Arrosoir: How to say "watering can" in French

Tresser: Aunt Marie-Françoise weaves a lavender wand from Provence

Aunt Marie-Françoise finishing up another lavender "bottle".

(tres-ay) verb
  1. to plait, to braid; to twist
  2. to weave, wreathe (basket, garland)

synonyms: natter (to plait, braid), entrelacer (to interlace, intertwine)

Tressons, tressons ces fleurs, hâtons-nous, jeune amie, Les songes et les fleurs demain ne seront plus! Let us weave, let us weave these flowers, let us hurry, young friend, for the dreams and the flowers will be gone tomorrow. --from the book "Irlande: Poésies des Bardes" by D. O'Sullivan

A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

"The time to pick the lavender is now, while it is fresh," Marie-Françoise explains, as I follow her over to the scented allée* where purple flowers mingle with rosemary in one long row, like juilletistes* motoring toward the sea.

"We'll take a poignée* from the very bottom of the won't even know they're missing!" Following Marie-Françoise's example, I begin snapping up stems from the base of the lavender buissons* which line our driveway. Jean-Marc's aunt has a tour de main* for herb gathering and before long she has collected enough spiked flowers for my lavender braiding lesson. I hand over the half-dozen stems that I've collected and our bouquet is now 34 flowers strong. Marie-Françoise tosses one purple beauty out. "Eh, oui!* she says, noting my confusion. "We'll need an odd number!"

It will soon be no secret how the French tressent* lavender. First, we pluck off the excess foliage along the tiges.* Next, I watch as Marie-Françoise ties a satin ribbon around the neck of the bouquet, just beneath the flower base. Wondering how I might help out, I reach over and put my finger on the taut satin, just in time for Marie-Françoise to knot the ribbon there. Next, she turns the bouquet upside down....

I have only ever weaved beads through my hair, as a child in Arizona, in turquoise, coral, and silver -- colors that inspired the native Indians. I liked the coral red of Sedona, the blue of Navajo turquoise jewelry, and, of course, the silver in that lining along an eastern cloud that would lead me to France. I had
not yet considered lavender and the fields of Provence, didn't yet know that one flower's essence would match my very own. Meanwhile France was budding within me, there in a mobile home park along the edge of the Mojave.

Near the Drôme, far from the desert, Marie-Françoise tells me that what we have here is "lavandin". But lavandin smells just as good as lavender, so good that trapping its essence is our enterprise of the hour.

Marie-Françoise explains that she is about to create "une bouteille de lavande"*--which, mind you, isn't a bouteille at all, but bottle-shaped. "More like a jug or 'amphore',*" my aunt-in-law admits.

She will make the "bottle" of lavender by weaving satin ribbon through the stem "bars" of the "cage" that she has formed from the lavender tiges (the stems having been bent, one by one, back over the bundle of flowers, interning the lavender like so many sweet-scented prisoners).

Lavender-bottle Fishing out the longest ribbon, pulling it to the top of the cage, Marie-Françoise begins to weave. As she passes the ribbon through the lavender bars or "spokes" she explains that hand-woven lavender bottles have been used from time immemorial to freshen drawers and armoires. Placing a bundle of lavender in a tiroir* or closet will keep hungry moths and insects at bay. The making of these Provençal pest busters is a tradition chez les soeurs* Espinasse who get together and weave up a lavender storm each summer. "They make great gifts!" my aunt suggests, adding that the woven "bottles" were traditionally given during les fiançailles.*

BouteilledelavandeI notice the relaxed expression on my aunt's face as she weaves. The line of her mouth reflects her smiling eyes: soft, content, free--unlike those sweet-scented prisoners behind the lavender bars.

*     *     *

How do you use lavender? Do you cook with it? Clean with it? Craft with it? Cure with it? Why not chat a bit more about lavender in the comments box, below?

References: une allée (f) = driveway; le (la) juilletiste (mf) = one who takes a vacation in July; une poignée (f) = handful; le buisson (m) = bush; le tour (m) de main = the knack for something; eh, oui = that's right; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; une aubergine (f) = eggplant; la marmite (f) = cooking pot; la saveur (f) = flavor; tressent (tresser) = to weave; la tige (f) = stem; la bouteille (f) de lavande = lavender bottle; une amphore (f) = ancient jar used to store oil or wine; le tiroir (m) = drawer; chez les soeurs (f) Espinasse = with the Espinasse sisters; les fiançailles (fpl) = engagement, betrothal

:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote:
Tressons, tressons ces fleurs, hâtons-nous, jeune amie, Les songes et les fleurs demain ne seront plus!MP3 file: Download Tresser.mp3
Wave file: Download Tresser.wav

Lavender_crafts Lavender: Practical Inspirations for Natural Gifts, Country Crafts and Decorative Displays. "Lavender bottles" are mentioned in the index of this book...

