seed.

At all times the plants must be kept free from weeds and the soil loose and open. When three or four weeks old the seedlings are thinned to 9 inches, or even a foot apart. As soon as the seed is ripe, shortly after midsummer, it must be gathered with the least possible shaking and handling, so as to prevent loss. It is well to place the stems as cut directly in a tight-bottomed cart or a wheelbarrow, with a canvas receptacle for the purpose, and to haul direct to the shade where drying is to occur. A good place for this is a barn, upon the floor of which a large canvas sheet is spread, and where a free circulation of air can be secured.

Uses.—The French use dill for flavoring preserves, cakes and pastry. For these purposes it is of too strong and pronounced a character to be relished by American palates. The seeds perhaps more often appear in soups, sauces and stews, but even here they are relished more by our European residents than by native Americans. Probably they are most used in pickles, especially in preserving cucumbers according to German recipes. Thousands of barrels of such pickles are sold annually, more especially in the larger cities and to the poorer people; but as this pickle is procurable at all delicatessen stores, it has gained great popularity among even the well-to-do. An oil is distilled from the seeds and used in perfuming soap. The young leaves are said to be used in pickles, soups and sauces, and even in salads. For the last purpose they are rather strong to suit most people, and for the others the seeds are far more popular.

Dill vinegar is a popular household condiment. It is made by soaking the seed in good vinegar for a few days before using. The quantity of ingredients to use is immaterial. Only a certain amount of the flavor can be dissolved by the vinegar, and as few samples of vinegar are alike, the quantities both to mix and of the decoction to use must be left to the housewife. This may be said, however, that after one lot of seed has been treated the vinegar may be poured off and the seeds steeped a second time to get a weaker infusion. The two infusions may then be mixed and kept in a dark cupboard for use as needed.

  Heritage herb used for many baking, pickles, and in salads.

Garlic rows with the edible garlic flower in bloom

  Chives (Allium Schœnoprasum, Linn.), a bulbous, onion-like perennial belonging to the Liliaceæ. Naturally the plants form thick tufts of abundant, hollow, grasslike leaves from their little oval bulbs and mat of fibrous roots. The short flower stems bear terminal clusters of generally sterile flowers. Hence the plants are propagated by planting the individual bulbs or by division of clumps in early spring. Frequently chives are planted in flower borders as an edging, for which purpose the compact growth and dainty flowers particularly recommend them. They should not be allowed to grow in the same place more than three years.  Chives are perennials and make wonderful sidewalk plants to line entrances or paths in the garden.