Do you enjoy making bouquets or wands to scent the house? Maybe you're into the lavender-cooking trend or like to infuse playful summer drinks. Perhaps you recognize the aromatherapy or medicinal qualities of lavender.
In other words, do you love lavender and are frustrated because the bloom season is so short?
Whatever you do with your lavender, you may have planted one and it bloomed for a few weeks. Now you think you have to wait another year to enjoy the beauty and fragrance. That's no fun!
Here's a little secret to prolong your passion during lavender season...
There are actually three groups of lavenders. Members of each group bloom around the same time. However, each group blooms at different times! By planting at least one member of each group, you can enjoy lavender from early spring to mid-summer (and sometimes even longer with some careful watering).
Members of the "Non-English Lavenders" bloom from early to late spring. "English Lavenders" follow and bloom from late spring to early summer. Then summer lavenders, known as Lavendins, continue blooming into the hottest days of summer.
Also called "English Lavender hybrids," the varieties in this group are crosses between the Portuguese and English Lavenders. They all have large gray leaves, grow into large plants, and grow best in the heat. Of course, they are all very fragrant!
In fact, Abriali Lavender was one of the first hybrids. It produced cosmetic-grade oil until Grosso Lavender replaced it with superior oil production. Happily, gardeners can also enjoy Grosso in their gardens, as it's frequently available at garden centers.
White Grosso Lavender, with the same beauty and fragrance, provides a nice background for a mixed flower border. Edelweiss Lavender, small white lavender, mixes nicely in the garden, without a reduction of fragrance.
Hidcote Giant Lavender and Provence Lavender are garden center favorites. Approximately the same size, the Hidcote Giant has darker flowers than the Provence, which has a longer flower wand. Sachets usually contain Provence buds because they are exceptionally easy to remove from the stalk. Other varieties include Grappenhall, Dutch Mill, Seal and Fred Boutin lavenders.
Growing lavenders could not be easier. All thrive in full sun in warm, well-drained, average quality soil. Dampness, in the forms of poor drainage or humidity, will kill them. They grow well in pots with good drainage and fair soil. Prune after blooming to shape the plants and promote future blooming. While lavender is drought resistant, if the soil is dry, water well. Water again only when the soil is dry. Using compost as fertilizer will provide nutrients and mix with the soil to improve drainage.
Lavenders are very attractive to bees. They happily buzz from flower to flower while collecting pollen. Some honey producers site their hives in the middle of lavender fields to produce lavender-scented honey. The honey's aroma is a great way to start the day!
Drying lavender for future use is easy. Cut bundles of wands from the plants without cutting into the older woody part of the plant. Use a rubber band to hold the bundles together and hang upside down in a dark and dry room. The darkness helps retain the bloom color. The bundle should be dry in 7-10 days.
Although lavender's taste isn't the same as its fragrance, lavender dishes appear in many trendy restaurants. Lavender martinis and ice-teas, ice cream, and desserts, accompany lavender sauced meats and vegetarian dishes. After all, it is an ingredient in the herbs de Provence mix and replaces strong tasting herbs such as rosemary, thyme or mint in many cookbooks.
Some folks even use lavender as an antibacterial antiseptic to treat wounds and insect stings.
However, even if you just want to enjoy lavender for the sake of its beauty and ease of maintenance, remember...planting one of each of the three groups lets you love your lavender for three times as long. Enjoy!