Lavender is one those ‘hot’ plants and certainly a garden must-have. It is easy to grow and really undemanding. It pleases the eyes just as well as the smell so no wonder why pollinators, and especially bees, love them too.
Grow it for dry bouquets or scented sachets for your wardrobe. Try oil making for a relaxing oil massage (it is actually very easy) or put it in soaps or candles. Feeling adventurous? Add a pinch when baking (be mindful, a tiny bit will take you far!) or simply in your rose tea. In other words, use it everywhere for a Mediterranean feel all year-round!
However, with so many different varieties available, it can be a little daunting. So, here is a little guide to help you choose between the two main groups : the English and the French lavenders.
English Lavender: Lavandula Angustifolia
The lavandula angustifolia is a small, evergreen shrub native of the South of Europe. It is distinctive for its greyish, aromatic foliage and highly scented spikes of flowers in shades of white,
pink or purple. English lavender tends to be larger (up to 1m tall), in general, bearing dense flower spikes from mid to late summer.
Varieties to try
. ‘Hidcote’: Certainly the most popular and reliable variety. This compact variety is perfect for hedging.
Height and Spread: 0.5 x 0.5m
Flower colour: Deep purple-violet
Lavender ‘Hidcote’ ©Veronica Lopes for Windyridge Garden Centre
. ‘Munstead’: Another compact variety particularly praised for hedging.
Height and Spread: 0.5 x 0.5m.
Flower colour: Blue-purple
. ‘Artic Snow’: A lovely variety with white flowers and a strong fragrance.
Height and spread: 0.5 x 0.5m.
Flower colour: White
French Lavender: Lavandula Stoechas
These native of western Mediterranean countries bear characteristic ‘butterfly’ looking flowers. They tend to be smaller than the Angustifolia, therefore, ideal for pots.
The fancy flowers are not less scented or attractive to pollinators. The flowering spike appears to be a little shorter and fatter, and is crowned by purple or pink bracts (indeed, those are actually not petals but colourful leaves).
These varieties may appear a little more tender than the angustifolia although they will withstand temperatures up to -10 °C against -15 °C for the English lavender, so still pretty hardy!
. ‘Lilac Wings’: Very compact variety with dark flowers from late spring and throughout summer.
Height and Spread: 0.3 x 0.3m.
Flower: dark purple
Lavender ‘Lilac Wings’ ©Veronica Lopes for Windyridge Garden Centre
‘Lusi Pink’: Simply fresh and soft with its pale bracts and silver foliage.
Height and Spread: 0.3x 0.3m.
Flower: Purple and pink.
Lavender ‘Lusi Pink’ ©Veronica Lopes for Windyridge Garden Centre
Because lavender is from the south of Europe, it requires a lot of sunshine and a well-drained soil. If you plant it in the ground, you might add some grit or sand in your compost to insure that the area never gets waterlogged (the same in pots).
They will need little water and feed is unnecessary as long as they get enough direct sunlight throughout the growing season.
Prune them once a year, just after flowering, by cutting the flowering stem plus 1/3 of the foliage. This routine ‘haircut’ will keep your shrubs nice and compact for longer. Be careful not to cut too far down as they will not recover from such a hard pruning.