Lavender, an easy-to-grow herb delights with its beauty and fragrance.
Fields of Dreams
What’s not to love about lavender? It’s low maintenance and drought-tolerant, once established. It attracts bees and butterflies but is deer- and rabbit-resistant. It can be used in cosmetics, medicine, and cuisine. And the beloved fragrance, prized for millennia, is refreshing, clean, and very soothing.
TIP: Enjoy the fragrance of lavender year-round by drying this beloved herb. To preserve, hang small bunches upside down in a dark, dry room until the moisture has evaporated.
“Lavender is easy to grow and it thrives in hot, sunny locations with well-drained, alkaline soil.” To extend the season, combine several varieties. Hardy Lavandula angustifolia, or English lavender, blooms early and is adaptable to cooler, more humid areas. Hybrid varieties, such as ‘England’ and ‘Silver Frost’, enjoy a longer blooming season, as do Intermedia French hybrids, including L. x intermedia ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’, which also flower late and are especially treasured for their perfume. Whether you plant it in the garden or in pots, you’ll soon discover lavender’s many virtues.
TIP: Lavender needs well-drained soil to flourish. If your soil is heavy, amend it by adding one part sand and gravel to one part native soil, and plant in berms to further help with drainage.
It is believed that lavender eases tension. Rub a few drops of lavender body oil on your temples to help you sleep.
TIP: When cutting lavender, clip where the foliage begins. In mid-spring, prune winter damage and cut back about a third of it to keep it from getting leggy.
Growing Lavender in Containers: Lavender, such as cultivars of tender L. stoechas, does well in pots.
Lavender’s Many Uses
FOOD: Mix a late summer drink with lavender flowers, or sprinkle the dried blooms onto favorite desserts.
BEAUTY: Lavender soothes skin. Choose natural products made from pure essential oils.
SACHET: Make sachets of dried lavender to scent drawers and closets and to repel insects.
FLORAL ARRANGING: Pots of lavender make beautiful centerpieces for an outdoor party. Dried bunches look fresh all year.
“The ideal time to harvest lavender is when one-third to one-half of the spike is in bloom.” —David Salman
When planning what to grow with lavender, David recommends choosing plants with similar growing requirements. Some of his favorites include:
Gaura: Pink and white cultivars of Gaura lindheimeri have wispy flowers that bloom throughout the summer.
Penstemon: There are close to 300 species of penstemons. Choose some of the many colors available.
Agastache: Fragrant agastache is a tall-growing perennial that attracts birds and insects.
An Array of Colors
Not all lavender is, well, lavender in color. Varieties of this fragrant herb come in shades of purple and blue ranging from light to dark, as well as white, red, pink, and even yellow-green. Group several plants of one color together for a strong visual impact.
‘Richard Gray’ is a hybrid lavender with blue-violet flowers and silvery, woolly foliage.
This tender French variety has soft, serrated gray leaves and pale purple flowers.
‘Nana Alba’ is a dwarf English cultivar with very fragrant white flowers. It grows compactly and will bloom again.