Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 3
   June 2011
   Lovely Lavender

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.

Growing Lavender
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.

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