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: Comfrey

comfrey
Photo via Mary’s Heirloom Seeds

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 second 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: Symphytum officinale

Common Names: Boneset, Bruisewort, Knitbone, Slippery Root

History: Native to Europe and parts of Asia, comfrey has a long history (at least 2000 years) in healing. It has been used to treat coughs and lung ailments, stop excessive bleeding, treat stomach problems, and to ease joint pain and inflammation. Its most common use, however, has been to heal wounds, bruises, and broken bones; in fact, almost every name (in all languages) for comfrey refer to knitting or mending bones or healing cuts and contusions. “Comfrey” comes from a Latin word meaning “to grow together,” and the botanical name “Symphytum” comes from the Greek, meaning plant that knits bones together. It was once also used as food for both people and animals.

Caution: Comfrey has been found to be toxic to the liver when taken internally in large amounts. It’s generally safe to use externally, but is best avoided by pregnant and nursing women, infants, and by people with liver, kidney, or vascular disease. It’s also toxic to animals, so be sure not to let them eat it.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Home sweet home

Cultivation: Perennial in zones 4 to 9. Easy to grow from seed, comfrey prefers full to part sun and rich, well-drained soil. It’s quite adaptable and can survive less-than-ideal conditions, including drought. Sow early indoors or outside as soon as soil can be worked. Sow just below surface of soil and tamp down–keep seeds moist (not wet). Sow seeds or seedlings with 2 feet (60 cm) of space around them as the plants get fairly large. Once plants are established in a spot they can live for decades and be difficult to remove, so take care when selecting a site. Comfrey is generally non-invasive, although it can self sow.

Uses: Comfrey is still used externally to treat inflammation, joint pain, and closed wounds and bruises. You can crush fresh leaves to make a poultice, apply fresh leaves to the affected area, use a salve, or apply oil that has had comfrey steeped in it. Treat poison ivy blisters by rubbing a fresh leaf on them. You can also use the chopped roots to make salves, ointments, and oils (or use a combination of leaves and roots). Leaves are best used before the plant blooms; roots are best harvested in late autumn or early winter.

In the garden, nitrogen- and potassium-rich comfrey leaves are used as fertilizer, in compost, and as mulch. Avoid using stems as they can take root and spread the plant where you don’t want it. You can also make a compost tea with the chopped leaves by steeping them in water for several weeks and then straining and diluting the resulting dark liquid 12:1 before applying to the garden.

Mara’s Uses: She makes a poultice of comfrey leaves to help speed up healing of a particularly bad injury. Comfrey would be one of the herbs used to make salves and oils for her apothecary business.

Further Reading:

Permaculture Research Institute

Natural Living IdeasNatural Living Ideas

Comfrey Growing Guide

Mother Earth News

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

 

Where to Find Me Online

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A quick update today to let people know where they can find me online. I post different things on different sites, so feel free to follow me in as many places as you like. See you around 🙂

My Website: The best place to find info about me and my books, news, reviews, events, posts, and random fun bits. You can also contact me here.

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Other: I’ve started writing guest posts on other sites–this is where you can get links to those posts.

Don’t forget to download your free copy of my short story Blood Magic, and buy a paperback or ebook copy of Love Lies Bleeding too! (More info here.)