Lavender, To lift the spirit, cheer the heart and make all sweet...

Lavender originated in the Mediterranean and is presumed to have made its way to England during the Norman Conquest, perhaps with the Benedictine Monks. It was brought to America by early settlers, possibly the Quakers, to complement their herbal pharmacies.

Lavender has long been recognized for its ability to soothe nerves and reduce tension headaches. Its scent has been employed for its sedative effects for centuries.

Clothing and bedding rinsed in lavender water not only smelled fresh, but also repelled moths. Many homes of days long ago had lavender bushes planted outside the laundry door in order that fine linens could be draped across them as they dried to be perfumed with lavender, then tucked away in airing cupboards and drawers.


All lavenders, with the exception of the Spanish lavender (zone 7-9) are zone hardy for 5-8. One of the best ways to find out if lavender does well in your area is to see if your local greenhouse carries any variety.

P
lace your lavender in the design that makes you happy and allows room for air currents around the plant when they reach maturity. Lavender loves the sun and hates to have its feet wet, so choose a position with good drainage and plenty of sun. They are great candidates for rock gardens.

H
umidity can be an issue in the Southeastern and some Midwestern states. Lavender isn't fond of damp, still air which makes the plant more susceptible to root rot and other maladies. This difficulty can be minimized by increasing the spaces between the plants so the air can move around them more easily.


Growing Lavender in Humid Climates


 Southeastern states gardeners are hopeful lavender will grow in their yards. Lavender isn't fond of damp, still air, which makes the plant more susceptible to root rot and other maladies. This difficulty can be minimized by increasing the spaces between the plants so the air can move around them more easily. When you plant your lavender, make sure you are aware of how big the plant will be when it's mature AND with full blooms. Good air circulation and proper drainage are the keys to a better chance of success.

A lady named Madelene Hill has trialed about 50 varieties of lavender at her central Texas farm. She recommends SERIOUS mulching with pea gravel, crushed granite or sand to cut down the probability of fungal diseases. Hill has large, healthy foliaged lavandins, but they have never bloomed. She thinks it's because they don't get a "winter time" to be dormant and recoup. However, one species that does do well for her is Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas). The Spanish Lavender also does well in a container.
Place lavenders with plants that have similar sunlight and watering needs. Select soil that is well worked, well drained and so loose you can dig it with your hands. Once established in a garden, lavender is a hardy and drought tolerant perennial.

Select a variety appropriate to your area, and pay attention the size requirements for your variety. (Some get to 5 feet across!) Lavender likes a slightly alkaline soil so adjust accordingly. Some sand and well rotted manure or compost will get the plant off to a good start. Carefully knock the plant from its pot, spread the roots, and place the plant in a hole that accommodates the spread roots. Mixing a little bone meal into the soil mix below the roots will slowly release organics that promote both root and leaf growth. Roots should not be placed directly on the meal, but on a mix of soil and meal. If the stems are long enough, give the plant a little shape by pruning, this will start the stems branching.

When you water the new transplant for the first time, you can use a liquid fertilizer instead of plain water. A two-inch mulch of sand will moderate the soil temperature and reflect heat and light up to the plant. More heat creates more fragrant blooms. Remove the blossoms in the fall.

Prune your plant in the early spring to 2/3's of its size, leaving a couple of inches of green above the woody stems. It seems drastic but this will stimulate new growth. Don't be afraid to "give them a haircut". They respond very well to being shaped because plants that are not pruned may have a tendency to fall open in the middle and sprawl.

When your lavender has blossomed, the flowers can be picked for many uses.If you desire a fresh bouquet, pick the blossoms when half of the flowers on the blossom head have opened. If you are picking to dry the bundle for crafting or sachet, pick when 3/4's to all of the blossoms are open.

In early Autumn, cut the GREEN of your lavender back so about one or two inches of green remain. This will promote fuller growth for the next season and it will look better throughout the winter. Don't cut into the wood if you can avoid it. It is difficult for the older wood to produce new shoots. It's best for the plant if the pruning tool you use is sharp and clean. We use a sickle, but hand shears are good too.

