Today we’ll take a look at a very old plant with a long and storied
history, but one that deserves a fragrant place in your garden.
Lavender was definitely familiar to early Pilgrims arriving in America
in the 1600s, and no doubt it helped to mask some of the less pleasant
odors during their long sea voyages. But growing and using lavender
goes back much further than that.
The word lavender has its origin in the Latin word “lavare” meaning to
wash and has many connections with the concept of cleansing. The
ancient Phoenicians used lavender in their bath water and as an air
freshener. Greeks were said to anoint their feet with lavender oil, no
doubt as an early odor eater!
Egyptians were big fans of lavender and evidence has been found in
excavated tombs to show that they used it as part of the mummification
process. Wealthy Egyptians would wear a compress on their heads, made
of lavender that would create a pleasant perfume as it warmed with
their body heat.
Lavender has also been used for many hundreds of years as a healing
and calming herb. Roman texts describe its use in treating everything
from insect bites to stomach and kidney ailments. Queen Elizabeth I is
said to have drank lavender tea to treat migraine headaches and that
popularized the rapid growth of lavender farms in England.
Growing lavender in the USA is not difficult and will reward you with
the delightful sight and smell of this revered plant, even if you
don’t plan to anoint your feet with its oil. However, note that
lavender will NOT grow in highly humid areas such as south Florida. If
you live in USDA zone 5 or further north, you probably won’t get a
lush thick lavender hedge as you would in more temperate areas, but
lavender is a hardy perennial and will bloom anew in the spring.
If you’d like to see a brief video that Cheryl made with tips for
growing lavender, you can find it on YouTube at
Ready to enjoy your own lavender? Try these…
A beautiful addition to any garden path, container, or border plant,
it has a strong fragrance and is long blooming. The Provence Lavender
is a Lavandin variety which refers to the hybrid lavenders commonly
grown in France and cultivated for the oil and dry buds. A wonderful
attraction for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds,.the du Provence
Lavender has pale blue to purple blooms, growing to two foot with a
two foot spread. Zones 6 to 9.
The most fragrant of all the lavenders, Grosso Lavender is a hybrid
variety commonly grown in France and used in scenting perfumes and
making sachets. An abundance of long spikes of deep violet flowers
standing well above the grey/green compact foliage makes the Grosso a
remarkable addition to any garden. Additionally, the Grosso is the
most cold-hardy of the French hybrid lavenders. Zones 6 to 9.
Lavender Hidcote Blue
If you’re looking for a lower-growing lavender variety, try this one.
Hidcote Blue, a.k.a. lavender angustifolia, is a free flowering dwarf
variety that produces deep purple flower spikes in late spring and
summer. Lavender Hidcote Blue is great for a dwarf hedge, edging or
for massing. As a famous English Lavender, the Hidcote’s blooms are
distilled to provide one of the purest lavender scents. Zones 5 to 10.
Munstead is a many-branched, somewhat woody, perennial that grows much
like a small shrub. The narrow leaves of the Lavender Munstead are
about 2 inches long and have a pleasing grey-green color. Munstead
Lavender has small, heavily fragrant lavender flowers on long-stemmed,
slender spikes. As a favorite English Lavender, the Munstead is a top
choice for the edible buds. Zones 5 to 9.
Lavender grows best in rocky, dry, sunny places with an abundant
amount of lime in the soil. The scent is strongest in dry, sunny
locations. You can cut faded whole flower spikes when the first
flowers begin to open, and then dry them for use in sachets in the
Cheryl and I love the calming aroma of lavender that surrounds us as
we work in our garden. We think you will, too.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org
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