Growing Lavender Plants

The Best Varieties Around

| April/May 1998

  • Photograph by Mark Turner
  • ‘Tucker’s Early Purple’
    Photograph by Andy Van Hevelingen
  • ‘Hidcote’ weaves through this front-yard garden in Ashland, Oregon.
    Photograph by Mark Turner
  • Spanish lavender
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • ‘Munstead’ finds a comfortable home in the hot, dry area between the street and the sidewalk.
    Photograph by Mark Turner
  • ‘Provence’
    Photograph by David Cavagnaro
  • ‘Grosso’
    Photograph by Arthur O. Tucker
  • ‘Silver Frost’
    Photograph by Andy Van Hevelingen

Lavender is ageless and regal like a grandmother, fresh and lively like a teenager. Modest and demure like a Victorian lady’s lacy sachet, yet as sumptuous as an ancient Roman’s scented bath. We may view lavender as a gentle flower, but it went to world wars as an antiseptic and has long been a heavyweight in the fragrance industry. Indeed, this plant of antiquity is as popular now as it ever was, still the stuff of poetry and love affairs but also a sturdy addition to the landscape.

The many-splendored lavender is, of course, not one plant but many. There are about thirty species of Lavandula and many hybrids and varieties, some occurring naturally, some the work of plant breeders. They include both tender and hardy perennials in a diversity of fragrances, leaf and flower colors, shapes, heights, and landscape uses. That’s one reason why lavenders are so seductive: there’s always another new one to get acquainted with.

Are you just starting with lavender and wondering which one to try? Do you grow lavender and want to add more to the garden? Do you grow it as a source of material for crafts or cooking or for the wash of soft but vibrant color it adds to the landscape? Are you looking for a reliable lavender for a difficult climate?

Here we’ve pulled together a selection of some of the best lavenders around. These are favorites of people who know and grow a wide variety, including a botanist and fragrance researcher, an herb crafter, edible-flower chefs, growers, and terrific herb gardeners from the far north to the deep south.

If this were a lavender popularity contest, the winner would clearly be ‘Grosso,’ a hybrid lavandin that has earned wide acclaim for its beauty, vigor, and elegant, clean scent and flavor.

So Fragrant

Theresa Loe, an El Segundo, California, gardener and crafter, harvests lavenders for the penetrating fragrance of their flowers. For making potpourris and wreaths, Loe wants lavenders that hold fragrance and color well on drying, grow well in her Zone 10 garden, and yield abundantly.

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