How fabulous are lavenders looking at the moment with their purple, scented flowers and fabulous oil rich leaves. They’re great in pots and tubs or in the ground as a hedge or mass planted. They work especially well planted where you can brush against the fragrant flowers and leaves for example down stairs or along walkways. It’s the perfect plant for a sunny spot and will even tolerate drought once the roots are established and attract bees into the garden.It’s pest repellent too and plant around windows to deter mosquitoes.
How to grow them best?
- Prune hard by about 1/3 each year and dust the soil with lime in autumn. We strongly advise against pruning lavender during the spring.
- Plant into sandy, well-drained light soil and add some dolomite when planting - it prefers a neutral to alkaline soil of pH 7-7.5.
- Need good air flow or are prone to mildew problems
- Fertilise in spring and autumn using granular fertiliser
What type to grow?
Most varieties spot flower autumn to early summer.
- French (Lavendula dentata) favourite for picking. Plump soft blooms on long stems. Grows to 1m tall. Mid spring to summer
- Italian (Lavendulastoechas) have wing on top of flower. Many coloured forms. Cultivars include ‘Ruffles’, ‘Avonview’, ‘Ghostly Princess’, ‘Princess Lavender’, ‘Whimsical Fairy Wings’ and ‘Winter Lace’.
- English (Lavendulaaugustifolia) small slender flowers with high oil content. Delicate, texture and perfume. Mid spring to summer. One of hardiest lavenders. Cultivar ‘Hidcote’ is a dwarf form to 45cm.
- Australian (Lavendula pinnata ‘Sidonie’) tall stemmed dark flowers on large fine leaf bush with spicy perfume
What to do with lavender?
You can harvest lavender simply by using clean, sharp secateurs. Ideally harvest in morning when water content in plant is high but after dew has dried, and chose young flowers before they toughen and lose fragrance. You can dry flowers for potpourri and lavender bags by hanging bunches upside down in dark, well ventilated position like in a garage or airy cupboard. It usually takes 2-4 weeks. Dried is great at repelling clothes moths in the closet! Botanically speaking, lavender was named Lavandula from the Latin Lavare, which means ‘to wash’. It has been used in bath water, in washing and in cosmetics for Miliennium, and the very latest luxury soaps, hand creams and body washes.
You can also use lavender in cooking. Try substituting it for rosemary in bread mixes or in marinades or adding some to glass of champagne. You can even add flowers to your container of sugar and leave for few weeks to infuse flavour, then use this sugar for cakes etc.
By: Meredith Kirton