Lavender is especially popular for its fragrance and aesthetic aspect.  Its flowers come in the form of pink, purple, blue or white spikes. Easy to grow, lavender is very decorative and can be easily incorporated to your balcony, terrace or garden. There are nearly 28 species of lavender that come from sunny and dry regions. Lavender is also a melliferous plant able to produce a sweet honey.

Its flowering takes place from March to September, releasing a pleasant fragrance into the atmosphere. However, its ears can be preserved dry and keep their scent for several months. They can also be used in a floral arrangement that includes lavender tufts inserted in a terracotta pot. Dwarf varieties are highly recommended for this decorative option. Lavender is primarily a decorative element present year-round and that permanently gives fragrance to your home with its dried ears that guarantee a sustained release of its soothing aroma. By combining lavender with roses and perennials, you can create harmonious associations. Thus, the garden will provide a contrast between the plainness of lavender and the lavishness of grasses. The gentle garden is a combination of white and blue lavenders with roses. The tonic garden will consist of blue lavender with yellow or purple flowers or Mexican marigold.

Overview of lavender

Lavender belong to the Lamiaceae family. These plants are native to the Mediterranean basin, the Canary Islands, South East Asia, India and North Africa. The most widespread varieties of lavender are common lavender or Lavandula angustifolia, official lavender or Lavandula officinalis, white lavender or Lavandula angustifolia alba and French lavender or Lavandula stoechas. There also exist dwarf varieties that are used in gardening. These include Lavandula intermedia, or Dutc lavender, and Lavandula angustifolia Nana, or Dwarf blue English lavender. Lavender is intended for multiple uses: on borders, in clumps, in hedges, as cut flowers or as potpourri. Lavenders are also used in the manufacturing process of soap and perfumes They are known to be soothing and antiseptic.

Growing lavender

To grow well, lavenders are planted on calcareous, stony and arid soils. For propagation, planting takes place in the spring and the taking of cuttings is carried out in the month of July. Two-inch (5 cm) branches are removed to be planted in a mini-greenhouse. Lavenders can be grown in containers on a balcony, on a patio or in a garden. For container growing, choose a model that measures about 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter and that has a hole at its bottom to drain excess water during irrigation. The pot will be filled with horticultural potting soil mixed with sand to lighten its texture. When grown in a garden, lavender will be planted on a light-textured soil with good drainage because the plant does not tolerate excess water. The chosen plot of land will need good exposure to the sun to benefit from its warm rays. The ideal planting density is 5 plants per 10.76 ft² (1 m²) with a spacing of 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) between plants. The ideal time for planting is in spring once the frosts have disappeared. However, planting may be delayed until autumn in regions where the climate is relatively mild. Nonetheless, it is recommended to improve the original soil by providing organic amendment. In the case of clayey and heavy soil, start out by adding coarse sand.

Maintaining lavender

Lavender plants are not very demanding in terms of water needs. If the soil is dry, watering will take place at regular intervals during the first planting to help the plant settle in. Fertilization is not necessary if the soil is of good quality. The primary maintenance of lavender is pruning and the plant must be given a ball-shaped cut. This procedure is conducted after flowering and consists of reducing juvenile shoots by about three quarters of their height. The aim is to avoid the base of the plant from being stripped. Pruning only applies to young stems as old wood does not produce any new buds.

Helpful advice

For planting in pots, choose a container of which the volume is twice that of the root ball. Planting certain species, such as Lavandula stoechas, requires the use of heath earth to acidify the ground. During planting, the roots deemed too long will be removed to avoid smothering the plant by becoming entangled. Pruning is preferably carried out in winter, after the frosts are over. Indeed, uncut plants have an easier time withstanding a particularly harsh winter.

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Published in Summer flowers by Alexander on 30 Aug 2011