If you’re a romantic at heart then lavenders probably hold a special place in your garden. That old-world country charm is traditionally their hallmark. But how do you tell the difference between one lavender and the next? And can you break the mould and do something different with them? There are quite a few on the market for ornamental use – so which one is right for you? Questions, questions, questions!
As it’s still early in the lavender season, let’s look at some of the early flowering varieties. So far its been a mild winter in southern Australia with little rainfall and the lavenders are in bloom even earlier than usual. It’s always interesting watching the effect of the climate on the plants every year and when the flowering seasons begin and end. It’s great to see bees still out and about going about their business and spending some quality time with our lavenders.
Having had the opportunity to work closely with some amazing ornamental lavender breeders, let’s have an inside look at what they strive for in their breeding programs. Flower colour, plant form and disease resistance are all factors that rate highly.
Flower colour is an obvious point of difference as it can make such a huge impact on garden design. Using a range of lavenders colours in the garden adds to the rambling country look, but it is also hard to beat a display of one variety planted as a more formal hedge.
The Lavender Lace Collection was bred by PGA and the plants in this range are great examples of early flowering forms. The collection offers plants that have a dense, compact form with aromatic grey foliage. The flowers sit above the foliage so you get the great effect of a dome of colour. There are 3 colour tones to choose from – Lavender ‘Violet Lace’ which has dark violet flower heads, ‘Winter Lace’ with mid lilac blooms and ‘Lavender Lace’ with its lovely soft shades.
The Laces were bred to flower from mid winter onwards to provide an earlier flowering season. They also offer superior disease resistance when compared to many other varieties on the market. Plant them in a full sun location for best results and the best tip for pruning is to never cut right back to woody bare stems where there is no foliage. Regular light tip pruning after flowering will encourage a dense bushy habit and new flower growth for the following season.
Variations in stem length are another example of difference in lavenders. Some varieties hold their blooms close to the foliage whilst in others the colour sits high above the bulk of the plant. Lavender ‘With Love’ will start appearing in garden centres about now and its a great example of a variety that bears its flowers very close to the foliage. It’s a matter of personal preference which you prefer.
‘With Love’ has attractive pink flowers that begin to appear in mid winter and continue throughout spring. It will also spot flower at various times throughout the year. This plant makes a great gift, especially in winter when you can be scratching for a gift for your greenthumb friends. Add some nice hand cream and soap and you can create your own little luxury gift with a romantic touch, or give ‘With Love’ as a gift to mark the birth of a new baby. Everyone likes to plant something beautiful to mark such a special occasion.
Lavenders are perfect around your vegie patch – great for attracting pollinators and brightening up the patch in the cooler months too. Try a hedge of you prefer a more formal look or you can keep them in pots so you can move them around as you like.
Everyone knows the scent of lavender, so don’t forget to bring some sprigs indoors every now and again. Whether you add them to a vase of cut flowers, or hang them up to dry – it’s always refreshing to have them around.
‘The Princess’ Lavender has heralded a new generation in lavender breeding, marked by it’s hot pink flower colour. It’s been crowned the 2014 Plant of the Year so well worth taking a look at – and a great solution for keeping lavender in your garden but introducing a hot new colour. It deserves its own post (coming soon!) but it’s worth mentioning now as you’ll start seeing it appear in garden centres. It’s blooming early this year in many areas due to the mild conditions.
I’d love to hear about your favourite lavender.
[This post is brought to you by Plants Management Australia]