Vampire’s Garden: Lavender

close up photo of lavender growing on field
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is third in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself.

Latin Name: Lavandula (Species include angustifolia, stoechas, latifolia, and dentata)

Common Names: Lavender, English Lavender, French Lavender, Spanish Lavender, nard

History: Part of the mint family, Lavender is native to Europe, northern and eastern Africa, and large parts of Asia. Its use goes back at least to Ancient Egypt, where the oil was used in mummification. The Greeks and Romans used the plant in their public baths. In the Middle Ages lavender was used as a strewing herb, where it was sprinkled on floors to repel insects and sweeten the air with its scent. The word lavender comes from the French, “lavendre” meaning “to wash,” which itself comes from the Latin name Lavandula, from the verb lavare, “to wash.”

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Loyalty, love, devotion

Cultivation: Perennial (although in less ideal conditions, it should be considered an annual). Cold hardiness depends on variety–English lavender (L. angustifolia) tolerates zones 5 to 8; French lavender (L. dentata and L. stoechas) is suited to zones 8 to 11. Lavender likes full sun and dry sandy or rocky soil. If you live in an area with heavy clay soils, try growing lavender in containers or raised beds. The plants need good air circulation, so don’t crowd them. Lavender generally doesn’t need to be fertilized. Avoid organic mulches in areas with high humidity (gravel or rock mulches should be okay). Plants generally bloom from June until August, and you can extend blooming time by planting a variety of types. Flowers range in colour from white to pink, light purple to deep blue-purple, and yellow, depending on variety. Lavender is difficult to start from seed–it’s best to purchase plants. Water seedlings consistently until they’re established. Prune plants in spring. Deadhead spent flowers throughout the season to encourage more blooms. Harvest just before the flowers are fully open.

Lavender has become invasive and/or weedy in parts of Australia and Spain. Check with your local authorities before growing it in those areas.

Bonus: Bees and butterflies love lavender.

Uses:

Medicinal: Lavender may help calm anxiety and ease insomnia. It’s also been traditionally used to treat intestinal disorders and cardiovascular diseases, and has been found effective in fighting fungal infections.

Essential Oil: Lavender essential oil is distilled from the flowers and is used in perfumes, soaps, bath products, and in aromatherapy. The oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, making it useful for treating minor burns (including sunburn), wounds, and stings. It also repels mosquitoes. Generally a drop or two of the oil can go directly onto skin, but if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin you might want to dilute the lavender oil in a carrier oil (like sweet almond or olive) before applying to skin. Lavender oil, when combined with essential oils of rosemary, thyme, and cedarwood, has been found to be effective in combatting hair loss.

Cautions: While lavender is generally safe, the NIH recommends that boys avoid lavender essential oil as it may cause hormonal effects leading to gynecomastia. Lavender oil can irritate the skin in some people (use with a carrier oil–see above) and can cause photo-sensitivity, so avoid sun exposure if you’ve used lavender essential oil on your skin. The NIH also says people who take sleep medication or blood pressure-lowering medication should use caution when combining lavender with these drugs. Lavender oil can be poisonous if taken internally.

In addition, Essential oils are toxic to pets: never use to treat pets. Do not diffuse essential oils in an enclosed space when pets are present. Do not apply oils externally to pets. Never let pets or children ingest essential oils.

Crafts: Add dried flowers to pot pourri mixtures, or sew them into sachets and dream pillows. The stems with flowers attached can be made into lavender wands or bottles. Dried flowers can be added to homemade soap. Make a lavender wreath or linen spray. Use fresh or dried in flower arrangements and centrepieces.

Culinary: English lavender is the most commonly used kind in cooking. Lavender is usually included in “Herbes de Provence” mixes. Lavender flowers can be incorporated into baking, drinks, stews, and salads. Lavender pairs well with berries, sheep’s milk- and goat’s milk-cheeses, “spring mix” type salad greens, beef, honey, lemons, and custard. Lavender leaves can replace (or be used with) rosemary in savoury foods and breads. The dried mature stems can be used as skewers. Remember to use the dried flowers sparingly to avoid a soapy or perfumey taste

Place about a teaspoon of dried flowers into a cup of superfine sugar and let the mixture sit for 2 weeks. Use the lavender-flavoured sugar in place of regular sugar in desserts and drinks. It’s particularly good sprinkled on berries or in lemonade.

Flower buds and lavender leaves are infused to make tea.

Lavender syrup (homemade or commercial) can be used in drinks, desserts, ice creams, or candy making.

Lavender honey can be used like regular honey and has a subtle lavender scent and flavour.

Other: Tie a bundle of lavender and eucalyptus to your shower for a relaxing, spa-like bathing experience.

