Lavandula angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’
Evergreen, Herbs, Shrubs
Native to the Mediterranean region, Canary Islands, and Madeira. Prized for fragrant lavender or purple flowers, often set off by colorful bracts.
Blossom spikes of some species are used for perfume, aromatic oil, soap, medicine, sachets. Aromatic gray, gray-green, or yellowish green foliage. Use as an informal hedge or edging, in herb gardens, or in borders with plants needing similar cultural conditions—sunrose (Helianthemum), catmint (Nepeta), rosemary, santolina, or verbena.
Where winters are too cold for year-round growth outdoors, lavenders are good container plants for sunny windows. When they are grown outside in marginal climates, self-sown seedlings often show up the summer after the parent plants die from winter cold. Most lavenders attract bees and butterflies.
Lavenders need well-drained soil and little or no fertilizer. They will succeed in cool coastal or mountain climates or inland valleys and deserts but succumb to root rot in areas where heat is accompanied by humidity. Fernleaf sorts (L. canariensis, L. minutolii, L. multifida) as well as L. allardii, L. ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’, and L. heterophylla are tender, but they’re more resistant to heat and humidity than English lavenders and lavandins (L. angustifolia, L. intermedia).
Give good air circulation. If mulching around lavenders, use pea gravel, decomposed granite, or sand rather than organic materials. To keep plants neat and compact, shear back by one-third to one-half (even by two-thirds) every year immediately after bloom.
If plants become woody and open in the center, remove a few of the oldest branches; take out more when new growth comes. If this doesn’t work, dig and replace.
For sachets and potpourri, cut flower spikes or strip flowers from stems just as blossoms show color; dry in a cool, shady place. Dried spikes make fragrant wreaths, swags, and wands. Dried flowers can be used to scent water or soap. To flavor ice cream, pastries, or salads, you can use the fresh flowers of L. angustifolia and L. intermedia varieties; other species contain harmful chemicals that should not be ingested.
Since lavenders have been in cultivation for centuries and some species cross easily, many varieties and hybrids have arisen. Names are often confused, so some of the variety names that follow may not agree with those you see on nursery labels.
Be aware that only cutting-grown stock is truly uniform. Several varieties originally propagated by cuttings are now grown from seed (for example, plants labeled Hidcote Strain and Munstead Strain); seedlings vary in color and growth habit.
This is the sweetly fragrant lavender used for perfume and sachets. Common name notwithstanding, it is native not to England but to mountains of southern Europe. It’s the hardiest, most widely planted species. In Zones 2 and 3, it is shorter=lived, lasting only 3 to 5 years. Most varieties are fairly low growing, forming mounds of foliage from 8 in. to 2 ft. high and wide. Narrow, smooth-edged, gray-green or silvery gray leaves to 2 in. long. Unbranched flower stems rise 4–12 in. above foliage, and are topped with 1–4-in.-long spikes of flowers in white, pink, lavender blue, or various shades of purple. Blooms mainly appear from early to midsummer, but some varieties repeat in late summer or fall.
Very compact mound of medium green leaves to just 6 in. high and 12 in. wide. Bright violet-blue flowers rise 6 in. above foliage.
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