Beginner's Guide to Growing Lavender and Using Lavender

We take a look at how a few gardeners have used the appealing lavender plant without restraint in the landscape.

| February/March 1994

By itself, a lavender plant doesn’t look like much. Its foliage is skimpy and gray, its flower stalks lanky, its growth habit unremarkable. The flowers themselves, at least on the common English varieties, are so understated that you have to watch closely to see when buds become blooms.

But stand among a host of lavenders on a sunny day in June and let yourself be transported. Breathe deeply and envision purple fields in Provence, a cottage garden in the Cotswolds, cupboards stacked with fragrant sun-dried linens. Lavender’s penetrating, clean fragrance can make any crusty old gardener think sweet thoughts.

The pleasures of a garden full of lavender transcend its scent. Though a single specimen is generally unprepossessing, in numbers lavender becomes a versatile, dependable, ornamental landscape element in all but the most severe or soggy climates.

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Its smudgy gray-green and gray-lavender foliage can serve as a foil for brighter, showy flowers or complement soft pastels. Its upright growth habit can provide a backdrop for lower-growing plants, its bushy form lend fullness and contour to the middle border. And with flower colors ranging from deep violets and gentle mauves to baby blues, pinks, and white, foliage smooth or hairy, linear or fernlike, monochrome or variegated, and height from less than a foot to 4 feet tall or more, an entire garden of lavenders is an enchanting possibility.

Using lavender lavishly in the garden not only can create sweeps of intense fragrance and drifts of soft color but also ensures an abundance of flowers at harvest time for all the other uses lavender lends itself to. We’ll not talk here of perfumes, potpourris, sachets, wands, bouquets, wreaths, soaps, teas, jellies, cosmetics, or baths, though all these applications and more are possible for those who grow an abundance of lavender. Rather, let’s look at how a few gardeners have used this appealing plant without restraint in the landscape.

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