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Plant of the month May 2010

By Plant for Life. Lavender is a popular garden plant whether in the border or grown in a container. It is an easy herb to grow on its own or as a companion plant with roses or other plants of your choice.

It is loved by bees and humans alike and emits a beautiful scent when you brush past it. There is lavender plants that will let you choose from the full spectrum of colours to create a uniform hedge or just have a collection of different shades. Lavender plants make an excellent edge to a rose border or herb or vegetable garden. They will help soften the lines of hard landscaping such as terraces or patios and wherever it is planted lavender brings structure, colour and most significantly its alluring scent.

Plant of the month - may 2010 lavender

Photo courtesty of Merilen Mentaal's Romantic seaside garden

Click here to see all the lavender (or Lavandula) listed in Shoot

Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean but grows well in our cooler climate. There are two main types of lavender grown in the UK: Lavandula stoechas (French lavender) and Lavandula intermedia (English lavender). The most recognised cultivars are Lavender 'Hidcote' and Lavender 'Munstead' but there are so many more to pick from.

Lavender plants are pretty hardy and providing that they are kept neat and tidy with an annual trim just before growth starts in early spring. Lavender pruning does introduce debate, but it is generally agreed that regular trimming to just below the base of the old flowering wood is best repeated every year. This will encourage repeat flowering and the plants will look the better for it. If not pruned they are inclined to get "leggy" and woody.

Lavender to thrive and do well, needs a position that is well drained and in full sun. "Wet feet" in winter is not a good idea. The soil should be slightly acidic and believe it or not lavender will cope with heavy clay and poor sandy soils. Lavender is happy by the seaside and other exposed positions in the garden. It is possible for lavender to grow in very chalky soils providing there is plenty of well rotted humus dug in before planting. Once established they will tolerate poorer conditions. In heavier soils the addition of sharp grit can often help improve the drainage which is the important factor for lavender growing.

Cultivars of Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula intermedia are the hardiest. In colder areas less hardy species such as Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula dentata should be grown in a sheltered, well drained sunny position or in containers that can be over-wintered under cover.

Adequate spacing is essential to provide good air circulation. For informal plantings allow up to 90cm between plants. When grown as an edge, plant about 30cm apart or 45cm for taller cultivars. Remember that lavenders are drought tolerant only when they have become established. Do water at the time of planting and at intervals until you can see that they have become settled.

By Plant for Life.