Growing lavandula is done for many reasons. People use it for home herbal remedies for sleep, teas, dried lavender buds for sachets and pot pourri, extraction of pure lavender oils, culinary bud uses, dried stem flowers and for ornament in the garden. Lavender honey can be made if the flowers are left and not harvested. Each variety has their strengths and have been bred and selected for their different qualities and uses.
The Sweet English Lavender
There are a many species but the English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia is the most cold-hardy. They generally produces flowers earlier in the season than other lavender species. It produces a sweet-smelling flower on a shorter stem full with very little camphor in its lavender essential oil compared to the Lavandin X hybrids.
Best English Lavender Varieties for Cold Areas
1. 'Munstead' is the most cold hardy lavender (Zone 3) it is usually easy to find. The flowers are medium purple. It is a good all-purpose variety with lovely strong aroma. The stems aren’t always straight and can have the odd kink. For that reason, ‘Munstead’ can be better for dried lavender buds than dried stem flowers.
2. 'Twickle Purple' is a paler purple and extremely long-stemmed hardy Lavender (Zone 4). It is taller and more showy and is ornamental in the garden. Bees love it. The long stems are excellent for arrangements and bunches either dried or fresh. Once dried, the colour tends to fade as it is so light.
3. 'Hidcote' is the English lavender top pick, being both multi-purpose and showy. It is also cold hardy (Zone 4) with medium to long straight stems and is excellent for cut flowers. The dark blue petals make for attractive dried lavender buds with wonderful sweet floral aroma, and it is lovely lavender for sachets.
Growing Lavender for the Best Chance of Winter Survival
Lavender plants survive the winter best when their microclimate is ideal. They prefer well-drained, gravelly soils. Waterlogged roots during the spring thaw can kill more lavender than the extreme cold. When plants are grown on a slope in well-drained soil, waterlogging is avoided. Lavender is best protected in deep snow where it is insulated and is under more stress when the winter is cold with very little snow cover. A sheltered spot reduces wind chills and winter kill.
Choosing an English Lavender Variety
As you can see, it depends what you are using the lavender for and your taste in flower colours and shape as to which may be the best English lavender for your garden. The three lavendar varieties described are quite different in appearance and the true lavender lover will probably want all three varieties anyway. Of course microclimate is important to consider, and the cold hardiest lavender will not survive if its roots are wet, so bear that in mind when chosing and planting your lavender.
All the lavender plants photographed in the article came from Richters Herbs in Ontario, Canada (Zone 4) who ship internationally.