One of the best things about living in the south of France is lavender season. It is truly incroyable…incredible! The colors, the scent, the tall strands fanning out over blooming plants add up to a bit of heaven on earth.
Usually, the end of June through the beginning of July is the peak season. But, of course, this varies a bit depending on the weather. We've had a cooler summer with more rain this year, so everything is peaking a bit later. I love it!
The majority of the often-photographed lavender fields are a couple of hours north of here. One of my friends lives right on the edge of these lavender fields, and driving to her house during this season is delightful. Sun-warmed growing lavender fills the air, and the rows of that particular lavender purple are glorious to behold. You can hardly believe your eyes!
The lavender in these commercial fields is most often "Provence" lavender or lavendin. It is a hybrid of English lavender more suited to our warmer, dryer climate.
When they harvest it, the fragrance wafts a great distance. You can't help but be happy and relaxed, breathing it all in.
I live in the Cévennes, a hotter, dryer region, but lavender thrives even so. We have upwards of 40 plants throughout the Château property. The beautiful splendor as they burst into blossom is a yearly delight.
Bees hum and thrive as they bounce from flower to flower. They appear a bit drunk–and perhaps they are! Last week, I cut a small bouquet to give to a friend. It sat in my house for several hours before I saw her, yet when I presented it, out crawled a very sleepy bee. Thankfully another friend scooped it up (with an empty champagne flute, no less; it was a bridal event!) and kindly fed it a bit of sugar water before sending it out the window. No one was stung, which was a particular blessing because the bride-to-be is allergic!
Butterflies also love hanging out on the lavender blossoms. We have several varieties: pale yellow with a splash of orange, a tiger-striped black and yellow one, and a few others. Like tiny trapeze artists, they flit from one flower to another. Their delicate weight causes the lavender to gently sway as they drink up what must be delicious nectar.
While lavender on the plant brings beauty, we continue to enjoy it all year long by harvesting and drying it in bundles. It's best when we're able to capture the blossoms at peak color; the lavender-blue remains vivid even when dried. Unfortunately, some years we've missed the optimal moment, but the bundles still smell wonderful.
Later in the year, we remove the dried buds and turn them into sachets. We use these as hospitality gifts for visitors to our château/ministry center. Guests never cease to be amazed at the strength of scent. And we love the fact that it was home/château grown.
As my English friend says, we have the "best smelling loo" ever!
In addition to all this, lavender has terrific benefits for our bodies and minds.
Whether in flower form or oils, the scent promotes sleep and relaxation and can help reduce muscle aches. That's why I place bundles all around my house and sometimes rub some on my pillow…so nice!
The friend who lives near the grand lavender fields introduced me several years ago to her friend who makes quantities of lavender essence. He sold it to me in empty Pastis (a local anise-flavored apéritif drink) bottles, which always looked a bit suspect in my cleaning closet. Adding a bit of the essence to the laundry cycle or when mopping the floor fills the house with heady fragrance. I never grow tired of it.
If you've seen the film "A Beautiful Year" with Russel Crowe and Marion Cotillard, you'll remember funny scenes involving lavender. When houseguests found small trays of dried lavender in their windowsills, they threw them in the trash. Only to wake up to scorpions–which the lavender was meant to keep away. Lots of hopping up on the furniture and screaming ensued until the housekeeper dealt with the little beasts (the scorpions, not the houseguests!) with a few swift blows of her broom. I love this film and watch it again every so often.
And yes, we have had the occasional scorpion as well…but not too many as I have lavender everywhere!
I have to say–I think that lavender was one of God's best ideas!
La vie est belle!