Dr. Curtis E. Swift

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November 20, 2012
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SWIFT: All things lavender at Dec. 1 Christmas Fair

The Lavender Association's annual Christmas Fair will be held at Two Rivers Convention Center on Saturday, Dec. 1. This craft fair is known for offering the finest quality handcrafted lavender-related products and unique arts and crafts available. Each item is made in Colorado using first-rate materials.

Lavender buds, essential oils and hydrosols, lotions, soaps, floral bouquets, wreaths and many other items made using lavender will be on display and available for purchase. At my booth I'll be conducting short workshops on the growing of lavender, soil preparation for lavender, the distillation process, and how to turn cuttings into plants. I'll have my stainless distillation unit on display so look for a 4-foot shiny object. I'll also show you a very simple process you can use to turn lavender flowers and bouquets into essential oil and hydrosol on your stove top.

Hydrosols, also called distillates, are one of the products of the distillation process. Microdroplets of essential oil and water soluble volatiles combine with the condensate during the distillation process to create hydrosol. Hydrosols made by adding essential oil to distilled water are missing the more water soluble plant volatiles and the microdroplets some people expect in a high quality hydrosol. As the steam generated by the still drips from the condenser, the lighter essential oil floats to the top of the hydrosol and is drained off. To purify the essential oil and free it from any water remaining from the distillation process, the product is put in the freezer. Any water in the oil will freeze and the pure essential oil can be poured off. Some distillers use a copper still. Mine is all stainless steel. Lavender oil reacts with copper and aluminum and may need to be strained through cheese cloth or a coffee filter to remove any particulates generated during the distillation process. I'll explain all this at my booth on Saturday, Dec. 1, so look me up.

Essential oils have been used for centuries to help correct numerous human and animal maladies, but since the dawn of the drug industry many of their uses have been forgotten. Aroma therapists use essential oils and the hydrosols. Massage therapists work essential oils into tired aching muscles; I've used lavender essential oil on cuts to improve healing. I have even used the lavender essential oil I produced in October on my dog. Books on aromatherapy for pets are common.

Please note however, that lavender oil, while having a calming effect on dogs, will kill a cat. I applied lavender essential oil on a large wart growing on the head of my Pekingese to see what would happen. Within a week of applying a daily drop of lavender essential oil to the wart, it was gone.

Several days after the Lavender Associations Christmas Craft Fair is the 2012 Western Slope Tree Care Workshop. Scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 6, attendance at this all-day workshop will provide you a great deal of training on the care of trees in grassy areas, and also give you an opportunity to check out the hospitality suite in the new Lincoln Park Tower.

Insects, diseases and other pests affecting the root collar and roots of trees, the problems encountered when trees are growing in turf areas, and poor planting techniques and how they adversely affect trees are the main topics of the day. This program is designed to provide arborists the educational credits they need to maintain their certification.

Individuals interested in becoming certified as ISA arborists, utility specialists, or municipal specialists will be able to take the appropriate ISA test at the conclusion of the day of training. The complete program is available from Jessica Dennison at 970-254-3861 (jessicad@gjcity.org). The cost of the program is $30 and includes lunch. The deadline for registration is Nov. 30 so don't delay. I would recommend this program for anyone interested in trees, especially CSU Master Gardeners, arborists, groundskeepers and landscape personnel.

Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the CSU Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 20, 2012 01:51PM Published Nov 20, 2012 01:50PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.