Most of us, these days, think of Lavender as an old ladies, and old fashioned, perfume. With this in mind, you would probably be surprised to learn that is still present in masses of modern perfumes, toiletries and cleaning products.
Having had to venture into the garden this week to assess the winter damage to our garden, I thought I'd have a general tidy around. We replaced the huge lavender plant that was in the back garden in late summer. The new Lavender is small at present and a different variety to the old one. It appears to have small butterflies at the top of each stem. The trip into my icy garden inspired me to consider next Spring and Summer, and a few of the beauties which will return to our garden.
I am quite lucky in that I have always seemed to have green fingers and very little attention, on my part, to my plants has gone a long way. In all our gardens, over the years, we have a lavender growing in a large pot, which grew for many years. Eventually the ever increasing size of pots for re-potting got rather out of hand.
Where we live now I have a postage stamp sized front garden and a slightly larger back garden. There is a lavender in both the front and the back garden of a differing types. The one in the front has much deeper purple flowers and a headier scent when it is in flower. As it's next to a buddleia it is always covered in butterflies, during the summer months. The front one is in a flower bed at the side of the path and has now grown so large that I think we will have to either move it or hard prune it this year. I may try some cuttings but, as the plants get older, they do become a bit woody, so this isn't quite so easy.
One thing I have learned over the years is that if you prune into the old wood at the bottom of your Lavender plant you will more than likely kill it. What I often do is, while the flowers are still in full swing, cut some long lengths which I then put into a vase, in the house, as a dried flower arrangement. I find that these last absolutely ages. Eventually they will drop a little but in the meantime you will have the lavender scent flowing through your house, and the bonus is the display will look great.
As the flowers outside gradually fade I either leave the plant or prune over the top. You can use some of the clippings for little scented bags for your clothing and drawers. The plants always come blooming back without much care. The problem is they do become a bit large and unruly. The average height a plant will grow to is three feet and mine is a good couple of feet across as well. I bought this as tiny plant a few years ago, for only about one pound and fifty pence, so think carefully where you are going to plant Lavender and what type you are buying.
If you plant Lavender next to roses, or the like, they are supposed to keep the aphids under control. I'm not sure how true this is though. I know cats avoid them so, if you have something cats like to water (if you know what I mean), such as a Lupin, you can plant them near each other. Greenfly usually keep away from Lavender as well.
What we have found recently is that our lavender becomes overrun with bees, wasps and butterflies in Summer. In fact many more than we have ever seen in the past. The butterflies are lovely but the bees and wasps can be a problem, especially if you have small children, or like us pets.
The lavender scent in the garden seems to intensify at certain times of the day and evening, and if you brush against the plants you get the lovely aroma. Well if you happen to like the scent of lavender that is, which I do.
SO, SOME FACTS ABOUT LAVENDER
The flowering time is usually mid summer to early autumn.
Lavender's place of origin is the Mediterranean region, where it has been cultivated since the sixteenth century.
Lavender is part of the family called Labiatae which is from the Latin word Lavare, meaning to wash, referring to the plant's uses in toilet preparations.
Lavender can be used for hedges and flowerbeds. It can also be grown in containers. It is used liberally in perfumery, the soap industry, scenting linen and the like..
Lavender has antiseptic properties and also helps aid a cough, apparently.
Lavenderis known to alleviate headaches. My husband has a small oblong shaped bean bag which is scented with Lavender, and which he places over his forehead and eyes when he has a migraine. The mixture of pressure and fragrance seems to help.
Propagation of lavender is by heel cuttings in mid-summer. Pull off, near to the root and dip the cutting in planting hormone. Plant the cutting into a small pot with an alkaline based soil.
Lavender prefers to grow outdoors in a spot with full sun.
Lavender is not supposed to be too hardy in cold climates but I have never had any problems. Maybe that's the recent, warmer winters.
Lavender can be bought in essential oils for massage or adding to pot-pourris and the like. You can also add your fresh clippings to pot-pourris of course.
The foliage on these plants can be anything from a silvery green, to dark green, or to silver. There are quite a few hybrids so you can usually find one that appeals if you look around. They do prefer a slightly alkaline soil. You can buy dwarf varieties so ask the retailer, especially if space is a premium.
Occasionally my Lavender plants have had 'cuckoo spit' on the foliage. Although this isn't harmful to the plant I usually rinse this away as I don't like the look of it. Other than that not much seems to trouble these plants.
You can buy all sorts of products with a lavender fragrance, such as room fresheners, drawer liners or scented bean bags to rest over your eyes when resting or as a relief for a headache. If you have a lavender plant, or two, you can make most of these yourself and have these properties on tap, so to speak.
So if you've not planted a Lavender before, how about having this welcome addition to your garden or patio. You'll have butterflies, and a beautiful scent, all summer long, plus you can use the lavender in your home as well. Oh, and of course it looks beautiful with it's mass of purple flowers, all summer long.