Enjoy your lavender; it captures the essence of summer 
and is truly the sweetest of herbs...


Lavender Varieties

Lavendula Angustifolia - "English Lavenders"
Angustifolias are the traditional English garden lavender. They have narrow leaves, shorter stems with flower heads that are barrel shaped as opposed to spiky. Their fragrance is sweeter than their hybrid cousins the Lavandins, and because of this, their oil is coveted for aromatherapy and perfume. They bloom earlier in the year than the lavandins. In the winter months, the Angustifolias can often look dead because of the smallness of the leaves. Their dried blossoms are used in cooking, crafting and cosmetics. The Angustifolias produce seeds that are viable, and young plants will often appear below the parent plant.

Purple Haze Lavender
Lodden Blue

Purple Haze Lavender
Melissa

Purple Haze Lavender
Royal Velvet


Purple Haze Lavender
Sharon Roberts

Purple Haze Lavender
Mitchem Gray

 Purple Haze Lavender
Sachet

 



Lavendula Intermediate - Lavandins
The Intermediates are a hybrid of Angustifolia and Spike lavender. The hybrid vigor of these plants makes them hardy but sterile. Called Lavandins, this group typically has larger leaves, longer stems and larger flower heads that are pointed at the top instead of barrel shaped. They have a more camphorous quality to their fragrance, and because of this are typically used in soaps and detergents. The oil yield of the lavandins is much greater than the Angustifolias, so it has become a “work horse” in the fields of France. Not only are these plants hardy and disease resistant, they have a more attractive look in the winter months. Because of their sterility, the seeds in these plants are infertile, and the preferred method of reproduction is with cuttings. Typically the Lavandin sachet is strong smelling, making it excellent for riding clothes of moth or in massage oil for sore muscles, but not used for cooking. The strong color of many of the cultivars makes their sachet and dried flowers excellent for crafting.

Purple Haze Lavender
Dutch Mill
Purple Haze Lavender
Fred Boutin
Purple Haze Lavender
Grosso
Purple Haze Lavender
Hidcote Giant
Purple Haze Lavender
Provence
Purple Haze Lavender
Seal
Purple Haze Lavender
White Spike
 



Lavendula Stoechas - Spanish & Other Lavenders

Purple Haze Lavender
Dark Eyes
Purple Haze Lavender
Silver Frost
Purple Haze Lavender
Otto Quast
 


The angustifolias are sometimes referred to as English Lavender but angustifolia just means narrow leaves. These are the hardiest lavenders, tolerating temperatures that reach 0 degrees. They are early blooming and great for drying.
A few cultivars are mid-season blooming and charming.  Grosso and Provence are as hardy as the angustifolias. These are referred to as L. X intermedia know as Lavandins from the two words LAVENDERer and INtermedia. They are a cross between angustifolia and latifolia (spike lavender). . Always favorites, terrific in the garden and for drying.
Stoechas Lavender is sometimes referred to as Spanish. It is know for the wings on it's blooms. Not quite as hardy as the above, being at risk if the temperature stays much below 10 degrees. It blooms continuous if you are diligent about deadheading. Always a showstopper but it is not good for drying.
Dentata lavender sometimes referred to as French is tender at 20 degrees. Dentata means toothed. This is a lavender that can be grown indoors with a bit of luck.
All lavenders need as much sun as you can find and loose well draining soil. Over fertilizing this plant will detract from the scent it produces, as is true with many perennial herbs. Cut back in early spring and again in early fall if you want to keep your plants from becoming woody. Perhaps by 1/2 in spring and a third in the fall. .

      

Lavender Goodwin Creek Grey in terra-cotta pot
Lavandula angustifolia
Lavender Trio
Lavandula x intermedia Provence
Pink Perfection, Hardy Lavender and Geranium Collection
Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote Strain
Lavender Patch
Lavandula angustifolia Munstead Dwarf Strain
Lavandula x intermedia Grosso
Lantana montevidensis Lavender Swirl
Lavandula angustifolia Rosea

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