Terms & Expressions:
  tresser des couronnes à quelqu'un = to praise, flatter someone
  tresser un panier = to weave a basket
  tressé = having interlaced fibers

More, in shopping:
Growing & Using Lavender: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin
Method Hand Wash, French Lavender 
In French music: Bleu lavande by Line Renaud

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When I recently took a trip by train to Marseille, I expected to see fields of lavendar! But alas, not a one! Where were they? I will have to buy some lavendar in Paris and weave my boteille here.

Shannon L.

One of my favorite uses for my lavender...I harvest and dry the lavender in bunches. Then, with a pair of scissors, cut the bunches into small pieces, less than an inch long. I store this mass of flowers and stems in tins, and when the dog hair odor emanating from my vacuum is particularly bad, I sprinkle my lavender on the floor and vacuum it up. The vacuum smells much nicer afterwards.


I wear it!

Hubby's allergic to most commercial perfume, so I wear Lavender as my scent -- it's unusual here in the States, but old-fashioned, too. I always get compliments on it.

Lavender oil is also excellent for tension headaches (a dab on the temples) and for bug bites (just another dab) - lavender has excellent antiseptic properties.

Trouble sleeping? Just a drop on a handkerchief slipped between your pillowcase and the pillow, and you'll slip away to your dreams quickly.

Susan W.

Lavender is an old friend of mine. I planted lavender in our balcony flower box bringing the fragrance wafting into the house, and keeping the mosquitos away. And I have always strategically planted lavender along the path so I can run my hands over it on my way out the door to the car...just calms me for the frantic traffic ahead.

Have you ever crumbled fresh lavender over crisp french green beans in butter? Just a tiny bit gives the most exotic taste.

Oh, how I wish I had an aunt Marie-Francoise to teach me such lovely secrets of happy (and fragrant) living. Thank you for sharing. Now I will go out and cut some for my own boutille!


I was thrilled to read your story today. I was looking at my blooming lavender last night wishing I could weave:)
I use the tender greens in salad and jelly. I put the flowering stems in yarn drawers (but will now be useing boutille!) and lavender oil in my bath.
Hello to all!!


I love relaxing in a lavender-scented bath, preferably with "les gosses" tucked away in bed and glass of wine in hand.


During my very first trip to France, I was staying with a young woman in Toulouse and we made lavender bottles at her sister's house - I kept mine for years until they fell apart. I think I remember how to do it, but any chance Marie Francoise could post the directions, SVP? :)

I gave lavender sachets as favors at my wedding and my husband and I were showered with lavender as we walked back up the aisle. I have a big bowl of it on my dining room table and I often brush my fingers through it to freshen the room. I guess you could say that I really like it!


Yesterday we tidied our garden and cut away loads of lavender.

I stuck all the long stemmed lavender in vases all around the house, and my daughters placed the left over flowers in small linen bags for their wardrobes and drawers.


Thanx for showing us the tresser way.


I use lavender that I grow (so I'm sure it hasn't been sprayed with any chemicals)in a recipe I have for lavender ice cream. I also put a few sprigs in a jar with sugar, screw the top on and let it sit for a couple of weeks. The sugar takes on a delicate lavender fragrance and can be sprinkled on fruit or just about anything.


I love lavender!My Amer. Indian, Creek grandmother used it for med., storing clothes and left just around the house. Never knew where she got it but left fond memories. Over the yrs., I go to Lavender Festivals when traveling in US. I also keep a "wand" in each of my luggage (when traveling and in storage)and storage areas of the house esp. the linen closets. I take the "wand" out and place in my hotel room to freshen up the air when traveling. This year at the ABQ, NM; Los Ranchos Lavender Fest. a vendor sold solid stick deodorant with lavender, I never saw this before. It is excellent!

Jeanne Freeland

I have not come across and fresh lavender for quite some time, alas, but do use the essential oils. I get them from Wisdom of the Earth in Cornville AZ, right near Sedona, which sells medicinal-grade essences. They carry 6 different lavenders, including a wild one from 1800 meters up Mt. de Cheiron in France, and 3 different lavandins.

