Lavender in the Garden
Chris Mulder, Barn Owl Nursery
Lavender is a beautiful plant for just about any garden. It does require full sun and dry conditions to thrive. Lavender is a drought tolerant plant, once it is established, it requires very little watering. Lavender can survive dry periods throughout the summer with very little supplemental watering. In fact, when lavender is planted in full sun, with good drainage and plenty of room to grow, it will thrive with very little care.
Lavender is also a useful pollinator. The flowers attract a variety of bees and butterflies. These beneficial insects are helpful to the environment and add interest to our gardens. Lavender plants are virtually pest free. Most hardy lavender plants will require regular pruning to hold their shape.
You can create a lovely garden by planting many different types of lavender. The Spanish or French lavenders, L. stoechas cultivars, have started blooming by the end of April. The flower heads resemble small pinecones with big, colorful wings (bracts) that stand out on top. Around the second or third week of June, the cultivars of English lavender, L. angustifolia, begin to bloom and continue blooming for around three weeks. Some varieties will bloom later and again in the fall. Starting around the second week in July, the later blooming longer stemmed lavandins, L. x intermedias, start to bloom, they continue blooming through most of July. Lavenders have a variety of colors and textures in their foliage. There are various shades of green to soft silver white, a couple of lavandins have variegated leaves; some of the tender lavenders have bright green, highly aromatic foliage with extremely dissected leaves. If you are limited for space, you could grow some of the smallest dwarf or compact lavenders. If you have more room, you could choose from a larger variety of lavenders and lavandins, from the medium size lavenders up to the tallest forms of some of the lavandins. With all these possibilities, you may want to add a wide variety of shapes and sizes to your garden.
There are many different color variations in lavender flowers. They extend from subtle blue gray hues to deeper red purples that include all the different blue and purple flowers in between. You may even choose to grow several white and pink flowering lavenders, to add beauty, fragrance, and contrast in your garden. Lavenders can be planted alone, or incorporated into your existing landscape. Some of the dwarf or tender varieties are suitable for growing in pots. The medium size plants make nice, low borders in the garden, and some of the large lavenders will form beautiful hedges. Different types of lavenders also have different bloom times, from April through October in Oregon. Some will bloom twice in one season. A few tender varieties will bloom continually throughout the summer.
There is a lot to consider when you are picking lavender plants for your unique garden space. The best way to help you decide what you want to grow is to visit different lavender farms and nurseries during the growing season. You will see established lavender plants in the gardens and fields, as well as new plantings. This may help you decide how you want to incorporate lavender with other plants in your garden. You will see lavenders planted with other annual and perennial plants, especially with plants that like the same conditions.
Many drought tolerant plants combined with lavender in the landscape can be very striking. A collection of different perennials and herbs that like the same growing conditions as lavender will also be easier to maintain. Some suggestions for hardy perennial plants to grow with lavender include many herbs like Roman chamomile, germander, hyssop, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, roses, sage, santolina, and thyme. Some tender perennial or annual herbs could include: basil, calendula, lemon verbena, petunias, poppies, scented leaf geraniums, and sunflowers. Other plants can be added for their bright colors and contrast with lavender.
There are so many lavender plants to choose from why limit yourself to the common ones. Enjoy finding new lavenders that will be just right for your garden. Many of the Oregon Lavender Association members, listed on the website, have a nice variety of locally grown lavender plants for sale and they are available to answer your questions.