Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Lavender in the landscape

Hello fellow gardeners, today I’d like to go in depth with one of my favorite plants and one that I use frequently in my design work – lavender (botanic name: Lavandula). Why do I like this plant so much? It’s drought tolerant, beautiful, low maintenance, there are many varieties to choose from, has a unique texture, form and size and fragrance! As a plant, it’s unsurpassed by fulfilling so many qualities that are desirable in the landscape.

Let’s talk about growing requirements first. Lavender is pretty easy going – it does prefer good draining soil above all and may languish in clay soil, especially when over watered, a sure death sentence. Add plenty of compost to your existing soil and you can’t go wrong. I use a two gallon drip head for my lavender and run it for half an hour a week – after the plant has become established, which usually happens within a month or so.

Lavender loves sun but many can tolerate partial shade as well. You can add some fertilizer but it’s not really necessary as they will bloom no matter what.

Alright, let’s talk about some cultivars now. For my money here in Southwest Riverside, I like both French and Spanish lavenders due to their excellent drought tolerance. There are many varieties that exist in those two groups as well.

Spanish lavender’s botanical name is L.(lavandula) stoechas and has tiny wings of colorful “brachts” (leaves) that remind me of a funny haircut coming out of the top of the flowering head. “Otto Quast” is a variety I recommend trying.

French lavender – L. dentata does very well in our area and there are many varieties to choose from, if they’re labeled that is. These two lavenders do not produce the “true” lavender scent that is coveted; they have more “camphor” in them. Only English” lavender – Lavandula angustifolia – does, and I have found that English lavender likes a bit more water and can take more shade than either Spanish or French. Just imagine where this plant grows in its native habitat.

There are many crosses between these plants, known as hybrids, so you just need to experiment with what you can find. Those are the three major types of lavenders though. In each type there are many named hybrids, there are pink, white and, of course, purple shades from dark to light.

Some good named varieties to look for are Martha Roedrick, Munstead, Hidcote, and Lavender Lady (all angustifolias) and the standard L. officinalis. French – just look for L. dentata or for a greyer version, L. dentate var. candicans. Two more favorites of mine under the “Pterostachys” group/species are ‘Fernleaf’ l.multifida – amazing shape and flower forms – and ‘Sweet Lavender’ l. heterophylla. I think you’ll love any of these you can find!

Lavenders do fantastic on slopes, in mixed borders, next to boulders, in herbal gardens, and just about anywhere. I’ve grown them beautifully mixed with roses, just make sure you have the correct drip heads on each, and when planting out a drought tolerant landscape, as I do frequently, they do excellently with those types of plants also.

Smaller varieties can do well in pots – use terra cotta or clay only and make sure they don’t completely dry out. Lavender does attract bees, so bear that in mind, but most good plants do. You will never need to spray these plants with any type of pesticides so let the bees enjoy the feast safely. Dead-heading is recommended, usually in mid-summer. I cut all the old growth back and get all new flowers appearing soon, depending on variety.

Just a quick mention because I think its so important, the Metropolitan Water District is currently offering customers a rebate of $2 per square foot to remove lawn and replace with drought tolerant landscaping.

As always I am available for consultations and designs. Happy gardening!

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