Lavender is a Mediterranean plant that’s benefited from the recent hot, dry spell we’ve been enjoying in Scotland.
I simply must have several lavender plants throughout the garden. One little bush straddles a dyke round the side of the house and over the last week or two the hot sun has intensified the powerful whiff of perfume from the blue flowers.
The easiest species to grow in Scotland is Lavandula angustifolia. Several different varieties are available with deep purple, pale lilac, pink or white flower spikes emerging from mounds of grey green leaves. The flowers of French lavender, L. stoechas, have erect bracts on top that look like rabbit’s ears. It’s a little less hardy and, here, is short-lived.
Although lavender has been cultivated for millenia and there are many English references to it, gardeners in this country used to show little interest in the plant. The cheeky among us might even suggest the meaning of the word lavender was an offput. Based on the Latin verb ‘to wash’, it had normally been used in bathing water, to freshen up linen in the airing cupboard, for pot-pourris or as antiseptic.
Nowadays, lavender is often classified as a herb in garden centres and catalogues even though it has few culinary uses and is simply an ornamental, and a good one at that. As earlier Scots gardeners found, it does beautifully as low hedging for formal beds and could work in vegetable gardens. And believe me, there is no more appealing colour combination than a blue lavender bush set beneath the lemony yellow blooms of my medium-sized climber ‘Gold Bush’.
Light, very free-draining soil is the key to success with lavender and it also does well in pots with coarse grit generously added to compost. I have two large containers stunningly framing a gateway leading from a patio to the kitchen garden.
Plants need tidying up after flowering. You can trim large plants and hedges with shears, but I use secateurs to trim flower stalks by the handful and lightly shape at the same time.
Lavenders won’t stand hard pruning and It’s said they won’t sprout from old wood but you may find some quite gnarly branches, especially any growing horizontally, do sprout new growth. So let the new shoot get established and then cut back the old wood.
If you’d like to walk through fields of lavender, visit Scottish Lavender Oils of Tarhill Farm, Kinross, open 7 days a week for visits. They sell lavender products not plants.
Plant of the week
Tomato Berner Rose. A very tasty heritage tomato with large ribbed pink-red fruit. The thin skinned tomatoes from this vigorous plant are nearly as large as beefsteak varieties, but unlike their larger relatives mature nearly as quickly as standard cordons. This makes it easy to grow them in many parts of Scotland.