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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lavender Lover's Handbook - Sarah Berringer Bader

Released April 2012

Lavender at Stonegate/Sarah Berringer Bader
Timber Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Of all my gardens, my herb garden is my personal favorite. I love watching honeybees on my sage bushes and collecting mint for teas, gathering chives for salads or using fresh oregano in pasta dishes. Lavender is the one thing I haven't successfully gotten to thrive. I think I may have learned why after reading The Lavender Lover's Handbook.

Sarah Berringer Bader, owner of Lavender at Stonegate, offers an in-depth look into lavender. Beautiful pictures show the different varieties and landscaping designs that incorporate lavender. She discusses companion plants, craft ideas, recipes, care and even reasons why every garden benefits from lavender. What I learned along the way is that the farm where I buy my lavender is wrong. They told me to plant it and leave it alone. Turns out that after all these years, I should have been pruning my plants. It's no wonder they've never really taken off and just become woody.

Using the tips found in The Lavender Lover's Handbook, I have a game plan for next year. I have very sandy soil that drains quickly and isn't great for retaining water. Apparently, these are conditions that suit lavender well. Given that, my biggest issue is going to be finding lavender that withstands Vermont's bitterly cold winters. The book offered lots of varieties for zone 5 or higher, but for those of us in zone 3 or 4, the selection is limited. I do have my list now of varieties to look for and plan to start searching in a few months. Around here, you don't tend to plant until late-May because up until that point, snow and freezing temps are still possibilities.

What I really loved is that she included recipes, including one I've been using for years--Lavender shortbread cookies, I've never frosted them though. She also includes recipes for household cleaners and scented sprays. Those alone are invaluable to me because I love a local lavender spray but have never figured out how to replicate their product, now I know.

If you enjoy gardening or simply want to learn more about growing and using lavender, this is the book to own. It's definitely a keeper.

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