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Garden Tips

LAVENDER IN THE GARDEN

GARDEN TIPS – written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
published NOVEMBER 7, 2014

Are you a fan of lavender? I am. I like this garden perennial because it has pretty, delightfully fragrant flower spikes, it has attractive aromatic gray foliage, it attracts honeybees, and it has few pests.

Our region of Washington is well adapted to growing English lavender. This is not surprising since English lavender is native to the mountainous areas of the western Mediterranean region, not England.

English lavender grows best in full sun and well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. It is considered drought tolerant once established and will suffer if the soil is kept too wet. Hardy to Zone 5, it will survive our cold winters and it performs extremely well under our hot summer conditions.

The species form of English lavender is considered an evergreen or semi-evergreen, woody shrub. It grows to a height of six feet and produces lavender (no surprise) flower spikes, sometimes twice a the season.

Plant breeders have worked to create many different English lavender cultivars (cultivated varieties) of varying sizes and flower color including deep purple, pink, and white. Hidcote with deep violet blue flowers is a popular cultivar that tops out at a height of 16 inches and Munstead with lavender blue flowers reaches a height of 18 inches. If diminutive is more to your liking, look for tiny Nana or Lavance that only grow10 inches tall.

Lavandin lavender (Lavandula x intermedia), often referred to as French lavender, is a sterile hybrid or cross between English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ) and spike or Portugese lavender (Lavandula latifolia). Lavandin is less hardy and blooms only once a season, blooming later than English lavender. Because its seed is sterile, it is propagated by cuttings.

Containing more camphor, Lavandin lavender has a much stronger, pungent fragrance. It is favored in commercial production for use in cosmetics, soaps, and perfumes because it yields larger amounts of essential oil than English lavender. English lavender is usually preferred for culinary uses because of its milder, sweeter flavor.

There are also a number of different lavandin cultivars, most having lavender to violet blue flowers and not reaching a height of more than three feet. Provence and Grosso are cultivars used for lavender oil production in France.

Lavender should be pruned heavily every year starting when the plant is young to discourage growth from becoming woody and scraggly. If pruned properly, lavender shrubs can remain attractive and productive for 10 to 15 years or more.

Starting when the plants are one year old, prune the stems back by one third early in the season when new growth starts to emerge from the base. Flowers are formed on new growth so you will not be removing flowers if you prune early. You may also cut back green growth immediately after flowering.

Some experts advise pruning more severely every two to three years, pruning the plants back to a height of six to eight inches. However, if that means pruning to brown woody leafless stems, do not do it. This wood has few, if any, live buds capable of growing. If you have an older, woody lavender, try pruning the shrub back severely in the spring, but still leaving two to three inches of green productive growth on the ends.

If you do not have English lavender your garden, plant some next spring. Pruned properly, it is a great addition to any landscape or garde
Published: 11/7/2014 12:17 PM

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