Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: floral frenzy

Although I didn’t attend personally, I’ve heard from three different sources that floral flavours were abundant at the 2008 Summer Fancy Food Show held in New York City earlier this month. While rose continues to be strong player in the floral flavour scene and hibiscus is the new floral to flaunt at fashionable parties, lavender is holding steady.

Growing lavender is notoriously difficult; I tried a few years ago and failed miserably. In March of that year I started a dozen or so cells of lavender. I watered them judiciously and kept the planters covered with a plastic greenhouse top; unfortunately, after six weeks nary a sprig of green had emerged.

Slightly abashed but not yet beaten, I headed out to the nursery and bought some seedlings. I planted them in a compost rich planter that I moved from sunny patch to sunny patch and watered daily to ensure that they would flourish. At first I was encouraged; the seedlings grew bushy and taller but then, around the end of June, they stopped changing. No buds appeared, no branches changed. Nothing.

By mid summer I still didn’t have lavender blossoms and started looking for clues as to where I’d gone wrong. What I learned is that not only can it take a very long time for lavender seeds to germinate (some experts recommend sowing them in fall to sprout in the spring), but that it isn’t unusual for only 25% of planted seeds to germinate in Canada’s Northern climate.

I gave up on growing lavender and decided to buy it instead. Yet, buying culinary grade lavender isn’t always as simple as buying bay leaves. I bought the great quality culinary lavender shown above at Bonnie Stern’s online shop and recommend it if your lavender thumb is as black as mine but you still want to cook with this floral herb.

Or, you can zip over to Charmian Christie’s Blog to learn her lavender growing secrets. She seems to have it all figured out!

Lavender Orange Winetail

I featured this wine based cocktail on a number of TV shows such as Breakfast Television, CH Morning Live and the Weather Network earlier this summer.

1 tbsp (15 mL) Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried culinary lavender or 1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh lavender flowers
1/2 tsp (2 mL) liquid honey
1/2 cup (4 oz) Riesling or other off-dry white wine
1 orange, washed

• Combine the liqueur, lavender and honey in glass and muddle in a cocktail shaker. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the lavender mixture and wine. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass.

• Holding the orange over the glass, peel a long strip of orange peel from the orange and drop into the cocktail. Serve immediately. Makes 1 drink.

5 Responses to Dana’s Big Gardening Adventure: floral frenzy

  1. Cheryl says:

    I have little vases with dried lavender all over my house. It never occurred to me that I should be eating it as well as admiring it…!

  2. megan says:

    I planted 3 tiny little plants years ago and they grew like a weed. I’m always pulling it out to keep it under control. I was just in BC and was so jelouse of the flowers up there. I guess I’ll be happy I can grow lavender. I really want those huge hanging baskets I saw everywhere up there.

  3. I was just about to comment that I had no trouble growing lavender when I see you linked to me. Lavender needs lots of sun (full sun is best) and well drained soil. You’ll kill it if you over-water it. I confess, I bought mine from a local nursery as small plants. However, it’s spreading nicely. It’s not necessarily culinary grade, but it tastes lovely and is pesticide free.

    I’ll save you one of the offspring if you like.

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