The scent of lavender is in the air. Our good buddy and gardening guru Ciscoe Morris talks about the different varieties of lavender and the best ways to care for it.
With deliciously fragrant flowers, attractive foliage and rock solid drought tolerance, lavender is the perfect shrub for the hot sunny border. Other than making one pine for a visit to sunny Provence, the only other problem with these robust Mediterraneans is their tendency to develop unsightly bare stems and become open in the center. All lavenders share this trait, but it happens much quicker on the taller fast growing varieties. You can delay the process, and keep even the tall growing varieties compact and full for much longer if you shear the foliage back to within ½ inch of the bare stems every spring. Done in March, sheared plants quickly grow back to their natural form and by summer will be covered with the usual massive display of beautiful fragrant blooms. If your lavender has already developed unattractive bare stems and an open center, try cutting a third of the branches right to the base. If new growth appears remove the remaining woody branches. If you're lucky the plant will grow back attractive and full. If on the other hand, little new growth appears, think how much fun it will be to visit your local nursery to pick out a replacement.
Some of Ciscoe's favorite lavenders:
- Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso' : This fast grower features gray green foliage and abundant spikes of fragrant purple flowers from chubby buds Reaches 3.5 ft the first season. Tends to form bare stems so shear hard every spring.
- Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote": Growing only to 2 ft tall, this dwarf has wonderfully fragrant, deep purple flower spikes above mounds of gray-green foliage. Provide great color to the front of shrub borders or spotted into the rock garden. This one is slow to form bare stems.
- Lavandula angustifolia 'Elizabeth' : A new variety, with dense spikes of shocking violet flowers in late summer that shine out among aromatic, silvery-grey leaves. It's fairly compact, so it's slow to form bare stems. Makes a gorgeous, informal flowering hedge, especially for edging a path and border, and brushing against it releases its heady fragrance. The flower-spikes are highly attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.
- Lavandula X chaytorae 'Richard Gray': Incredibly attractive silver foliage on a compact evergreen shrub to only 2 ft tall and spikes of deep purple flowers. Slow to form bare stems. Hardy to at least zero, maybe colder.
- Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence': A small upright lavender to 2 feet tall with gray foliage and lavender-blue flowers on 18 inch spikes from summer into fall. Considered the best culinary lavender for cooking.
- Lavandula stoechas 'Silver Anouk': Known as Spanish lavender the compact, upright, blue-silver foliage is topped with showy heads of dark purple flowers that look like little bunny heads with pale purple ears. This is one of the hardiest of the Spanish lavenders and will withstand temperatures of -10 degrees. Spanish lavenders sometimes seed around, so look for free plants!
Plant your lavender in full sun, and well drained soil. If possible plant one by the front door. Anyone who visits won't be able to resist rubbing their hands through the plant, and your visitor will smell great when they walk in the front door!
Gardening with Ciscoe airs every Saturday morning on KING5.