|This striking herb can add beauty to any garden.
With its beautiful color, soothing fragrance and subtle flavor,
lavender is an herb that appeals to the senses. For the home
gardener, it's a plant undergoing a revival of late as part
of a mixed-flower or herb garden. It can be treated as a perennial
or an annual; it also makes a good container plant. Lavender
is a non-invasive, hardy herb that comes in a range of colors,
including purple, pink, blue, white and even yellow. It's
suited to both formal and informal garden designs. In northern
zones, it can be trickier to grow but generally flourishes
as long as some winter protection is provided.
At Prince Edward County Lavender in Hillier, Ontario, Rolande
Ann Leblanc and Derek Ryles grow an abundant annual lavender
harvest with over a dozen different cultivars. Mr. Ryles learned
about growing the plant during visits to New Zealand and Provence,
France, where lavender is grown commercially. After a few
years of trial and error on his own lavender farm, he learned
what works and now adheres to three basic rules: "They
need full sun, they like well-drained soil and they need to
be pruned from year one," he says.
The herb, native to the Mediterranean region, thrives in hot,
dry areas of the garden that receive at least six hours of
direct sun daily. Although lavender will grow in most soils,
it prefers one that is sandy and neutral or slightly alkaline,
with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. It should also be well drained.
Mr. Ryles' farm has clay loam soil, so he sows the plants
on slight mounds to allow for run-off. He starts them from
cuttings, which are easier to grow than plants started from
seed. Simpler yet is purchasing lavender plants from a local
nursery, where they are usually available. Spring planting
is best, especially in northern regions, to provide ample
time for it to become well established before winter. Young
lavender plants should be watered frequently; as they become
established, allow the soil to dry out between watering. Older
plants need to be watered only when they show signs of stress.