Spring is the perfect time for lavender. Use of the herb dates back more than 2000 years and historically it has been used in mummification, perfumery, cooking and bathing. In fact, it’s believed the name lavender comes from the Latin word lavare, which means to wash.
Because of its popularity, lavender most likely spread throughout Europe during the early years of colonisation and trading. It is now common in the Mediterranean region and grows wild in many areas.
Spanish lavender (Lavender pedunculata) and its hybrids are tough, drought-hardy perennials that thrive on dry, sloping sites. They also love sandy conditions and are salt-tolerant. This lavender type is not suitable for cooking but great for gardens, cut flowers and potpourri.
They come in many different colours.Lavender Sensation Blue (L. pedunculata ‘Senblu’ PBR) and Sensation Rose (L. pedunculata ‘Senros’ PBR) are both forms of Spanish lavender.
They are well suited for use as low, colourful borders. They are both low maintenance and drought-tolerant once established, and full of flowers to attract bees, butterflies and birds to your garden. A recent breeding breakthrough has resulted in a new range of Spanish lavender that has enormous double flower heads.
French lavender (Lavender dentata) is also tough and drought-hardy. It is generally more long-lived in the garden, but has a limited colour range. The common colour is lavender-blue. There are white forms but they often burn in our Australian sun. As with their Spanish cousins, they are also not suitable for cooking but are great for gardens, cut flowers and potpourri. One popular variety that is very tolerant of heat and humidity is Lavender Superfrench (L. dentata ‘Parfren’).
French lavender is at its best in spring, but will continue to flower all year round.
English lavender (Lavender angustifolia) is more commonly known and used in the cooler regions as it generally does not like hot, humid conditions. It is almost deciduous, meaning it can lose a lot of its leaves and look a bit ugly during the winter months. It will flush with new leaves in spring and can make a stunning flower show in summer. This is the lavender that is most commonly used in cooking and perfumery, but individual varieties have different chemical characteristics, so always seek advice before using in cooking.
All lavenders contain fragrant essential oils and when planted strategically, will release a beautiful perfume when anyone brushes past them. The flowers can be harvested for potpourri or cut-flower displays. Although lavender is tolerant of very dry conditions, best results are obtained from mulching well and regular watering. Most are well suited to growing in tubs or pots.
References: Wikipedia Lavandula or Lavander
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