Plant in garden or outdoor container in the spring, when all danger of frost has passed. Lavenders prefer a spot in full sun where there is loamy, well-drained soil. It doesn’t like to be wet, so raised beds or containers with adequate drainage holes work best. Space plants 12-20” apart. Thoroughly water in and apply a 2” layer of mulch on top of the soil to help conserve water and reduce weeds.
Once established, lavender is drought tolerant. Grows well in containers or mixed plantings. Plant height 18-24”. Attracts bees and butterflies. Resists deer and rabbits. Leaves repel mosquitoes.
In colder areas, lavenders should be covered with a good layer of mulch. The key to survival is good drainage – often, winter kill results from wet “feet” not from cold. Unless there is an extended drought, lavender does not need supplemental watering. It does best on rainfall alone. After the first year, pruning your lavender plants in late summer (as soon as the blossoms have faded) will help keep the plants in a well formed shrub shape and less woody.
Lavender, Provence lavandula x intermedia
Provence Lavender is renowned for its unusually large flower heads, which can be used in sweets. Lavender sugar is good on strawberries and other fruit. They make wonderful flower arrangements as well. The plant itself is more rot-resistant than other varieties of lavender. Provence Lavender is known for use in perfumes and is also wonderful for sachets and potpourri. As to medicinal value, lavender is known to soothe irritated skin, symptoms of PMS, and treat scratches.
Lavender’s name comes from the Latin verb meaning “to wash”. It has been used by many to relieve headaches, quiet coughs and soothe digestive systems, but has been prized mostly for its oil content, found in the blossoms, by the perfume industry. What many people don’t know about Lavender is that its leaves are a natural herbicide and will help repel insects like mosquitoes.
Lavender can also be used as a culinary herb in flavored vinegar, jellies, as a flavoring in lavender ice cream, or as an ingredient in lavender short bread. Use a light hand when cooking with lavender. Its flavor is most successful when it lags in the background, hinting that there’s an interesting flavor enhancing your food, but not so bold that you immediately recognize it.
Well-dried flowers will retain their scent for a long time if dried and stored properly. If you harvest leaves and/or flowers just before the flowers are open fully the color will be more vivid when dried. Cutting the blooming stems will encourage more growth and the plants may bloom up to three times during a summer given the right conditions.
Cut the stems in the morning after the dew has evaporated and the humidity is low. The oil content in the blossoms is the most potent at this stage. Hang in bunches in a dry, airy location – or use drying racks or screens when the temperature is high (90 degrees or above is ideal). When completely dry, strip flower heads off stems to use in sachets or potpourri. Store in an air-tight container. To use in flower arrangements leave stems intact. When stems are still pliable they may be woven together to make wreaths, lavender wands, or lavender rope.