Imagine lavender, and visions of deeply green stalks swaying tall and proud across a purple-specked field come to mind. Not surprisingly, this Mediterranean herb has been a favorite of gardeners for centuries. And for good reason – lavender boasts bountiful benefits.
Lavender plants are incredibly hardy and easy to grow, and the blue-violet blooms are pleasing to our eyes and nose. Buds give off a soothing scent, and also attract nature’s pollinators, like butterflies and bees. However, not all insects are fans. Pests like mosquitoes, flies, fleas and moths all steer clear of lavender, making it a powerful natural insect repellant. In the home, lavender’s uses span from cooking to health to beauty.
While many varieties are available, all thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. Once planted, you won’t need to micromanage these herbs – lavender does best when watered deeply only when the soil is almost dry. Pruning is only necessary for the early spring or at harvest time.
Speaking of harvesting, fresh lavender is a wonderful addition to any cook’s pantry and also creates aromatic sachets, potpourri, and essential oil. To bring benefits of lavender inside, start by cutting off the flower spikes or stripping the flowers from their stems just as blossoms begin to show color. For storage, place the blooms to dry in a cool, shaded place.
With its low maintenance and myriad applications in both home and garden, why not consider adding some lavender to your backyard this summer? Take a look at these available varieties, and get to planting.
Buena Vista lavender – With dark blue-purple flowers, this type forms mounds of foliage up to two feet tall above silvery green foliage. In the kitchen, this type perfectly complements savory dishes and sweet desserts alike. Pair with rosemary for a savory meat rub, and finish the meal with a homemade lavender-honey glaze.
Grosso – A widely planted commercial variety in Italy and France, Grosso is the most fragrant lavender variety out there. With its compact growth, silvery foliage, and large spikes of violet-blue flowers, Grosso is excellent for drying for potpourri and other aromatic indoor uses. The bonus is that this type often has repeats blooms in late summer.
English lavender – A sweetly fragrant and popular variety, English Lavender is best used for perfume and sachets. For cooking, it makes for a delightful flavoring addition to ice cream, jams, pastries, and meat rubs.
Lavandin – This variety stands out with its branching stems and violet flowers that dot the plant tops.
Spanish lavender – Stocky Spanish lavender plants grow a bit taller than other types – around three feet tall. Leaves are a striking gray-green, and bracts look like rabbit ears. Blooms come in from spring into summer and will fill your garden with a color palette spanning from pink to deep purple.
Provence – Although often described as the perfume lavender, this title is a misnomer. Provence lavender actually doesn’t produce the kind of oil used in perfumes. (Check out Grosso instead). But this variety does produce fragrant violet-blue flowers that dry well and makes for a lovely hedge plant.