Now that the weather is warming up its amazing how quickly everything is filling out and I’m relieved to see that everything appears to have survived the winter. As a gardener and wildlife enthusiast I love seeing and hearing bees busy buzzing around the garden, they’re enjoying my pulmonarias and other spring flowering plants. I’m very conscious of the importance of bees to us all and how their numbers are declining so like many other gardeners I plant ‘bee friendly’ plants such as lavenders.
Lavenders are herbs that are wonderfully aromatic, producing flower spikes during the summer months and becoming ‘bee magnets’ giving bees a real feast of pollen in summer. They are also very colourful when in flower, highly perfumed, tactile and versatile plants that can be grown from seed, cuttings or bought ready to plant out.
They make great low growing hedges, look lovely planted in flower or shrub borders and containers. For a contempary look they can be clipped and shaped into a ball. Their flowers can be used for cooking, pot pourri, insect repellent and oil.
Very popular lavenders are the English lavenders Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’. The first has a nice compact growth habit with narrow grey green leaves and produces masses of small fragrant purple-blue flower spikes from July. It grows about eighteen inches in height with a spread of about two feet.
The latter is a little slightly larger than ‘Munstead’, with a compact habit, silvery grey leaves and fragrant deep purple flower spikes. They both need moderately fertile, well-drained soil in a sheltered sunny position. They’re fairly drought tolerant, but will need to be watered regularly until established. To keep them looking good cut back by about half when the flowers fade in late summer, in spring they can be pruned down a little further where there is new growth.
There are lots of lavenders including varieties bearing pink or white flowers.
French lavenders are very pretty and tend to flower earlier than the English lavenders. Their flowers are bigger and bolder with bracts at the ends that look like little ears. Unlike the English lavenders they only need a light trim after flowering and are a little tenderer.
If you intend to dig out an old ‘past its best’ lavender at the end of the summer why not leave it with its flower spikes on so the goldfinches might enjoy the little seeds during the winter.