From the Desk of Ed Hume: Lavender Varieties

August 1, 2011 at 1:23 AM Leave a comment

One of the really colorful, versatile, and useful perennial herbs is the lavender.  Here’s one plant that has unlimited uses for its beauty in the garden and as fresh cut or dried flowers.  It also has uses based on its fragrance, culinary benefits, and healing and medicinal properties.  It’s estimated that there are about four hundred varieties.  Most commercial lavender farms limit their crops to about two-to-five dozen varieties.  Specialty growers may feature four or five dozen varieties, and local garden outlets are usually limited to a dozen or fewer varieties, with the Spanish, French, and English varieties being the most popular.

Attractive flowers, fine leaf texture, and ease of care combine to make the summer flowering lavender a wonderful plant to include in the garden.  Since many of the attractive varieties are in full bloom right now, this is a great time to select and plant them.  Local dealers usually feature them in 4”, 6”, or gallon containers.

Lavender needs a bright sunny spot in the garden where the soil is well drained.  They seem to grow exceptionally well in a raised bed or in a sandy loam type soil.  If you grow them in a container, add about 50% sand, mixing it with a good quality potting soil.  Whether planting in containers or in beds, the plants will benefit from a light feeding of an organic plant food.  Make an application at planting time and again each year in mid-spring.

Pruning is one of the most important steps in successfully growing lavender in the home garden.  Prune the plants each year, cutting back about two-thirds of the new green growth.  Please understand, the key to success is to make the pruning cuts in the green foliage growth.  Never cut back into the bare stems, or the plants are apt to die.

If you’re using lavender flowers in bouquets, cut the flower stems when about 25% of the lower flowers are open.  Then place them in a vase that has only about ½ inch water in the base. If you want to dry the flowers, place the cut flowers in a vase with no water. Actually, a more efficient way to dry them is to bundle a few stems together with a rubber band then hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated place.  Usually they dry in about two weeks.

Lavender often helps deter mosquitoes and gnats.  Brushing against the plant occasionally releases foliage fragrance which aids in discouraging these insects.

Add a fragrance and color to your garden with the attractive spring, summer, or autumn flowering varieties of lavender.

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Ed’s Podcasts: Kale and Cabbage That Flower in the Fall Ed’s Podcasts: Summer Pruning

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