Bee friendly lavender06 September 2016 Linda Ross
Long used for its aromatic and healing properties, lavender was planted during medieval times to ward off evil spirits.
Medicinally it is regarded as a relaxant, sensory stimulant and nerve tonic, and herbalists use it to treat exhaustion, digestion, headaches and arthritis.
Lavandula 'Ghostly Princess'
Lavender was originally known as elf leaf or spike – the word lavender is derived from the Latin ‘lavare’, meaning ‘to wash’, due to the Romans’ use of the herb in laundering – bed linen and clothes were dried over lavender bushes, which acted to scent the cloth. Lavender has been used for centuries in herbal remedies, teas, cooking and perfumes, and was the main ingredient in ‘tussie-mussies’ (posies of flowers and herbs), which were used to ward off illness. Its perfume comes from oils in its flowers and leaves.
Perfect for the potted garden. Lavendula 'Ghostly Princess'.
Here in my garden at home, I grow lavender because it’s easy; it instils peace, creates a blanket of colour and has a serene fragrance that is unsurpassed. After rain the garden is full of that distinctive sweet and spicy lavender fragrance. The silvery-grey foliage provides a delightful foil for the flowers, which can be blue, purple, mauve, pink, white or green.
A blanket of colour and serene fragrance. Lavendula 'Pukehou'
Types of lavender
There are five main groups of lavender:
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is known as true English lavender, and is typically used in the production of potpourri and oil.
Italian lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has two brilliantly coloured ‘wings’ at the top of each flower.
French lavender (Lavandula dentata) is a large and billowy shrub with grey-green serrated leaves and a flat, furry-spiked purple flower. Tolerated humidity. Long lived.
Winged lavender (Lavandula ‘Sidonie’) has ferny foliage and forked flowers.
Hybrid Australian bred lavenders in the Princess, Ruffles or Lace series. ‘The Princess’ Lavender won Plant of the Year 2013!
Lavandula 'Strawberry Ruffles'
A new breed created in Australia. Musk pink flowers blanket the shrub in spring complementing its soft yet striking silver foliage. Great for low hedges or sunny containers. Cold hardy. 70 x 70cm
Lavandula 'Ghostly princess' with its soft yet striking silver foliage
Due to their Mediterranean origins, lavender prefers hot summers and dry winters. This is slightly concerning for us, as many parts of Australia have high humidity. If you have been disappointed in the past with lavenders that drop dead overnight and seem to dry from the inside out, I recommend French lavender which seems to relish humid conditions of Sydney and SE Queensland. Guaranteed to flower through most of the year, they are pruned hard late summer to renew themselves quickly. I love their showy wings, brilliant colours and masses of scented blooms.
Where to grow?
Lavender is best grown in neatly clipped hedges either side of a front path, in pots, along picket fence, in herb circles, knot garden or courtyards. Coastal gardens, rocky slopes and planter boxes are all good environments for lavender. Lavender enjoys the company of other Mediterranean plants – its soft silver looks beautiful with rosemary, sage, rock rose, scented geraniums and the lemon Jerusalem sage, while huge heads of purple Pride of Madeira will match the intense purple and mauve of lavender. Look to the sword-shaped leaves of bearded iris for a brilliant leaf contrast, while roses, violets and lilies can all be combined with lavender to give you an English cottage garden effect.
The key to success is well-drained soil. To see if your soil is suitable, dig a hole and fill it with water, then monitor how long the hole takes to drain. Any longer than one hour means the soil is not well-drained enough and your lavender will fail unless improvements are undertaken. Lavender is best grown on slopes, or in pots and planters. It is difficult to grow in clay and acid soils; clay soils in particular hold too much moisture, which can cause lavender to drown.
Lavandula 'Strawberry Ruffles'
When to prune?
New Year’s Day is a good reminder to get out the shears! Lavender should be pruned late summer. We like to prune back by at least one third to a little bud or shoot is best.
Aromatic bath oil
This recipe for bath oil was first published in the 17th century. Add 1/2 cup of each of the following herbs to a large saucepan: dried lavender, wormwood, peppermint, thyme, bay and lemon balm. Add 2 litres of water then bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cloth then discard the herbs. Add a dash of brandy and bottle the liquid. To use, add a small splash to bath water.