Who doesn’t love the heady scent of lavender in the garden on a warm summer day?? Lavender (Lavandula) is such a romantic ‘flower’ that every gardener sooner or later succumbs to the urge to grow it!
A few helpful hints: Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean and a lover of dry, sunny, rocky habitats. As for which varieties I cultivate here in SE Michigan, I like ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’, two of the hardiest and best-loved lavender varieties. I also grow/grew ‘Grosso’ without much success… love those long stems!
Lavender plants will tolerate many growing conditions, but it thrives in warm, well-drained soil and full sun. Like many plants grown for their essential oils, a lean soil will encourage a higher concentration of oils. Lavender is a tough plant and is extremely drought resistant, once established. It is dampness, more than cold, that is responsible for killing lavender plants. Dampness can come in the form of wet roots during the winter months or high humidity in the summer. If humidity is a problem, make sure you have – plenty of space between your plants – for good air circulation and always plant lavender in a sunny location!
SPRING is the time to prune lavender – after signs of new green growth! If you live in an area where lavender suffers some winter die-back, plants may be cut-back by approximately one-third their height to keep them well-shaped. Also remove all dead woody stems. Don’t even think about pruning your plants late in the Fall! While lavender get regularly ‘pruned’ simply by harvesting the flower buds, cutting the blooms/buds typically yields a second – albeit smaller – second harvest. For more info ‘when’ to harvest lavender, go here.
Lavender makes an excellent companion plant and is also avoided by deer. The lavender flower buds keep their fragrance when dried and used for ‘crafts‘. For best drying results, harvest the flowers as the buds first begin to open… after the morning dew has evaporated – and before the heat of the day! Hang in small bunches bound with rubber bands upside down or by arranging a thin layer on top of an old window screen in a warm area with plenty of air circulation. Hint: A box fan may assist the drying process.
Besides being beautiful and aromatic, lavender flower buds are also edible [Hint: A little in a recipe goes a long way!!]. They can be used raw in salads, added to soups and stews, used as a seasoning, baked into cookies and brewed into tea. Remember, use 1/3 dried herb versus ‘fresh’ herb amount called-for in a recipe… or, to taste!
I hope this post encourages you to add a lavender plant or two in your garden!