Besides the usual calming, it is good for muscular pain, particularly spike lavender and stoechas.

Britt-Arnhild in Norway

Hi Kristin.
A couple of weeks ago I saw these lavender bottles in Pinars Craft blog. She sent me instructions hjow to make the bottles and as my lavenders here in Norway are ripe now I hope to try making a couple of bottles this week. They look so cute.

I am so happy that you have opened your blog for comments now :-)

Jules Greer

Marie-Francoise - you look BEAUTIFUL !!!


Gifting mes amies with sachets of lavender that I pack into old lace and decorative hankies. Vita-Iris


Aunt Marie-Francoise-you look beautiful! Hmmm, you posted about lavender "bottles", Corey at Tonge in Cheek posted about lavender baskets. The lavender bushes are bountiful here and there is some perfect ribbon in the sewing box. Guess what I'll be doing this afternoon.

Jan Hersh

I like to make a paste with lavender flowers, herbs de provence, grey salt, and fresh garlic. I rub it on lamb chops or ribs or chicken and then grill the meat. MMMM.

Jeanette Locker

J'adore lavender. Here on the cental coast of California it grows as well as in Provence. I have lavender sachets, lavender water for linens, lavender oil, lavender cream, lavender candles, and lavender soap. We have at least 25 plants growing on our hillside. Whenever I smell lavender it transports me to Provence. Love those "bottles."

Pam Luckey

I absolutely loved today's bottle-weaving lesson with Tante Marie-Francoise. I am in Florida, and don't know if I'll be able to get any fresh lavender. Is it possible to buy some already-made "bottles" from Marie-Francoise?


The night before a party, infuse a cup of heavy cream with fresh lavender flowers and leaves. In the morning, remove the flora, mix the cream with mascarpone cheese and a soupcon of sucre, then whip it up for a fresh fruit dip or topping for a tart. Eight bazillion calories, of course, but every one of them sublime.
Et oui, Marie-Francoise (votre belle-tante, comme belle-mere?) est tellement belle!

Jennifer in OR

Yeah, you have a comment box now!! I've been reading for a while and have told my hubby several times that I wish you had a reader interface! I love your writing, you are an excellent storyteller, and I found you before I found Jean-Marc (I wrote a little article about Rouge-Bleu on my blog a while back). You are the only widget I have in my sidebar, that's how cool you are. :-)

So, I love lavender, too. Right now, I just use the essential oil of lavender for many purposes. I put it in with several different cleaning solutions I make to clean around the house, I use drops for any little skin irritation or mosquito bite, and for a general nice smell.

Christine Dashper

Thank you once again Kristin and Marie-Francoise for another wonderful installment. Oui, Lavender is a magical plant. The one drop on you pillow at night, as suggested earlier is great for sound sleep. I use the essential oil all the time in my Aromatherapy, it has so many excellent applications and Lavender Honey!! Fab!! In the summer I gather it into a bunch with my other herbs for a lovely fragrant display. All the best, Christine

MPH, Newforest24

So many thanks for the wonderful lesson!
A question to Marie-Françoise: What is the (secret) reason for the odd number of stems, please?
Thanks for the 2 photos, Kristin, and for your lovely writing.
One thing I did learn by experience with lavender in my garden is that they hate having "wet feet" so, with clayish soil, add loads and loads of fine gravel to improve the drainage.
I put a few drops of lavender essential oil in my oil burner, sometimes mixed with mint oil. It freshens up my house... and my brain too! I use a lavender foot cream (from a lavender farm on the Isle of Wight)... and I also use their hand cream for gardeners which contains a mix of lavender oil and camomile.
In some of my drawers, I've got small bags of dried lavenders.
Keeping in mind your very clear instructions, + Marie-Françoise's smile, I must have a try at weaving now!


Lavende and Provence go hand in hand. I was buying kilos of lavende while in France and then creating little sachets to sell for New Haven Sister Cities (Avignon is a Jumelege to New Haven)but it was just too time consuming, therefore, we switched to buying them already made. Everyone loves lavende (except my husband). We also bought lavende soap, lavende bath gel and Eau de lavende.
I keep little bowls of it around the house and just stir it up to liven up the scent. I also have sachets in my lingerie drawer and closet. Thanks for showing us les bouteilles de lavende, because I have never seen them, but I will definitely have to make some on my next trip to Provence.

Nancy L.

