Lovely lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular summer flowering shrubs, which has become so much part of the traditional English garden scene. It is valued for its wonderful distinctive fragrance, long flowering period and silvery grey-green foliage. As it is attractive to bees and butterflies, this evergreen favourite is great for any garden and I wouldn’t be without it in mine.

Lavender has been grown in Britain for centuries and was first introduced by the Romans, from the Mediterranean region. It is a versatile plant that is ideal for use in many settings, including city, courtyard and cottage gardens. It is great for banks and borders and does well in coastal regions, as it is tough, hardy and drought resistant. The grey-green, needle-like leaves and spikes of fragrant, mauve flowers are known to many gardeners, but there are many different types that boast green or variegated foliage with pink, purple or even white flowers.

Lavender tends to be grown in gardens as either a low growing hedge, a single specimen plant in a border, or in a pot on the patio. It does best when planted in full sun in a well-drained soil that has been enriched with plenty of organic matter. The secret of ensuring lavender always looks good and to prevent the stems from becoming too leggy is to prune annually once the flowers have faded. The faded flowers should be clipped just above the foliage and the plant lightly shaped to form a dome. Avoid cutting into the old wood, as this will not always regenerate. Pot grown plants are available at your local Garden Centre and if you are planting a hedge, the plants should be spaced at 30cm intervals.

Many favourite choices for the garden are Lavandula augustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which has a compact habit and a deep purple-blue flower. Lavandula augustifolia ‘Munstead’ which has dark lavender-blue flowers and the French lavender, Lavandula stoechas ‘Papillon’ which has unusual Mauve bracts on top of its flower spikes. These are just a few of the many varieties available.

Lavender is easily propagated by taking semi-hardwood cuttings during the summer months. Place three cuttings of about 8cm long into a small pot containing multi-purpose compost, water and place a polythene bag over the top to prevent moisture loss. Position in a semi-shaded spot until the plants have rooted, after which they can be potted for growing on.

The main use for the flowers and leaves of Lavender is as an ingredient of pot-pourri, but its dried flowers can also be used in flower arrangements.

Kim’s tip of the week

Why not make up some Lavender bags to bring scent to your home this summer. Cut off some flower stems from your lavender plants just before the flowers buds start to open and dry until the flowers are easily removed. The lavender can then be put into small muslin or cotton bags and placed around your home.