Lavender is a wonderful, hardy plant. It is an evergreen shrub that produces vibrant purple, off-white, violet or pink flowers depending on the variety. Lavender is very aromatic and brushing the leaves produces strong, fragrant scent. Lavender flowers are a magnet for bees. Lavender can compliment other plants in a garden or be planted in a pot when you don’t have much room. It can also be planted in rows to create an informal hedge along a driveway or garden path.
Lavender is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and also known as Lavandula. There are three main varieties of lavender: English, French and Italian. Each has slightly different characteristics. English lavender produces long-thin spikes of flowers. Its peak flowering season is during the middle of summer. French lavender is easily identifiable by its serrated leaves. The two petals on the top of each flower identify Italian lavender. These petals look like rabbit ears.
Lavender grows between 30cm – 1m tall and 60cm – 1m wide depending on the variety. Once established, lavender requires little watering. If your soil is not well draining this can cause the lavender to have ‘wet feet’ which can damage or kill the plant. Planting lavender in sandy or gravelly soil is ideal although it will survive in poor soil as long as it is well draining. Optimum growing conditions for lavender are full sun and a northerly position. While not essential, planting next to a solid structure such as a wall or colourbond fence will help to protect your lavender from strong winds and during cold winter nights. The wall retains heat during the day, which it releases after dark, helping to keep your plant warmer.
Pruning is best performed once a year for stand-alone bushes and twice a year for hedges. After flowering cut back the spent blooms and lightly shape. In spring you can cut back some of the green growth – up to one third of the plant. Never cut back past the green foliage into the old, hard wood. Doing so can cause those branches to fail and not produce new growth.
Pests rarely trouble lavender. Aphids, scale and whitefly can attack stressed plants. These can be combated with eco-oils – an organic alternative to using pyrethrum. Root rot can occur if the plant is over watered.
Lavender flowers can be cut, tied together and displayed as fresh or dried bunches throughout the home. The flowers and leaves can also be used to produces essential oils and potpourri. Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy and has antiseptic properties. Lavender also has culinary uses.
To dry lavender flowers cut the stems off of the plant, tie them in a bunch and hang them upside down out of direct sunlight for up to 2 weeks. You can dry it for several days until the lavender has withered but is still soft. This minimizes the chance of the lavender going bad. Hanging them in direct sunlight will dry them quicker. But note if you are drying lavender to make essential oil this method risks breaking down some of the oils.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your journey!