Ultimate guide to growing lavender

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Lavender, a smell we all know and love and a plant that has so many different uses; here's how you can grow it in your own garden

Lavender is a British favourite and with good reason. Its year-round foliage and summer-long delicate flowers suit many garden designs while its strong perfume is unique and relaxing and you can even use it in the kitchen where it makes an interesting flavouring for various drinks and desserts. Added to the fact that the garden bugs and bees love it too, and it’s a plant everyone should consider growing.

Lavender can be successfully grown from seed without much effort and taking cuttings is a free and easy method of propagation, but as it takes a few years for plants to be big enough to make an impression on the garden, most people opt for established plants from the garden centre, nursery or even the supermarket.

Increasingly it’s French lavender that is dominating the shelves with its feathery butterfly blooms, but we always go for the English varieties. We think they smell better, are definitely more suited to culinary pursuits, and we prefer their wilder looks.

Growing lavender is fairly straightforward—plants don’t crave many nutrients or any special maintenance—but there are a few guidelines to follow for maximum success.

Being a Mediterranean plant, they prefer a sunny spot to thrive and they’ll appreciate good drainage so if, like us, you have heavy clay soil then dig in some grit before planting. You’ll also find drainage improves if you plant on a raised mound or ridge.

Trim back flower stems when winter is over—you can do this earlier but the birds and insects will then miss out on the seeds—and if you want to keep a bit of shape to your plants you can give bushes a trim once they have flowered.

You can also grow lavender in pots although they’ll need regular watering and even an occasional feed. Once up and running they’ll supply your garden with wonderful fragrance for years.

 

Three varieties to try

Buying lavender isn’t simply a choice between English and French—there are plenty of options out there ranging from small, compact plants to large, rambling varieties suitable for hedging. And to top them off their flower colours can vary from white through to all shades of pink and purple. Here are three of our favourites…

 

Lavender “Hidcote”

A compact version of the classic English lavender with muted green foliage and stunning purple flowers.

 

Lavender “Little Lottie”

This dwarf lavender has dark green foliage and pale pink flowers.

 

Lavender Stoechas “Helmsdale”

This French variety has dense greenery with soft, reddish-purple flower heads.