Lavender is a joy in the garden during the summer for its scented foliage and flowers adored by wildlife. With its typically Mediterranean preferences for sunshine and poor soils, this is a perfect plant for hot, dry conditions.
There are a few types to look out for when it comes to buying plants – but be aware that imported plants can have an increased risk of disease. Downderry Nursery based in Tonbridge, and Norfolk Lavender are well worth browsing to make your selections. Here is a rough guide:
English lavenders and hybrids
By far the hardiest lavenders, these can cope with winter chill down to -15C as long as the soil isn’t waterlogged. Favourites of mine include ‘Grosso’, ‘Hidcote Giant’ and ‘Imperial Gem’.
Less hardy than the English types but they make up for that with their showy nature and distinctive flowers. In sheltered, sunny spots they can get through the winter, but I find that propagating them in the summer and overwintering the cuttings or buying fresh plants each spring is a more reliable way to keep them in the garden year after year. ‘Helmsdale’, ‘Willow Vale’ and ‘Fathead’ are well worth trying and have performed well for me over the years.
These can be trickier to grow but offer something unique. I often grow these in summer pots and either replace or propagate them to ensure that they’re with me next year. Plant out at the end of May, after the last frosts as they dislike cold. Lavandula canariensis and Lavandula pinnata are really good doers for me.
Tips for growing lavender
Avoid planting in the winter, best to plant from April – September
Lavender needs full sun to grow well and will not survive long in shaded and damp places
Not suitable for clay soils but will grow well in chalky or free-draining soils
Space plants at around 75cm in groups or 40cm apart for hedges
Prune lightly just after flowering and avoid cutting into old wood as it will be reluctant to regenerate
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