Lavender And My Grandmother


They say that scent memories can be some of the most powerful ways to travel back in time, and I believe it. It feels to me that these type of associations bypass the thinking part of the brain, tapping straight into the heart. 

One of the shrubs that I can grow in the sun of southwestern France, but not in San Francisco’s fog, is lavender. It is very nostalgic for me. One whiff of the fragrance carries me back many years to when my grandmother – my mother’s mother – was alive.

Lavender Scent Memories

I was named for my Polish grandmother, but she died when I was a young child. Most of the actual memories I have of her are sad ones, revolving around her disappearance when I was six. Yet her loving essence seems to return to me when I smell lavender plants. 

Did she wear lavender perfume? Did she have lavender in her garden? I don’t know, just that the scent brings her to me again — her kind, protective, caring, small, neat form. I even keep a bottle of English lavender perfume beside my bed in California so that I can go back to that feeling of being loved and protected in sleep.

Lavender Plants

Lavender plants have so much going for them that anyone with a sunny climate should consider growing them. The scent is sweet and evocative, but the flowers are also like something from a daydream, masses of downy purple, sky blue or bright violet spikes that sway gracefully in the summer breeze. 

These deliciously lovely plants are incredibly easy to grow and offer a long blossom season if, and only if, you can site them where they get at least six hours a day of direct sun, ideally eight hours. Other than requiring lots of sun and top drainage, the pretty plant with its gray-green foliage is not picky. It does just find in almost any soil, including poor soil. 

Caring for Lavender

Once you’ve got your lavender situated, the last thing you want to do is fuss over it. This is a tough plant, native to rocky soil around the Mediterranean region, and “drought tolerant” is its middle name. Like every other plant, lavender needs weekly watering after transplant, a chore that will continue through establishment. 

After the plants are established though, they only need occasional water, once every two or three weeks until the buds form. The plant is a perennial and will come back stronger year after year. If the scent of lavender stirs memories for you too, consider drying some for a sachet under your pillow. 


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