Lavandula – The Lavenders

Lavenders are great xeriscape perennials for Colorado, which bloom in the heat and dry of July and August. They are native to the rocky hillsides of the Mediterranean region. Here as well, they like good drainage, full sun, our alkaline soil and dry, loamy humus. Lavenders are aromatic herbs with gray foliage, the leaves as well as the flowers being strongly fragrant.

            In the garden they are useful as single specimens, as an edging, as a short hedge or naturalized amongst rocks. Many varieties will grow up to 8500’ with the added benefit that the deer do not find them tasty. Even cold-hardy forms can have winter die-back and it is recommended to cut back not only the dead, but even healthy foliage by one third in order to invigorate the plant.

            Lavandula angustifolia is the most common hardy type of which there are many, many varieties:

Lavandula a. ‘Munstead’ is a semi-dwarf form growing 14”-16” high and wide; it blooms with lavender blue flowers and makes a great edging or low hedge.

Lavandula a. ‘Hidcote’ is another semi-dwarf 12”-15” high and wide with dark purple flowers that hold their color even when dried; also good as an edging or hedge.

Lavandula a. ‘Jean Davis’ is also 12”-15”, supposedly with pink flowers, but they are very pale, to 6500’.

Lavandula a ‘Lavender Lady’ blooms the first year from seed, but possibly not very hardy/enduring.

Lavandula angustifolia, seed grown- there are many variations. I have been growing one for ten years that is 12” high by 4’ wide and has never died back an inch, with lavender blue flowers. Another I got from Rocky Mt. Rare Plants is about 12” high with rich purple flowers and also seems extra hardy.

            Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ is another hardy variety. It is large to 3’x3’ producing tall spikes of light purple flowers that are grown commercially for production of lavender oil and for dried flowers. Said to be more tolerant of moisture and wet winters. I have seen it die back to 6” and still look full by bloom-time; very fragrant.

            As an herb, the flowers of lavender are good both fresh cut and dried, in potpourris, in a bath, with linens and as an essential oil. The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare” meaning “to wash” referring to the use of lavender as an antiseptic, especially for washing wounds. Externally it can also be used for burns, sunburn, muscular pain, cold sores and insect bites. Internally as a tea or as an aroma it is used for depression, anxiety and irritability. Lavender oil can be made very simply by soaking the flowers and leaves in a carrier oil like sweet almond oil for a few weeks and straining; it is amazing how powerful the scent is from such an easy process.