Mara’s Uses: Mara uses lavender to soothe herself by brushing her hand over the plant and inhaling the scent. Lavender is also part of her apothecary business, in teas, tinctures, and salves.

Further Reading:

Flower Meanings

Health Benefits and Risks of Lavender

The Fundamentals of Growing Lavender

How to Use Lavender

30 Ways to Use Lavender

WebMD

Wikipedia

Vampire’s Garden: Love-Lies-Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth
Photo from http://www.adaptiveseeds.com

If you’ve read Love Lies Bleeding, you’ll know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post will be the first in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you  interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for historical interest only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself.

Latin name: Amaranthus caudatus

Common names: Love-Lies-Bleeding, Pendant Amaranth, Tassel Flower, Velvet Flower, Foxtail Amaranth

History: Native to South America, this and other varieties of Amaranthus were grown for their edible, protein-rich seeds. The Aztecs also used it in religious ceremonies, which led to the Spanish conquerors making its cultivation a capital offense (they still never managed to wipe it out). Some varieties were used to make a red dye, and betacyanins, which give Amaranthus their red colour, are still used to produce non-toxic food dyes. Medicinally, it has been used to treat swelling, ulcers, and diarrhea.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: hopeless love or hopelessness

Cultivation: Annual. Easy to grow from seed, Love-Lies-Bleeding prefers full sun and is both drought and moisture tolerant. It grows to be 3 to 8 feet (1 to 2.5 metres) tall. Seeds can be started indoors and transplanted outside after the last frost (start in April to transplant in May). Sow or thin to 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm). Can self sow but generally isn’t weedy.

Uses: Ornamental, cut flowers, edible (seeds and leaves).

Wildlife: Birds love the seeds–leave plants in the garden over winter for the birds.

Mara’s Uses: Following the Doctrine of Signatures, Mara considers Love-Lies-Bleeding to be a potential ingredient in her theoretical blood substitute.

Bonus: Mara’s full name is Amarantha, which shares a root and meaning with Amaranthus: “unwilting” or “unfading.”

Further Reading:

Adaptive Seeds

The Sacramento Bee

Wikipedia

WebMD

Inhabitat

 

Weekend Reading

Weekends are made for reading, aren’t they? Part of the fun is picking your next read. If you’re in the mood for something with bite, check out my new short story “Blood Magic.” It’s free to download…

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

On the run from both vampires and hunters, Mara and Lee are forced to confront the bleak reality of their future together. But an unexpected turn of events offers Mara the chance to shift things in her favor–at a cost. Will she walk away or will she embrace the magic?

Available FREE at SmashwordsBarnes & NobleiBooks!ndigo, and other online book retailers.

As for myself, I’m currently reading (and enjoying) The Perfect Afternoon Tea Recipe Book. Not just recipes, there’s also some interesting info in here about the history of tea. I recommend it for anyone who’s a fan of either the beverage or the tradition.

Last Meal

I’ve never given much thought to last meals. As something one generally doesn’t get to choose, it’s a topic that, for me, ranges from pointless to depressing (I’d much rather think about my next meal). But others find it a fascinating subject, agonizing in detail over what they would have, or in the case of J.B. Gish over at Quirk Books, what famous literary characters might have.

pexels-photo-750073.jpeg

Gish has imagined Hermione Granger, imprisoned for identity theft by unknown means, would have boomslang skin, lacewing flies, a bit of a guard’s hair, and the rest of the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion (imagine making that request). Meanwhile Shadow Moon (American Gods) might opt for a more conventional last meal of cheeseburger, fries, and American beer.

In the spirit of pure speculation, I’ve given some consideration to what my character Mara (Love Lies Bleeding) would have eaten for her last meal as a human before she was forced to convert to an all-blood diet. As the daughter of an upper-class English Knight in Medieval Ireland, Mara would have had access to higher quality food than the average person. Her last meal would have been a typical everyday light supper in her household (at least for her and her father–the servants likely didn’t eat as well).

Mara’s Last Supper

  • wheat bread with fresh butter
  • fish stew made with onions, parsnips, trout, bacon, and wild garlic and herbs that Mara foraged
  • baked apples with honey and currants
  • wine

What do you think–is it a good last meal?

And because I couldn’t talk about food without including recipes, here are some modern versions of Mara’s last supper:

soda bread

Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)

fish stew

Irish Fish Stew

baked apples

Honey Baked Apples with Raisins and Cinnamon

(Note: I haven’t tried these recipes, so let me know if you do and how they turned out.)

You can read more about Mara in my new FREE short story “Blood Magic,” available for download at Smashwords and other online booksellers. And if you haven’t already, now is a great time to also get a copy of my novel Love Lies Bleeding. Happy reading (and eating)!

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas