Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lavender and Lemon Verbena

After my encounter with Ratatouille Basil, I decided to turn my attention away from tasty leafy greens and back to herbs (for now). I've been meaning to grow lavender and verbena for the last few months, but time and lack of space prevented me from doing so. Of course, once all the herbs-that-may-have-been-touched-by-Ratatouille had been forcibly vacated from my container garden, I made a trip to my favorite herb purveyors, who have a stall at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers' Market in Brooklyn. As a result, I now have two fragrant but not yet flowering plants nestled between the mint and the olive: lavender and lemon verbena. 

Although I haven't yet discussed this habit here on The Freckle, I drink an almost obscene amount of tea; in fact, I really only ever drink tea and water, and the tea is always hot and never iced, even in the middle of a humid New York summer. (Jim Laakso once parodied my predilection for tea on a satirical and mildly offensive blog he used to maintain; his real blog can be found here). One of the motivations for cultivating lavender, lemon verbena, and mint all within my apartment is that I can brew my own tisanes, which, while inherently inferior to the bracing strength of a Yorkshire Gold or an Irish Breakfast, are the perfect accompaniment to an evening at home. 

I came to verbena late in life--like tilleul, or linden, it evokes memories of small ceramic teapots and brightly lit lanterns while drinking on outdoor terraces in the French countryside--but my love of lavender stems from my childhood in Northern California. As the New York Times recently reported, the quasi-Mediterranean climate of my native stomping grounds is well suited to lavender cultivation, and I can't help but think of the lavender growing in my grandmother's garden in Marin County; the blossoms were particularly fragrant on hot summer days, and fat bumblebees would hover over the purple flowers. An uncle and an aunt of mine recently moved to Sequim, WA, and I look forward to exploring the lavender fields there as well.

As far as I can tell, lavender doesn't flourish in New York City the way it does in France or in the West, but like my Meyer lemon tree, I hope my plant thrives in this little pocket of the Upper West Side. While I wait for it to burst with blossoms, I offer these pictures, from two summers ago, of lavender growing prolifically in la Drôme Provence; for you and for me, a memory of lavender stretching as far as the eye can see.  

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