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Everyone loves lavender. As a garden plant, it’s reliable, hardy and attractive, with a profuse display of soft-coloured flower spikes for months on end. As a perfume, it has a fresh, spicy and irresistible scent. As a healing adjunct, it soothes aches and pains, and relieves nervous tension.
Just about everyone knows the English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) with its soft grey-green leaves and strongly scented mauve flowers, but there are numerous other species and varieties. They are excellent as cottage garden plants, as semi-formal hedges, and as feature plants in Mediterranean-style courtyards.
WHAT LAVENDER TO GROW WHERE
-Most lavenders grow well in a Mediterranean climate, with a wet winter and dry summer.
-In the subtropics, L. dentata (French lavender) and L. stoechas (Italian lavender) will tolerate humidity.
-Beware of using L. stoechas in inland semi-arid areas as it can be a serious weed.
-L. angustifolia (English lavender) produces the purest oil. Some varieties of L. angustifolia are purer than others.
-For low or medium hedges, use L. angustifolia or L. dentata varieties.
Lavenders are hardy plants that can adapt to many situations, but they are at their best in the following conditions:
-Well-drained, reasonably fertile soil
-Alkaline soil…if acid, apply lime
-They tolerate dry conditions, but grow better if watered in dry weather
-Prune hard once or twice a year to keep them in shape and increase their longevity. Cut back up to one-third of the bush after flowering. Do not prune into old wood.
HOW TO USE LAVENDER
A bag made from an open weave cloth and filled with lavender seeds will deter moths and other insects from your clothing and linen.
In cooking, use the flowers to flavour bread, cheese, honey, and mustards.
Sprinkle a few drops of oil over the pillow to promote sleep, or rub the oil directly onto the skin to soothe muscular tension.
Lavender essential oil can be added to the bath or used in oil burners.
MORE ON LAVENDER
Try searching http://www.acsgarden.com
Australian Correspondence Schools offer specialist courses in growing lavenders as well as general courses on growing herbs. For more information contact www.hortcourses.com