Lavender flowers are lovely to look at, soothing to smell and ideal for everything from cooking to making gifts. Lavender thrives in the warm, sunny springs and summers of the southern half of the United States, and fresh lavender can be found almost year-round in flower shops and farmers' markets. Because lavender dries well, you can enjoy the beauty of lavender flowers for a long time.
Fill a vase about a third full of cool water. Use a square vase for a modern look or a traditional oval vase. Trim just the ends of the lavender stems if they are ragged or damaged before dropping them lightly into your vase. Change the water every day, and keep your flowers out of direct sunlight to help them last longer.
Another option involves bundling the lavender in a bunch and securing the stems with elastic or strong twine. Then hang the bouquet from a door or on the wall. As long as it's hanging in a dry area where it can't grow mold, your bouquet will last for about two years. Discard it when it starts dropping leaves.
Lavender flowers maintain their scent for as long as two years. If they seem to fade, revive them by bringing them into a steamy bathroom for a few minutes or by lightly spritzing them with water.
To extend the life—and options—for your lavender flowers, dry them. Make several small bundles of lavender, and secure them with an elastic band or strong twine. Your biggest bundles should be no more than 1-1/2 inches wide at the stems since the thicker a bundle is, the greater the possibility there is that it will become moldy before it's thoroughly dried. Hang the bunches upside down in a dry, dark spot for about two weeks.
Store the flowers as they are or gently crumble them with your fingers into a bowl or bottle, separating the petals from the chaff (seeds and any other brittle residue).
Use fresh lavender in salads. Its floral, faintly citrus-like flavor complements baby greens and pairs beautifully with mild goat cheese. Drop a sprig of fresh lavender into a glass of champagne, or sprinkle a few flowers on top of cake or sorbet.
To use dried lavender, gently break up the dried blossoms with a mortar and pestle without crushing them into a powder. Dried lavender is appropriate anywhere you'd normally use rosemary, such as in rubs for meat or herbal breads. Make lavender sugar by storing dried lavender in a sealed container of white sugar for a few weeks. You can use the subtly flavored sugar for baking or coffee.
Make sachets of dried lavender flowers by sewing lavender petals into small fabric bags to give as gifts. Suggest the recipient slip the sachet under her pillow for nighttime relaxation or place it in a drawer to gently scent her clothes. Package dried lavender blossoms in tea tins with instructions to steep in boiling water and drink to soothe the nerves and digestion. Pack baked goods in a bed of dried lavender flowers for a sweet presentation.