Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender in the garden

Of Mediterranean origin, lavender is a large evergreen shrub, up to a couple of meters high, with leaves of the typical silver gray color, and lavender-colored summer flowers, or lilac-blue, gathered in short apical spikes. The flowers and foliage give off an intense fragrance when they are rubbed between the fingers, a perfume used since ancient times in cosmetics and detergents.
The botanical name is lavandula angustifolia, but it has many synonyms, such as lavandula officinalis or lavandula vera, which recall the use made of it for its mild therapeutic effects. It is a shrub of easy cultivation; there are also particularly compact varieties, which allow it to be grown even in a small vase on the terrace.
In the garden, particular varieties are also used, often hybrids between the lavender angustifolia and the lavender stoechas, which give rise to large roundish shrubs, with particular compact spikes and provided with small wings at the top; the lavender stoechas, or marine lavender, is not very fragrant, and unfortunately sometimes it leaves this trait to garden hybrids, which are therefore very decorative, but not always give us the intense aroma of real lavender.

How to grow it

The true lavender is a shrub that does not need great care, and in fact it is commonly cultivated in the Mediterranean gardens; it is planted in a sunny corner of the garden, even in the common garden soil.
It needs sun and a very well drained soil, the excessive humidity of the soil, especially in winter, can cause the rapid deterioration of the shrubs.
The young plants which have just stayed at home may need watering in the summer, in the event of drought, but let's water only if the soil is definitely very dry, and especially if our lavender is cultivated in a pot; as far as plants for a long time are concerned, we can forget about them, they will be satisfied with the water given by the bad weather.
They are very rustic shrubs, which also bear severe and prolonged frosts, and do not even fear the summer heat; occasionally, very intense frost can ruin the outer branches, which will be pruned in the spring.

Pruning and other tips

To maintain a round shrub, similar to those of the famous Provencal cultivations, it is necessary to periodically prune our lavender, which otherwise with time will tend to develop in height, leaving the stem at the bottom completely devoid of vegetation; pruning is done when the ears of flowers begin to wither. In this way it is also possible to collect the flowers, which when dried will keep their scent for a long time, even for years.
There are about thirty species of lavender, and numerous hybrids; not all species and hybrids are completely rustic; there are species, such as the lanata, with broad and broad leaves, especially with very decorative flowers and varieties with flowers of various colors, from deep pink to pure white. Before cultivating the hybrid purchased in the nursery as a common lavender, we ask the nurseryman the cultural needs, because it is likely that the hybrid with strange leaves and particular flowers that has attracted us in the nursery theme of intense frost, and should be covered during the winter.

Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia: The merits of lavender

If as an ornamental plant it gives us so many flowers, an intense perfume and a rustic shrub, we cannot forget what lavender gives us as a medicinal plant; in fact, in addition to the uses in the perfume industry, the lavandula is also used for the relaxing and calming uses that its oil has, which is often added to the evening bath water, to combine good sleep.
The plant is also used in herbal medicine, aromatherapy and homeopathy, taking advantage of the beneficial calming effects, but also bactericides, analgesics and antidepressants.
The essential oil of lavender is used, but the flowers in herbal tea or decoction are also used; the whole plant is used, dried, to flavor foods; generally not alone, but mixed with sage and rosemary, to constitute what are commonly called Provencal herbs, which are used on meat, fish and vegetables.