Better recognition needed for lavender, please
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Better recognition needed for lavender, please

I WOULD like to make a case for the growing of yet more lavender.

While many know it and grow it, it still fails to gain the kind of popularity reserved for roses.

It deserves better recognition, but with climate change and warmer drier summers now a reality, it has the potential to become the choice of gardeners of every persuasion and ability.

The variety I would urge upon readers is sold as angustifolia Hidcote for it has a rare freedom of flower, an appealing grey-green foliage and a gentleness of outline which is admirable.

To cap all this, it has a wonderful perfume. On a summer’s evening, the scent of lilies may be the most soothing and uplifting in the whole garden, but as they fade, it is to the lavender we must look for a lasting continuation of a powerfully fragrant perfume.

There are those who are snobbish about plants and say that for six months of the year lavender looks dreary in its grey garb and dumpling stance, but they also criticise roses for much the same kind of reasons.

To really enjoy lavender, you should know the best varieties and how to place them for optimum results.

Because all are xerophytes-that is, plants adapted to heat and drought, they should always be planted in hot sunny conditions, even those subjected to wind.

Their narrow, often hairy leaves and characteristic oils are used as a natural protection against desiccation so drying winds are never going to be a problem.

On the other hand, excess moisture can be a big problem especially during winter and where plants are grown on heavy soils which are slow to drain.

Lavenders live fast, perform willingly, and die young.

After five to six years they move quickly into old age, becoming drawn and leggy and very prone to fungal disease (known as ‘shab’) which cause shoot and branch dieback.

At this point, many growers struggle on with half, or even quarter of a plant (in the hope that it will recover) but their efforts never prove worthwhile. Best to dump them at this start and to renew with younger specimens.

The progression to old age can be delayed somewhat by careful clipping in spring and again after flowering in August.

Any number of those clippings can be used as material for new plants. Simply place these into a short, V-shaped drill which has been lightened with sand or horticultural grit.