Lavender is one of our oldest and best loved plants. Its scent and colour always conjures up peaceful and relaxing images, so it’s no surprise that it has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for insomnia.
Despite its associations in this country with cottage gardens and stately homes such as Hidcote Manor, the plant itself is a native of hot Mediterranean and Arabic countries.
Lavender has been with us for thousands of years, when Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened after 3,000 years, traces of lavender were found inside – still with a very faint scent. It is the Romans who are credited with first bringing lavender into Britain; they used it for medicinal purposes and for relaxation, bathing in water scented with lavender. In fact the name comes from ‘lavare’ which in Latin means to wash.
There are 28 species of Lavender grown either for their decorative, medicinal or culinary purposes. English Lavender ‘Lavendula officinalis’ is commonly used for making scents and soaps. French Lavender, L. dentate, is kept for cooking – the darker the colour, the more intense the flavour. In aromatherapy lavender is used to treat migraines, irritability and depression. It is also supposed to repel fleas! And if these benefits aren’t enough, Lavender is extremely popular with wildlife – especially bees.
Equally happy in a container or planted in a border, Lavender plants enjoy being in full sun. They require little watering, except in a really hot spell and prefers poor, well drained soil. Almost the perfect plant for the part-time gardener!
If planting into a container, good drainage is essential, as Lavender will not tolerate sitting in water. Fill the bottom of the pot with pebbles or broken up polystyrene to allow water to run through. (Polystyrene will also make the pot lighter and easier to move). Stand the container on pot feet to help drainage.
To prevent Lavender from becoming ‘leggy’ prune back hard in the autumn, within a hands distance of woody growth.
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