English lavender is a short-lived perennial herb that is as popular for its wonderful fragrance as for its colourful flowers. As might be expected from a plant that has given its name to the colour lavender, the flowers are typically shades of mauve through purple, but white and pink varieties are also available. The green, bluish or grey-green leaves are simple, flattened, tapered oblongs, with silvery hairs that contain a fragrant oil.Buy Lavender Here!
Lavender is a very versatile, forgiving and drought tolerant plant that will thrive in a sunny position on well drained soil. It is generally very low maintenance, and demands only an short back and sides each year to keep it looking good.
In the garden, it combines well with many other popular plants. It remains a fashionable component of a wide range of designs, being equally at home in a contemporary gravel garden with sea-holly and Santolina, an informal Mediterranean garden with its curry plant, rock-rose and rosemary neighbours, or a relaxed, traditional English cottage garden with roses, foxgloves, delphiniums, hollyhocks and hardy geraniums.
There are nearly 50 wild species of lavender, mostly from the Mediterranean region, though outliers are also known from the Canary Islands, eastern Africa and south-eastern India. English lavender is not native to Britain, and it was probably introduced by the Romans, who valued its culinary, fragrant and medicinal qualities.
This article provides advice on caring for lavender in the garden border and patio pots, and suggests some of the best varieties to grow for their aesthetic and aromatic qualities.
|Common Name||English lavender, Old English Lavender|
|Scientific Name||Lavandula Angustifolia|
|Plant Family||Lamiaceae, the mint family|
|Origin||Western Mediterranean region|
|Height||30cm to 100cm|
|Light||Sunny positions with a south or west aspect|
|Temperature||Favours warm, open conditions|
|Hardiness||Most varieties are hardy; some less common varieties are tender|
|Soil||Free-draining, ideally calcareous soils|
|Fertiliser||Rarely required, but potash fertiliser can encourage flowering|
|Propagation||Best by semi-ripe cuttings, and possible from seed|
|Pests||A few insect pests, including rosemary beetle and some leafhoppers|
Q Is lavender good in a wildlife garden? It seems to attract a lot of bumble bees.
Lavender flowers produce lots of highly concentrated nectar, and they attract masses of bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators, including hoverflies that are useful for natural aphid control. Lavender is therefore really good for insects, for birds and other wildlife that feed on insects, and for the garden generally. Honey bees love lavender, and they will produce a lavender-flavoured honey in hives kept close to large sources of the flowers.
Not all varieties are equal though. Research at the University of Sussex published in Functional Ecology showed that lavender topped the poll of bees’ favourite garden plants, and that some of the highly bred varieties, including ‘Grosso’, ‘Hidcote giant’ and ‘Gros bleu’ were the most attractive to bumblebees. Interestingly, some white and pink varieties were visited as frequently as the more traditional purple ones. Patriotic gardeners will be pleased to know that a citizen science project organised by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology found that English lavender attracted twice as many bumble bees as French lavender!