A world full of lavender

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Violet, lilac, amethyst, mauve … all these colours could be used to describe the deep hues of the lavender here. It was first cultivated on the Valensole plateau in the 19th century, and the town still produces 80% of the world’s lavender today. We’ve been gobsmacked by the volume of Asian visitors come to wonder at this purple marvel every July. Each day there are cars, buses, bicycles parked at the roadside, with masses of people wielding their cameras and wandering among the flowers. The girls all dress up in flowing, gauzy dresses — often white — and often wearing ribboned hats, posing coyly for the cameras and twirling in the backlight. It’s quite fascinating. Well, hello, we are also utterly mesmerised and are also to be found crouching in the fields, among the bees and pollinating insects.

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Lavender. Theatrical and outrageous electric … True and false blue … The gas jet breathing in oblivion … The blue of deep presence.

— Louisiana poet Yusef Komunyakaa

In the quote below I have taken some liberties and removed all the olde worlde spellings, simplifying the text to modern usage (apologies to the late novelist) …

The flowers of Lavender picked from the knaps [I think the word is “calyx”!] … I mean the blue part and not the husk, mixed with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves, made into powder, and given to drink in the distilled water made thereof, helps the panting and passion of the heart and prevails against giddiness, turning or swimming of the brain …

— British novelist John Gerard Braine (1957)



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Today a hybrid lavender called lavendin is grown prolifically in addition to the traditional
more deeper-hued lavender. Lavendin is used in soaps, while lavender is used in perfumes and cosmetics.

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