Growing Lavender

lavender in a fieldLavender – what is it?

It is a small, aromatic evergreen shrub that belongs to the mint family. It has narrow leave and flowers which vary but are typically blueish with a hint of mauve. Lavender is the common name, it's botanical name is Lavandula and it is a genus of 39 species of flowering plants. Used to make perfumes, medicine and also used in cooking, lavender is also used in ornamental gardens and farmed in many countries.

Which variety is best to grow?

Many types of lavender need dry, hot summers to grow well. If you are growing lavender in a wet, humid environment you will need to plant a species which is tolerant of this weather. Remember to check with your local area that the variety you're planting is not considered to be a weed. So once you've found a sunny, open spot to plant your lavender in well drained soil you only need to decide which variety to plant.

purple lavenderEnglish Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

This is the most popular lavender grown today; if you're imagining lavender growing then Elglish Lavender is probably what you're picturing. It has a strong scent and it's oil is commonly used for aromatherapy, in cosmetics and cooking.

If you're planning to grow lavender for more than simply looking good, English lavender can be used in your culinary creations and for craft quite easily. It will usually grow to a height of about two or three feet, but there are smaller varieties which are being developed.

 

French Lavender (Lavendula dententa)

Not overly fragrant, French lavender is used primarily for decorative purposes. It's flowers are less vibrant in colour and it grows to a height of about three feet.

Spanish Lavender (Lavendula stoechus)

Native to the Mediterranean, this is a good choice if you're growing lavender in a more humid climate. Its flowers are a deep purple in a pinecone shape. Smaller than the English and French varieties, this Spanish variety grows to a height of about 18" – 2 feet. This isn't a lavender used for cooking, but bees love it and the flowers are beautiful planted out in a garden.

Where to grow lavender

Lavender will grow best in warm, dry conditions in well drained soil. It needs a sunny spot to flourish, and you will find that if its planted in heavy soil that the life of your lavender plant will be reduced. This plant originated in the Mediterranean, in soils which were poor and well drained but had ample quantities of lime. If your soil is too acidic, plant your shrubs out in pots and potting mix instead.

How to plant new lavender plants

Lavender will grow from a cutting, and the best time to take cuttings is early in autumn. To grow a new or replacement plant, take  a three to four inch heel cutting from semi-woody, non-flowering lavender shoots. Place these cuttings into pots filled with propagating mixture and let them grow over winter. In the early spring, your plants will be ready to be planted out.

Tip: If your soil needs lime, place a small piece of concrete rubble beside your plant – the lavender will draw the lime it needs from the concrete.
 

How to prune lavender

When pruning lavender, you should cut off the dead flower stems and give the plant an overall light trim in late summer. like many plants, if you are looking to promote bushy growth and encourage the growth of new shoots you can cut your plant back hard in early spring. Lavender plants are known to grow leggy as they get older, and some gardeners will find that they need to replace their plants after five years or so.

How to dry your flowers

When you are wanting to dry your lavender, pick your bunches as your flowers are beginning to show their colour, but before the flowers are fully open. Cut the stems at full length and bunch them together. Hang them upside down in a cool dry spot so that they can dry.

A wonderful plant; fragrant, useful and beautiful there is sure to be a variety which suits you and your garden. Coming in different shapes and sizes, use lavender as a hedging plant, as a stand alone, to accent a cottage garden or planted in a pot. Lavender's silvery grey folliage and striking purplish-blue flowers will make your garden a pleasant and fragrant place to while away a few hours.

If you grow lavender, what do you think of this beautiful plant and herb?

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