By Amanda Rose Newton
Lavender has a short season in Florida, as it tends to not be fond of the intense summer heat and humidity that rolls in by May. The time to celebrate this beautiful fragrant herb is now and this makes it a must for March Mocktail Month!
A Lust for Lavender
Prized for its strong, calming scent and beautiful violet-hued flowers, lavender has been cultivated for centuries all over the world. Used in aromatherapy as a calming agent, it helps many lessen anxiety as well as sleep better with a single sniff.
For those who love to cook, lavender is a key ingredient in the infamous herbs de providence spice blend cherished in French cuisine. The flower itself signifies elegance, refinement, and luxury which fits in nicely with the current (hopefully forever) trend of self-care.
The lavender cocktail presented at the end will literally have you drinking in all these positive attributes of the beloved herb.
English, French, or Ornamental? Getting to Know Your Lavenders
English Lavender: The One You Are Probably Thinking Of
When selecting a lavender to grow, it’s important to choose the one best suited to your herbal goals. English lavender is commonly known as the “culinary lavender” and the buds can easily be saved and used for baking cookies, flavoring drinks (as we do here), and in fine European dishes that are sure to impress your guests.
Ideally, Lavendula angustifolia performs best in Zone 5-8, which we are not in. However, we can grow this one during the spring as a short-lived annual.
Your best bet with this one is purchasing dried buds elsewhere if you are only interested in the culinary aspects.
French Lavender: Tres Magnifique!
Performing well in zones 8-11, French lavender is tres bon (very good) for Florida gardeners. As one would expect, French lavender is unapologetically showy, sophisticated, and distinctive.
Also known as fringed lavender, it has silvery fine-toothed leaves with large purple flowers. It has less of the “lavender” smell associated with the English, but the leaves pick up the slack by offering a scent like another Mediterranean favorite, rosemary.
French lavender loves the warm sun and sandy soil we offer, just be sure to keep an eye on it as temperatures heat up late summer.
If you just enjoy the elegant look of lavender, there are several cultivars that not only do well in Florida but provide you with a pop of color in the landscape.
Phenomenal Lavender, which is a cross between English and Portuguese, grows tall and has beautiful flowers that last into fall. Lavandula Pedunculata is another popular variety, with long stems and full flower heads. This makes it an excellent cut flower for bouquets or dried arrangements.
Sweet Lavender, Lavandula Vera, when you can find it, is a great choice for aromatherapy, especially sachets.
Mona Lavender, which is not a true lavender, gives you the same look for less hassle! It also features a sweet scent, though not reminiscent of lavender.
Growing Lavender in Florida
Lavender loves Florida soil, so we can check that off the list! As for light, direct sun, at least 6 hours is optimal, and err on the side of caution when it comes to watering.
Lavender tends to be susceptible to fungi, so leaving it wet can lead to unintended consequences. For all the benefits it provides us, it really doesn’t have many needs. Make sure it stays dry, has sun, and deadhead as needed for best results.
March Mocktail 2: Sparkling Lavender Lemonade
Celebrate Lavender AND Citrus while you can with this all occasions mocktail! Need something harder? Add a shot of vodka to make this a true cocktail.
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup lavender simple syrup
1 cup sparkling water or club soda
1 cup sugar (or stevia substitute)
½ cup Water
1 tbs lavender buds
Optional: Lavender Sugar for Glass Rim
1 tbsp dried lavender
2 cups sugar
For Simple Syrup:
1. Stir together all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat
2. Bring to a boil and stir vigorously until sugar is dissolved
3. Refrigerate in a tight-sealing container until ready to use
1. Stir all ingredients (including syrup) in a pitcher until combined
2. Serve in individual glasses (recommend stemless wine glasses) with a sprig of lavender and a sugar rim if feeling fancy.
For (optional) sugar for glass rim:
1. Process lavender in a blender with 1 cup of granulated sugar (or substitute) for 20 seconds
2. Whisk in remaining sugar until well mixed
3. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature
4. Use within 6 months
5. To use, sprinkle on a small plate and dip the rim of a glass (stemless wine glasses work great) in water before dipping into sugar for an instant classy look.