A complete guide to the sweet-smelling, sleep-aiding plant we all love so much
With attractive year-round foliage, long lasting bee-friendly blooms and one of the finest fragrances around, it’s no wonder that lavender is one of the most popular plants in both private and public gardens. And while it’s fairly easy to grow, there are a few tips you can follow to get even more from your plants as our lavender lowdown explains…
Seeds and cuttings
Lavender can be propagated indoors from seed with little fuss, with the first half of the year being the best time to get sowing. They should be sown thinly on damp compost, gently pressed down, and topped with a thin sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Cover with glass or clear plastic and keep somewhere warm. When your seedlings have established and are large enough to handle you can transfer them to larger pots to continue growing until you’re ready to plant them out—making sure you harden them off before you do so.
For a headstart on growing new plants (and to save you some money) you can easily propagate lavender from cuttings. Snip off a finger-length soft-stemmed shoot from a healthy plant, trim it to just below the lowest set of leaves, then scrape away the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem. Dip your cuttings into rooting hormone then insert them into well drained compost, placed around the edge of a pot. Cover with a clear plastic bag to maintain warm, humid conditions, and after a month or so your cuttings should start to take root.
Lavender ideally likes to grow in the Mediterranean, so do your best to recreate these conditions in your own garden by giving plants as sunny a spot as you can and allow them to sit in soil with plenty of drainage. If your garden has a habit of holding onto water then dig in a few handfuls of grit first. It will also help if you plant them on a slight ridge or mound.
Lavender looks fantastic in a herbaceous flower bed but it’s also a great structural plant and is ideal for creating low, fragrant borders—for example along the side of a garden path or to soften the edges of a picket fence. You can also grow it in pots, providing you keep on top of watering duties. Keep it in good shape by trimming the soft growth after it has flowered or leave it unattended for a wilder look.
French, Spanish or English?
Despite the increasing popularity of the frilly French and Spanish lavenders it’s the English varieties we prefer (Lavandula angustifolia). Besides being a much hardier plant it is also the one more commonly used by perfumers and chefs. To infuse the flavour of lavender in your own kitchen creations try making some lavender sugar by simply mixing a teaspoon or two of flowers into a jar of sugar and waiting for a few days. The flavoured sugar can then be used in baking, sweet sauces or even stirred into a cup of tea.
Here are three of our favourite lavender varieties to try:
An extremely popular English lavender with vibrant pale purple flowers and a compact shape.
When this variety’s long stems sway in the summer breeze they release the most amazing calming fragrance you could wish for.
A dwarf variety with grey green foliage topped by clusters of dainty white-with-a-hint-of-pink flowers.
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