Do you enjoy making herbal or floral bouquets and wands to scent the house? Maybe you’re into the lavender cooking trend or like to infuse playful summer drinks with a floral touch. Perhaps you recognize the aromatherapy or medicinal qualities of lavender.
In other words, do you love lavender and are frustrated because the bloom season is so short?
Whatever you do with your lavender, you may have planted one and it bloomed for a few weeks. Now you think you have to wait another year to enjoy the beauty and fragrance. That’s no fun! But here’s a secret to prolong your passion during lavender season…
There are actually three groups of lavenders. Members of each group bloom around the same length of time, but each group blooms at different times. By planting at least one member of each group, you can enjoy lavender from early spring to mid-summer (and sometimes even longer with careful watering).
Members of the “Non-English Lavenders” bloom from early to late spring. “English Lavenders” follow and bloom from late spring to early summer. True summer lavenders, known as “Lavendins,” continue blooming into the hottest days of summer.
Also called “English Lavender hybrids,” the varieties in this summer group are crosses between the Portuguese and English Lavenders. They all have large gray leaves, grow into large plants, and grow best in the heat. They are all very fragrant, making them welcome additions to any lavender garden.
Abriali Lavender was one of the first hybrids. It produced cosmetic-grade oil until Grosso Lavender replaced it with superior oil production. Happily, gardeners can also enjoy Grosso in their gardens, as it’s frequently available at garden centers.
White Grosso Lavender, with the same beauty and fragrance, provides a nice background for a mixed flower border. Edelweiss Lavender, a smaller white lavender, mixes nicely in the garden, without a reduction of fragrance.
Hidcote Giant Lavender and Provence Lavender are garden center favorites. Approximately the same size, the Hidcote Giant has darker flowers than the Provence, which has a longer flower wand. Sachets usually contain Provance buds because they are exceptionally easy to remove from the stalk. Other popular varieties include Grappenhall, Dutch Mill, Seal and Fred Boutin lavenders.
Lavenders In the Garden
Growing lavenders could not be easier. All thrive in full sun in warm, well-drained, average quality soil. Dampness, either through poor drainage or humidity, will kill them. They grow well in pots with good drainage and fair soil. Prune after blooming to shape the plants and promote future blooming. While lavender is drought resistant, if the soil is dry, it is necessary to water well. Water again only when the soil is dry. Using compost as fertilizer will provide critical nutrients and improve soil drainage.
Lavenders are very attractive to bees. They happily buzz from flower to flower while collecting pollen. Some honey producers site their hives in the middle of lavender fields to produce lavender-scented honey. The honey’s aroma is a great way to start the day!
Drying lavender for future use is easy. Cut bundles of wands from the plants without cutting into the older woody part of the plant. Use a rubber band to hold the bundles together and hang them upside down in a dark, dry room such as an attic or closet. The darkness helps retain the bloom color. The bundle should be dry in 7-10 days.
Although lavender’s taste isn’t the same as its fragrance, lavender dishes appear in many trendy restaurants. Lavender martinis and teas, ice cream, cookies and other desserts accompany lavender-sauced meats and vegetarian dishes. Lavender is an ingredient in the herbs de Provence mix and replaces strong tasting herbs such as rosemary, thyme or mint in many cookbooks for meats, breads and general seasonings.
Some folks even use lavender as an antibacterial antiseptic to treat wounds and insect stings.
Even if you just want to enjoy lavender for the sake of its beauty and ease of maintenance, remember… Planting one of each of the three groups lets you love your lavender for three times as long. Enjoy!