Laven­der a good part­ner for roses


LAST week I wrote an ar­ti­cle on roses , this week it is laven­der. In truth I could have com­bined these two plants in one ar­ti­cle as roses and laven­der have con­nec­tions that go back cen­turies. Straw­ber­ries and cream, rhubarb and cus­tard, Lau­rel and Hardy and laven­der and roses they just go to­gether. Laven­der and roses have been cul­ti­vated to­gether dat­ing back as far as the an­cient Egy­tians who used them in their burial rit­u­als and mum­mi­fi­ca­tion process. The Greeks and Ro­mans were also avid grow­ers. Both plants were grown for their scent as well as flower and were planted to­gether not just be­cause they looked fan­tas­tic but be­cause laven­der helped keep the roses healthy by dis­cour­ag­ing aphids.

In to­day’s world we are lucky enough to grow roses and laven­der in our gar­dens for their out­stand­ing beauty as or­na­men­tal plants. There are some thirty nine dif­fer­ent laven­der species but we com­monly grow only half a dozen in our gar­dens. Their na­tive habi­tat is the Mediter­ranean, North Africa and even as far as In­dia. This gives you an in­sight into what grow­ing con­di­tions they pre­fer. Dry, thin poor soils and hot tem­per­a­tures.

Doesn’t sound like your av­er­age Ir­ish gar­den but thank­fully laven­der is some­what adapt­able and will tol­er­ate the wet, fer­tile soils and cool tem­per­a­tures we can of­fer. Within rea­son that is - wet or wa­ter­logged soils no mat­ter how much sun it is get­ting is a recipe for dead plants. So the ad­vice is to plant in a full sun po­si­tion in a well drained lo­ca­tion, you can add some hor­ti­cul­tural grit to the soil if you want, and don’t over feed. Our soils tend to be fer­tile enough with­out ad­di­tional feed­ing for laven­der. Too much feed can lead to ex­ces­sive growth and lack of flower.

The two main va­ri­eties of laven­der we grow in our gar­dens are Laven­dula an­gus­ti­fo­lia and Laven­dula x in­ter­me­dia. Both are hardy and as with all laven­ders they are good sea­side plants. An­gus­ti­fo­lia known as English or True laven­der is more com­pact flow­er­ing at 60cms. In­ter­me­dia flow­ers at 80cms. An­gus­ti­fo­lia has a sweeter scent and is the most prized in the pur­fume world. In­ter­me­dia is said to have a cam­phor smell which I pre­fer to call musty. Both make ex­cel­lent in­for­mal hedges but in­ter­me­dia makes a bet­ter spot or fea­ture plant in a bor­der be­cause of its size. That said laven­ders works best when multi-planted in group in my opin­ion.

Laven­dula stoechas, also known as French laven­der, is slightly less hardy but in Ir­ish con­di­tions it doesn’t tend to be an is­sue. It is even more par­tic­u­lar about hav­ing dry soils and won’t tol­er­ate wet win­ter soils. It can be grown as an an­nual if you don’t mind re­plac­ing ev­ery year and it is of­ten used in sum­mer pot dis­plays. It is quite dis­tinc­tive from an­gus­ti­fo­lia or in­ter­me­dia by its ‘rab­bit ear’ flower heads.

Even more ten­der, even in Ir­ish con­di­tions but par­tic­u­larly lovely, are Laven­dula den­tata and Laven­dula pin­nata. Both of these species should be win­ter pro­tected or grown as an­nu­als. That said I grew Laven­dula den­tata out­side for three years be­fore it su­cumbed to a win­ter frost. I guess what I’m say­ing is ex­pected to lose them each win­ter but as a bonus you may well get a num­ber of sum­mers from them if it stays mild enough.

Laven­der is of course blue/pur­ple but there are pink and white va­ri­eties avail­able in all species, there are also many cul­ti­vated named va­ri­eties avail­able in all species. L. an­gus­ti­fo­lia ‘Mun­stead’ and L. Hid­cote are both ex­cel­lent but L. ‘Im­pe­rial Gem’ is even bet­ter if you can lo­cate it. It’s more com­pact and great for hedg­ing with a very dark flower. L. ‘Lod­don Pink ‘ is of course pink andL. ‘Arc­tic Snow’ is white.

It is vi­tal that laven­der is an­nu­ally pruned. This will stopped it grow­ing woody, make it live longer and flower bet­ter. An­gus­ti­fo­lias should be pruned in mid Au­gust and in­ter­me­dias in early Septem­ber. You have to be cruel to be kind with laven­ders. Don’t just clip off the flow­ers, you need to get into the plant and prune back to the low­est live growth. Don’t how­ever cut back into the old leaf­less growth as laven­ders will not re­gen­er­ate from this.

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