Flower Power

I’m not talking about the 1960s and 70s, I’m talking about the healing powers of flowers … specifically, lavender.


Lavender is a wonderful Old World herb that has many uses, from medicinal to culinary.  I first learned that lavender was more than just an ornamental flowering herb when I worked at The Body Shop during college.  During the time I worked there, the company introduced aromatherapy items to their product line.  We all learned a lot about different herbs used in aromatherapy.

We learned that lavender aides in relaxation and that it is very healing.  We were told the story (true story) of René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist who coined the term Aromathérapie in his book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales.  In 1910, while experimenting in his laboratory, he burned his arm and instinctively plunged it into the nearest container of liquid.  That container happened to hold pure lavender essential oil.  After the quick healing of his burn and the lack of scarring, he began to study and write about the healing properties of essential oils.


I have recently become more interested in using herbal and natural remedies where I can (though I do still also use medicines, too).  On January 20th, I burned my arm on a pan I just took out of a 350F oven (home-grown filet mignon … it was worth it). Instead of running my arm under cold water or getting an ice pack, I went into the bathroom, put some lavender essential oil on a Q-Tip and applied it to the burn. Then I put my arm on an ice pack. The burn didn’t blister and by the next morning the pain was gone!  Below is a photo of the burn on 2/13/13 (24 days after getting the burn).


I have to tell you how amazed I was because about 10 +/- years ago I burnt my arm (same arm) on my oven when I was checking a pie.  The oven wasn’t much hotter and I put cold water and ice on it.  I ended up going to the doctor’s the next day and was prescribed burn cream for my 2nd degree burn.  Here is a photo of my scar (taken the same day as the previous photo).

old burn

And here is a photo of both burns.  What do you think I’ll be using the next time I burn myself?

both burns

Before I purchased lavender essential oil, I would pick some lavender leaves from my plant outside when I would get a burn (can you tell it happens relatively often?), crush the leaves between my fingers and apply them to the burn.  Blisters that had begun forming disappeared and the burns healed more quickly.  I also use lavender essential oil if, actually, when I get sunburn.  It helps with the pain and speeds healing, too.

Praying Mantis on Lavender Bud

Spring is coming soon… why not add a lavender plant or two to your garden.  Not only is lavender beneficial to your health, but it is also a beautiful plant and enjoyed by many insects.  Praying mantises lay egg cases in my lavender each year; and bees just flock to the fragrant flowers.

Praying Mantis laying Egg in Lavender

If you aren’t sure what variety to plant or are intimidated by the care, click here for a wonderful guide to lavender that I reference again and again!


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or herbalist!  Please use common sense when treating burns or any other ailment and seek medical attention when necessary!

Fall is Almost Here…

…and the garden is winding down. 

This summer, in southeastern PA, has been a weather rollercoaster.  A pleasant but dry June was followed by a HOT and even drier July.  August brought some cooler temperatures and rain.  Lots of rain.  And flooding – especially with the arrival of Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Depression Lee.  Philadelphia recorded its wettest month EVER in August!  My garden is looking a little unkept now – to say the least – since I haven’t been tending it in the rain.

I had several firsts this year in my veggie garden!  I harvested my 1st asparagus from the bed I started last year.  I tried growing tomatoes from seed planted directly into the ground.  I didn’t spray any insecticide (I only use 100% natural sprays when I need to use them).  I also saw my 1st lacewing in my garden!

Last year I planted 10 asparagus crowns and only 2 didn’t make it.  The other 8 began sending up spears in April and I was able to harvest a few during a 2-3 week window.  New research has shown that you don’t have to wait till the 3rd year before harvesting, and harvesting the 1st year after planting actually increases the buds that are formed by the crown.  For more information on growing asparagus, click here.

For the 2nd year in a row my seedlings didn’t grow more than 2 inches.  Although I haven’t figured out the cause yet, I tried planting my tomato seeds outside at our last frost date (for our zone 6 garden, it’s May 15th).  I heard someone say that they regularly do this and harvest tomatoes the same time as their neighbor who uses started plants.  I must say I was a little skeptical, but my seeds sprouted and grew.  I trellised and pruned them, and they began to produce fruit.  I ended up harvesting tomatoes the same week my father-in-law, who used started plants, did!

This summer I didn’t spray my garden at all with pesticide.  I usually use an all-natural product called Pyola from a company called Garden’s Alive.  It’s a concentrate made of pyrethrins and canola oil that you dilute with water and apply as needed. I did use diatomaceous earth on my eggplant to try to control the flea beetles that were attacking it, but after seeing my 1st lacewing in my garden I decided to try to do without spraying the entire garden.  In addition to the lacewing, my Garden Patrol also included Wheel Bugs,

adult wheel bug eating a bumblebee


hatchling wheel bugs and eggs


wheel bug nymphs

Praying Mantises,

praying mantis on a tomato plant

various spiders, native and Asian Ladybugs,

pink spotted ladybug


checkerboard ladybug

frogs, American Toads,

American toad

various songbirds and Milk Snakes .

juvenile milk snake

I truly enjoyed all of the life in the garden this year and always wondered what I’d see each time I worked in it.  I have big plans for next year and I’m anxious to start on them.  We’re going to finish putting mulch down in between the beds to eliminate the need to mow the garden.  I’m also adding a perennial herb bed with rocky areas for snakes and toads to hide.  The birdbath will move to the center of this bed.  Lastly, we’re going to plant 2 organically grown blueberry bushes next spring.

Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Amazing Lavender

This evening I was pulling out some Pennsylvania smartweed but didn’t notice the bumblebee among the flowers and was promptly bitten.  I immediately remembered what my friend, Jenny, had told me after my encounter with a yellow jacket last month…  ” Lavender essential oil applied immediately r-e-a-l-l-y HELPS!  Almost no swelling/pain!” 

Well, I don’t have any lavender EO in the house, but I do have lavender plants in my perennial garden.  I plucked a few sprigs off a plants, crushed the leaves and held it to the bite.  I honestly wasn’t sure if it would help, even though I know lavender is wonderful for burns (more about that later).  Within a few minutes I had no pain!  I continued working in the garden and picked a bunch of beans!

…now to lavender and burns.  Back in college I worked at The Body Shop and learned that lavender can speed the healing of burns.  This was discovered by someone who was working with lavender oil a long time ago, got burned while doing his experiment and accidentally spilled the lavender oil on his hand.  The burned area that was covered by the lavender oil healed much faster than the rest of the burn. 

I have gotten burned in the kitchen several times and applied crushed lavender leaves immediately.  Viola!  Pain relief and quick healing. 

A few months ago I was having soup for lunch…it was much hotter than I thought it was.  I burned my mouth so bad…I don’t think I’ve ever burned my mouth that bad before!  I took a big drink of cold water, but I remembered that I read somewhere that sugar helps if you burn your mouth…not sure how or why…but I got some sugar out. 

Then I thought about the lavender…so I ran out and picked some leaves.  I put them in a sandwich bag with the sugar and crushed the leaves so that the sugar could absorb the lavender oil.  I picked out the leaves and let a couple teaspoons dissolve in my mouth.  The pain subsided slowly and I took a couple more teaspoons of sugar later that day.  Do you know how after you burn your tongue you can’t taste anything very well?  That evening my mouth felt better…and, even more importantly, I could taste my dinner.

If you’d like to make your own Lavender Infused Sugar, simply add a teaspoon or so dried lavender buds to a cup of sugar.  Store in a canning jar or other jar in a dark place for 2 weeks.  Shake the sugar every day or couple days so the sugar can absorb the oils.  You can strain the buds out or leave them in.  Enjoy!