We know this Mediterranean herb more for its scent and medicinal uses than for its culinary attributes. Its Latin name means "to wash," which refers to its use in baths, beds, and clothing. The oil has been used medicinally as a disinfectant, antiseptic, and to soothe migraines. This herb also adds a slightly sweet flavor to breads, soups, salads, and desserts. We know it as lavender.
Lavender is a beautiful plant in the landscape with gray-green leaves and sweet scented, colorful flowers. There's nothing like viewing and smelling a field of lavender in full bloom in June and July.
And you don't have to go to Provence to see lavender. We can grow it here. The first step is to choose hardy varieties. While there are Spanish, French, and Portuguese types, the English and lavandin hybrids are the toughest and hardiest. We've had good success with the varieties Munstead and Hidcote.
What's as important as hardiness is planting lavender in well-drained soil in full sun, in a protected spot such as near your house. Lavender has few problems except rotting in heavy, wet soils. Replace clay soil with a sandy loam for good water drainage. Grow lavender where it's protected from cold winter winds.
Finally, cover lavender with shredded bark mulch or evergreen boughs in late fall to protect plants in winter. All you really need is the bottom stems to survive the winter.
In spring, remove the mulch and prune back to live growth. Add compost as a fertilizer. By early summer you'll be looking at flowers and lush leaves for cooking and decorating. Prune again after flowering.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about watermelons. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.