Lovely Lavenders

    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.
    • When fuchsia blooms fade remove the whole flower stem to prevent it from developing seed pods which reduces continued blooming.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Stake or cage tomato plants before they get any larger.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.

Lovely Lavenders

Lavenders are a favorite group of ornamental herbs native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. They are sun loving plants that thrive in hot weather and grow well in California. Their gray or gray-green, aromatic foliage contrasts nicely with the lavender or purple flowers.

Known and admired for their fragrance, lavenders are used in dried or fresh bouquets, potpourri, lavender wands, oil and perfume. Most lavenders dry beautifully for bouquets and attract bees and butterflies. They make fine landscape plants in perennial gardens or mixed with other Mediterranean plants like rockroses, sunroses, catmint, rosemary and germander.

English lavender is the best known for the fragrance of its flowers. Its oil is used in perfume, potpourri and soaps and aromatherapists use it for its healing qualities. It is also good for flavoring ice cream, jams, and pastries. The whole bush is fragrant and it make an attractive 3 to 4-foot shrub.

Cultivars come in a wider range of colors than other lavenders: white, pink, the familiar blue ‘Munstead’, and the darker purple ‘Hidcote’. They are particularly suited to small flower beds and containers, growing to about 18 inches tall.

When French lavender growers crossed English lavender with the longer-stemmed spike lavender, they created hybrids which were larger and produced more oil. These are known as lavandins and they now dominate the world’s lavender oil industry. They also are the best plants for lavender wands because of their long stems. ‘Provence’, ‘Grosso’, and ‘Fred Boutin’ are three fine varieties.

The Spanish lavenders are the show-stoppers in the garden. They are the first to bloom in the spring and their flower petals look like “rabbit’s ears” rising above the large, dark purple spikes. New cultivars, like ‘Bandera Purple’, have mauve-lilac spikes. They make small evergreen shrubs about 30 inches tall and grow very well in containers. Cut off faded flowers to keep new blooms coming.

French lavenders are evergreen shrubs to 30 inches tall and 6 feet wide. They have condensed spikes of purple flowers that bloom for many months. Their leaves are indented and green or gray depending on variety. Plants are hardy to about 20°F.

By planting several varieties you can give your garden months of delightful flowers. The Spanish lavenders are the first to bloom, followed by the English lavenders. The lavandins, ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’, bloom last.

Give lavenders an open exposure with as much sunlight as possible to promote flowers. They require well-drained soil and hate wet feet in the winter. In the summer, established plants need little water. Water plants deeply but infrequently, when the soil is almost dry.

Lavenders in the ground require no fertilizing, but container plants should be given a light feeding in the spring. They grow best in gravelly soils with low fertility. Excess nitrogen encourages soft, succulent growth that is low in oils.

Lavenders are also impressively deer resistant; snails leave them alone, and bees and butterflies love them. Plant lavenders in pots or in the landscape, and then relax and enjoy that fragrance!

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