When it comes to plants that earn their keep, lavender is in the top rank. It looks good all year round with its neat mounds of narrow grey leaves and the aroma they impart when brushed against is a great delight. Then those wonderful spires of purple flowers open in summer and can be cut to make into lavender bags for those who like their undies to be pleasantly fragrant.
But choose your lavender variety carefully. My two favourites are ‘Imperial Gem’ and ‘Hidcote’, since they both have rich purple flowers and are sturdy and upright. Their domes of leaf are neat, too.
‘Hidcote Giant’ is much taller and its flower stems flop all over the place, getting in the way of the mower and of passing feet – really irritating! The white and pink forms are interesting, but not nearly so striking as those with traditional lavender-purple flowers. Sometimes it pays to stick with old favourites.
What lavender needs to do well is a spot in full – even scorching – sunshine and a soil that is reasonably well drained. Cold, claggy clay soil will often bring about its demise in winter due to rotting.
In terms of keeping the plants happy, the thing to do is to clip them over after the flowers have been picked or, if you don’t intend to use them, after the flowers have faded. Cut the stems back by a few inches, but not so far that the stems are bare of live foliage.
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