Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena

Aloysia citriodora
Family: verbenaceae
Shrub to 8 feet
Hardiness Zone 8

In the language of flowers, Lemon Verbena, means “enchantment”.

Highly favored by Victorian ladies during the heat of summer, they placed leaves in handkerchiefs so they could inhale the lemony scent to ease the symptoms of heat. Leaves were also placed in water bowls to scent the air bringing about the “finger bowl” which is passed around the dinner table between courses to refresh and cleanse the fingers.

Lemon Verbena is a shrub with arching stems that branch out to narrow, sharply pointed pale green leaves that are whorled in groups of three and four. Blooms are not scented and though small, appear in July and August to give a clear white color to the top of the plant.

Lemon Verbena was named in 1784 to honor Maria Luisa, wife of King Charles IV of Spain and refers to the perfect lemony scent of the leaves. Possum Creek Herb Farm considers Lemon Verbena to be the best of the lemon scented herbs. It has such a true lemon scent that it lends itself to a multitude of tasks.

Cultivated for perfume, essential oil, absolute and concrete’. Leaves are cultivated for tea, potpourri, sachet and flavoring of food. Extracts and tinctures are used in the formulation of liqueurs. Lemon Verbena oil is considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe).

Constituents: Antifungal, analgesic and anti-diarrhea

Hardy to Zone 8. Frost and wind protection is needed. Most gardeners treat Lemon Verbena as a tender perennial and bring the plants inside during the winter months. Plants grown in cool greenhouses lose their leaves through winter only to leaf back out in the warmth of spring. A neutral ph and well draining soil is best for this plant which does best in full sun. Susceptible to spider mites and white fly in hot, dry conditions.

Propagation: Cuttings from new growth. Layering has also been successful.

Lemon Verbena Potpourri
30 drops of Lemon Verbena essential oil
20 drops of Lemon Balm essential oil
5 drops Orange essential oil
5 drops Lavender essential oil
1/3 cup Orrisroot or oak moss sifted
3 cups Lemon Verbena leaves
2 cups Calendula flowers or yellow rose petals
¾ cup dried lemon peel ribbons
½ cup lemon scented geranium leaves

Add oils to orrisroot or oak moss and blend. Oils should rest for several days with the orrisroot or oak moss. Add oil blend to botanical and gently mix. Store in covered container for three weeks being sure to mix gently each day.

Finger Bowl
Small, pretty glass bowl
Several clean Lemon Verbena leaves
Float three to four leaves in a bowl of water. Pass around the dinner table between courses with a clean towel.

Tea Blend-by the cup
6-8 Lemon Verbena leaves
2-3 Lemon Balm leaves
2-3 Orange mint leaves
½ teaspoon dried Ginger
2-3 whole cloves
Place blend in tea or muslin bag and place in mug. Pour just boiling water over the bag and let bag simmer for five to six minutes. Creates a very warming tea that is great for winter. For summer simmer the tea for ten minutes, remove bag and add ice.

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