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Garden design: Choosing and growing lavender varieties

By P. Allen Smith March 22, 2010

There are many reasons for growing plants. One of the best for me is fragrance. If you are looking for flowers with a heavenly scent, lavender has to be right up there at the top. And there are so many different varieties to choose from. Some are more aromatic than others and the range of bloom shape and cold hardiness is broad.

From a garden design point of view, lavender can find a place in just about any garden scheme because of the silvery gray foliage is compatible with any color. However, certain growing conditions must be met. The soil should be loose and quick to drain.  On the plus side, these plants require very little water and fertilizer, which makes them ideal for growing in containers.

I suppose of all the varieties I’ve tried, lavender Provence (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’) has been the most successful. This is also the lavender most widely used for making sachets because of its long-lasting aroma. So if you are just getting started with lavender you might give this one a try.

Of course the best way to learn about different varieties is to try several and see which ones work best for you.

As with so many herbs, the medicinal qualities of lavender are now being rediscovered. Its essential oil is being used as a remedy for insomnia, nervousness and other health problems.

It will be interesting to see in the future how medical science affirms many of the folk remedies and lessons from history about plants such as this one.

Lavenders to Try

  • Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Hidcote’ – silvery grey leaves and deep purple-blue flowers, zones 5 – 9
  • Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), ‘Munstead’ – blue-purple flowers, compat grower, long bloom time, zones 5 – 9
  • Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Provence’ – light purple flowers borne on long wands, zones 5 – 9
  • Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grappenhall’ – dark violet flowers, zones 5 – 9
  • Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin), ‘Grosso’ – purple flowers, very fragrant, zones 5 – 9
  • Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, long bloom time, zones 8 -9, good choice for Southern gardens
  • Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender) – dark purple, stocky flowers, zones 8 -9, late spring bloom time, good choice for Southern gardens