As the summer is now upon us and, with a bit of luck, you may be getting a little bit of sunshine in your corner of the country, you’ll no doubt be chomping at the bit to get out in to the garden with a Pimm’s or two and enjoy the sights and smells of the season. And nothing looks and smells quite so much like summer in an English garden as Lavender. So, if you’re looking to enhance your garden with a touch of lavender but have no idea which is the best plant to buy, then look no further than our handy little guide to help you choose the right lavender for your garden.
Believe it or not, as quintessentially English as lavender is, it actually originates in the Mediterranean, primarily the Pyrenees and, as such, is a lover of dry and sunny positions with well-draining soil. Undeterred by this love of sun, English gardeners have been cultivating Lavender for both aesthetic and therapeutic reasons for centuries and this surprisingly hardy plant can thrive in almost any condition that the British climate throws at it.
There are hundreds of different variations of Lavender available and the choice can sometimes seem daunting. To keep things simple, here at Jersey Lavender we sell two main varieties of lavender plants;
Hardy English Lavender
As the name suggests, this is one the most robust varieties of Lavender, making it particularly suited to the English climate, and is the variety that most people will be familiar with. English Lavender, or Common Lavender as it is also known, is also famed for producing the softest and highest quality oil for perfume and aromatherapy use, making it a particular favourite of ours.
Decorative French Lavender
French Lavender is termed decorative because of the distinctive ‘ears’ on the top of the flowers and, although not a variety that you are likely to come across as often, French Lavender is becoming increasingly popular due to its longer flowering season. Although not as hardy as English Lavender, this variety will flower all summer long and requires little watering.
All lavender varieties require a certain amount of direct sunshine, although they will be able to sustain longer periods of shade. English Lavender in particular will thrive in a warm shady spot, providing there are at least some hours of the day when it sits in sunlight, so is more suited than French Lavender to gardens with little direct sun. If you are lucky enough to have a garden that is bathed in sunshine for most of the day, on the other hand, then both English and French Lavender will do well.
All types of lavender prefer a chalky and alkaline soil and it is particularly important that this lean type of soil is used when growing the plants for their essential oils, as a purer oil will ultimately be achieved. If your garden has a particularly heavy soil, like clay or clay loam, then don’t despair, the life of your lavender plants can be extended by mixing organic matter into the soil before planting to make it lighter.
Again, all lavender plants require good drainage and it is important that you establish how well your garden drains before planting lavender. French Lavender will do well in gardens with good drainage or particularly rocky ground and it is especially suitable for rock gardens. English Lavender will survive better in gardens with less efficient drainage although, if your garden is particularly boggy, planting the lavender on a mound of stones will ensure better survival.
Of course, if your garden has no suitable growing conditions and is beyond all hope, then lavender is a particular favourite for patio pots or window boxes. Here, it is important to select a suitable compost, one that is alkaline and not too heavy, and to ensure that there is sufficient drainage to support the plants. The additional beauty of containers is that they can be brought indoors during the harsh English winters, thereby giving your lavender plants a better chance of surviving the driving rain and the hard frosts.
Established lavender plants are often more hardy than ones that are young, so another option would be to grow your plants in containers until they are old enough and then transfer them to a suitable spot in the garden.
If you require any further information or would like more detailed advice on the best growing conditions for our lavender plants then please contact us and we will be happy to advise you.