On our last visit to the Dordogne, my husband & I were travelling along a rural route when we realized we were going in the wrong direction. He pulled into the short driveway of a little cottage along the road to turn around. Growing in huge bunches along the side of the drive was LAVENDER. I shouted "Arretez!", then lept from the car to quickly run my hands over the tops of lovely purple boarder. I hopped back into the car and we sped away..but the scent of that brush with the lavander lasted on my skin & in the car for several hours longer.


As a French-speaking-Belgian-émmigrée to sunny Queensland I get many thrills and bittersweet moments reading Kristin's blog.... I often share her "herby" thoughts with my fellow herbies at the Qld Herb Society. The lavender bottles are just the ticket to set all our herbies' hearts aflutter! We like to use lavender along with other secented flowers and plants when making tussy-mussies. Lavender has also been used as a strewing herb and in 'vinaigre des quatre voleurs' to prevent the plague and other ailemnts.


Lavender does indeed have lovely and magical qualities. About two years ago, I began having my middle school students clean their desks with "lavender spray" (essential oil and water) instead of a commercial disinfectant. Being sneaky, I only tell the students about lavender's cleansing properties, not it's soothing effect. The happy results are 1)the best smelling classroom in a school of 1300 students, 2)spotless desks, 3)much calmer students (and teacher). Aromatherapy for everyone!

Debbie in CA  : )

How lovely and so useful to carry around beauty and calmness at the same time. I have recently purchased your book and I am enjoying a french word each afternoon during my respite time with tea. Now through Britt-Arnhild I am pleased to find my way to your blog. Ooooh la la! The day just gets better and better. Now where is some ribbon? I have loads of lavender in my gardens, so with a bit of ribbon I am set for some fun with my girls. Thanks! : )

Anne Woodyard

My favorite lavender use is to brush by it each time I walk to or from our front door, releasing the scent as I take a deeeep breath. My husband, Kirk, has planted lavender outside our door here, and at our place in France too - I think he likes it even more than I do!
I'd love to sit with you and learn to make a bouteille someday...


I love lavender ... in all its forms !
Your aunt looks so happy while making lavender bottles !!!

May I only add that lavender "bottles" are "quenouilles" or "fuseaux" de lavande in French? (and not "bouteilles")...

Carol Bergson

I made lavender shortbread with lemon zest for the first time this week. What a treat. Before a post-time trial (tour de france) bike ride, with live viewing very early tomorrow morning, I am going to try lavender and cherry scones. My new passion is culinary lavender.


I, too, am a lavender-holic....and am trying to grow it, though it needs more sun than our midwestern woods affords. With less than ideal growing circumstances, I'm still able to harvest and use a few wands of it in each of my birdbaths. It truly does keep them fresh and clean for quite a long time!
Try it and you'll see!!


Some people have already touched on cooking with lavender. I found this recipe in my files. I don't quite remember where it came from, but it has a citation of sorts. (I'm sure it could also be adapted to use the lavendered apples in pies or tarts.)

Lavender Apple Biscuits
Developed by Robyn of Herbsearch Oct. 2002

Apple part:

3 -5(if small) baking apples (Stayman, York, Granny Smith etc.) peeled, sliced and diced small.
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
zest from 1 lemon, chopped
2 TB. Organic lavender buds – grind together with ¼ cup of the white sugar in blender or 2nd coffee grinder. Don’t use your daily grinder.
lemon juice

Combine all ingredients, let sit overnight, strain before adding to biscuits.

2 cups Bisquick
¾ cup French Vanilla liquid creamer -available in dairy section of grocery stores.
Lavender apples from above.

Follow directions for basic rolled biscuits adding strained apples.

Serve with honey or apple butter.


I love lavender and use it in many different ways including lavender ice cream and lavender cheesecake but my favorite way to enjoy it is in lavender vodka tonics. Make a simple syrup by boiling together one cup sugar, two cups water, and a generous tablespoon of lavender buds. Add one shot
of this lavender-infused simple syrup (strain out the lavender buds) to two shots of vodka and splash in some tonic. Delicious.

Diane Dainis

I use my lavender to make delicate lavender cookies. They also include some fresh mint and these delicate cookies go perfectly with a cup of tea!


When I travel, I make sure to put a few drops of essence of lavandin on cotton balls then I toss these cottons balls in my purse, inside the bag I take with me in the cabin of the plane and.. of course, inside my suitcase. It makes this travel so much more enjoyable. I also discovered another way to use the lavender essence. I put a few drops on a cotton handkerchief and place this undkerchief in my bra. Then all day long I am surrounded with this wonderful scent.

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