Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lovely Lavender

photo: 'Munstead' lavender

Lavender is a hardy shrub that thrives in dry alkaline soil. Lavender is commonly used as a food seasoning, a culinary substitute for rosemary. Dried flowers are crafted into table arrangements and lavender fragrance is captured in sachets and potpourris. Lavender is used to store clothes as a moth repellent. Some people store some under a pillow as a sleep aid, a form of “aromatherapy”. Bees produce a high-quality honey from the flower nectar.

There are two kinds of lavender. The shorter-growing cultivars of English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) like ‘Munstead’, ‘Hidcote’, and ‘Lady Lavender’, flower in mid-May for one month. When cutback, English lavender blooms again in August. The taller more vigorous French lavender (recommend cultivars ‘Provenance’, ‘Grosso’ and ‘Super’) flowers only once in late June. For lavender oil production, I recommend ‘Super’.
Lavender is only successful planted in soil that is exceptionally well drained. An ideal soil pH range is 6.5 - 7.2. Grow on raised mounds and space plants 3 feet apart in the row and 6-8 feet in the row, if grown commercially. Other than for harvesting, prune plants back one-third in a ball shape in September. Lavender has very few disease and pests problems and possesses high drought tolerance.

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