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June 22, 2004 > Easy Grow Lavender

Easy Grow Lavender

by Pat Kite

If you're looking for a hardy, pretty plant that will grow in Tri-City clay soil, consider lavender. Just give it full sun, water moderately while it settles in, and then an occasional watering depending on summer temperature highs.

Lavender grows from 8 to 36 inches high and equally round. Flowers now range from an almost white to deep purple, and there are lots of them. While spring and summer is main blooming time, if weather is halfway pleasant, you may have flowers all year round. They look very nice in indoor
bouquets, especially when combined with pink roses. You can start lavender from seed, but few people do and fewer seem to succeed. With 2-inch containers starting at about $1.50, and one-gallon pots about $4 to $6, it's easier to get good results with a pre-started plant.

Names for lavender are quite a variable. The 20 different species all begin with Lavandula, but after that it tends to be mix and match. The only reason you want to know who's truly who, at least until you become a lavender connoisseur, is the bigger ones are feistier survivors than the smaller ones.

Bigger ones are English lavender or Common lavender (L. augustifolia, L. latifolia, L. spica, L. vera, L. officinalis), French or Fringed lavender (L. dentata), and Spanish or French lavender (L. stoechas). The littler ones are Compacta, which reaches only 8 inches high, plus Munstead Dwarf and Hidcote at 12 inches high. If you can't find what you want in the one-gallon size, check the herb section. Sometimes lavender is tucked away here.

On occasion, you will find a pink-flowering lavender, called variably Jean Davis, Hidcote Pink, Loddon Pink and Rosea. Mine didn't survive long. There's also a white-flowering variety which I am now trying out. Lavender likes company. Just use plants with similar sunny, low-water, easy-grow requirements: cistus or rockrose, rosemary, santolina (also called lavender cotton) and verbena. Lavender has many other fun uses besides garden ease. Lavandula means "to wash" in Latin, and the flowers were popular with early Greeks and Romans for scenting soaps. Today both English and French lavender are used extensively in the perfume world, as well as creams, soaps and lotions.

If you are interested in drying plants for indoor use, lavender is a good starting place. Pick when flowers are first showing color but before they open. Hang to dry in a cool, dry place. For potpourri, sachet, lavender fans, and other gift or craft items, check out your local library craft section, plus the garden section under "Herbs."

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