Secrets to Growing Lavendar

Secrets to Growing Lavendar

Lavender is an extraordinarily versatile plant, known mostly for its numerous herbal applications, but it also has great value as a garden plant. Lavender farmer, Cynthia Sutphin from the Cape Cod Lavender Farm provided us with numerous tips for growing lavender in your backyard.

The silver-grey foliage and fragrant, long-blooming flowers in purple and blues make Lavenders an elegant addition to your garden. In addition, they are extremely drought tolerant, and an evergreen herb so it provides winter interest and has many uses besides being decorative. Cynthia recommends that lavender can be a great choice for areas that can be tough on plants like along a pathway or driveway, near an entrance or on a sunny bank, as a low hedge, or even in a more traditional perennial border.

She recommends that you need to satisfy three basic conditions for lavender to thrive in your garden:

1) You need full sun, at least 6 hours.
2) Lavender tolerates a variety of soil types, but its number one requirement is excellent drainage; sandy loam soils are ideal, clay soils less so.
3) Sweet soil, not acidic. You can amend your soil with lime twice a year as we do at the farm to create a sweeter soil.

These four hardy varieties are favorites at the Cape Cod Lavender Farm.
• Lavendula angustifolia – Common or English Lavender – This is the most common variety of lavender and it grows 2-3′ tall and wide. It is the classic lavender colored blossoms and the easiest to grow for beginners. Hardy to zone 5 it doesn’t always fair as well along the Gulf Coast where it must fight the muggy summers.
• L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ – Dwarf English Lavender – This variety has paler color blooms and only grows to 12-18″ tall and wide. Great for a miniature garden or in a container. I used mine for edging a more narrow flower bed and had plenty of room to plant other perennials behind it.
• L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ – Hidcote Lavender – The mid-sized lavender this variety has deep purple blooms (almost navy blue) and grows 18″ tall and wide. (L. angustifolia ‘Pink Hidcote’ a pink version)
• L. angustifolia ‘Jean Davis’ – has the same compact growth habit as ‘Hidcote’. But the bloom color is a very soft pink. Foliage is blue-green and has a slightly more “airy’ look than Hidcote.

Once you have figured out the perfect site and kind of lavender for your garden. Keeping it looking good is easy. Lavender grows well without added fertilizer, although you can enrich your soil with organic matter such as compost, and give plants a little organic fertilizer in the spring.
At the Cape Cod Lavender Farm they cut back their lavender plants 2-3 times a year to keep the plants healthy (lavenders can get woody stems) and to harvest lots of fragrant cuttings. Cynthia recommends in the Spring you should cut foliage tips back by one third. After new foliage has grown in, prune again by about one third to give plants a nice mounded shape, and to encourage fuller growth at the center of the plant. Deadheading flowers can be quite time consuming, so the best thing to do is to shear the plants when most of the flowers are finished in late July.

One of the wonderful qualities of lavender is that you can use the cuttings for many things around your home, here are just a few ideas:

• Throw dried lavender stems to a dying fire in the fireplace.
• Add a bowl of lavender buds to a table by your front door to greet guests
• Boil 3 tablespoons of lavender buds in a quart of water. After steeping and cooling, transfer to a spray bottle to spray pets and their sleeping areas to freshen the area.
• Using lavender sachets in clothes closets, drawers, and linen closets to repel insects and moths.
• Add lavender clippings as a mulch to repel insects in the garden and keep mildew at bay.
• Sprinkle flower buds under couch cushions and other places adding even more lavender fragrance when you later vacuum them up.
• Lavender produces an essential oil that has an inherent antibiotic action, the scent also helps you sleep and can alleviate motion sickness.
• Add a drop of lavender oil to a paper towel and placing it in the bottom of the laundry hamper, or to the final rinse of delicate, or to your spray bottle when ironing to add a lasting fragrance.
• Lavender stems, leaves and flowers are edible and can create a unique flavor to certain dishes, breads, and desserts.

Special Thanks:
Cynthia Sutphin
Cape Cod Lavender Farm
Island Pond Trail Harwich, MA 02645