Lavender is a fragrant addition to summer gardens
Beloved for fragrance, lavender is a colorful charmer in summer gardens and containers
Rosemary may be known as the herb of remembrance, but it is the unmistakable perfume of lavender that transports me to days gone by: A stroll through an English garden, an after shave my dad once wore, a sleep pillow handcrafted by a neighbor.Skip to next paragraph
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The evocative fragrance alone makes it worth growing, but lavenders are also wonderful companion plants. They’re perfect choices for edging and low hedges, and create colorful accents in the garden as well as in containers.
And, of course, they make a powerfully fragrant combo when planted alongside roses.
Lavender's long history
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used to perfume, cleanse, and heal for 2,500 years. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their dead in shrouds dipped in lavender.
The Greeks employed it to deter all manner of ills from insomnia to insanity. Its fresh scent made it a favorite with the Romans who used the herb extensively in bath water.
Lavender has been a part of the medicinal garden as far back as 77 AD. During the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks cultivated the plant for a variety of uses, including banishing head lice.
Fictional monk detective Brother Cadfael grew lavender in his walled herb garden. He noted that it was “helpful for all disorders that trouble the head and spirit, and its scent is calming.”
The Elizabethans scattered lavender on the floors to perfume the house, deter insects in the linen closet and mask displeasing odors. It was also sold on the streets of London by vendors who claimed branches of lavender fastened to each wrist could ward off the bubonic plague.
About the same time, lavenders were used in elaborate knot gardens designed to resemble intricate embroidery designs of the day.
The right lavender for the right zone
A number of species are cultivated throughout the world but our best performers are English, Spanish, French, and the lavandins (a class of lavender hybrids). However, not all will succeed everywhere in the country.
While English lavender (L. angustifolia) is winter-hardy to Zone 5 and comfortable in hot, arid areas of the West, it generally will not tolerate the steaming summers of the Deep South.