Lavender Brings Fragrant History To Your Garden

Today we’ll take a look at a very old plant with a long and storied history, but one that deserves a fragrant place in your garden.

Lavender was definitely familiar to early Pilgrims arriving in America in the 1600s, and no doubt it helped to mask some of the less pleasant odors during their long sea voyages. But growing and using lavender goes back much further than that.

The word lavender has its origin in the Latin word “lavare†meaning to wash and has many connections with the concept of cleansing. The ancient Phoenicians used lavender in their bath water and as an air freshener. Greeks were said to anoint their feet with lavender oil, no doubt as an early odor eater!

Egyptians were big fans of lavender and evidence has been found in excavated tombs to show that they used it as part of the mummification process. Wealthy Egyptians would wear a compress on their heads, made of lavender that would create a pleasant perfume as it warmed with their body heat.

Lavender has also been used for many hundreds of years as a healing and calming herb. Roman texts describe its use in treating everything from insect bites to stomach and kidney ailments. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have drank lavender tea to treat migraine headaches and that popularized the rapid growth of lavender farms in England.

Growing lavender in the USA is not difficult and will reward you with the delightful sight and smell of this revered plant, even if you don’t plan to anoint your feet with its oil. However, note that lavender will NOT grow in highly humid areas such as south Florida. If you live in USDA zone 5 or further north, you probably won’t get a lush thick lavender hedge as you would in more temperate areas, but lavender is a hardy perennial and will bloom anew in the spring.

If you’d like to see a brief video that Cheryl made with tips for growing lavender, you can find it on YouTube at

Ready to enjoy your own lavender? Try these…

Lavender du Provence

A beautiful addition to any garden path, container, or border plant, it has a strong fragrance and is long blooming. The Provence Lavender is a Lavandin variety which refers to the hybrid lavenders commonly grown in France and cultivated for the oil and dry buds. A wonderful attraction for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds,.the du Provence Lavender has pale blue to purple blooms, growing to two foot with a two foot spread. Zones 6 to 9.

Lavender Grosso

The most fragrant of all the lavenders, Grosso Lavender is a hybrid variety commonly grown in France and used in scenting perfumes and making sachets. An abundance of long spikes of deep violet flowers standing well above the grey/green compact foliage makes the Grosso a remarkable addition to any garden. Additionally, the Grosso is the most cold-hardy of the French hybrid lavenders. Zones 6 to 9.

Lavender Hidcote Blue

If you’re looking for a lower-growing lavender variety, try this one. Hidcote Blue, a.k.a. lavender angustifolia, is a free flowering dwarf variety that produces deep purple flower spikes in late spring and summer. Lavender Hidcote Blue is great for a dwarf hedge, edging or for massing. As a famous English Lavender, the Hidcote’s blooms are distilled to provide one of the purest lavender scents. Zones 5 to 10.

Lavender Munstead

Munstead is a many-branched, somewhat woody, perennial that grows much like a small shrub. The narrow leaves of the Lavender Munstead are about 2 inches long and have a pleasing grey-green color. Munstead Lavender has small, heavily fragrant lavender flowers on long-stemmed, slender spikes. As a favorite English Lavender, the Munstead is a top choice for the edible buds. Zones 5 to 9.

Lavender grows best in rocky, dry, sunny places with an abundant amount of lime in the soil. The scent is strongest in dry, sunny locations. You can cut faded whole flower spikes when the first flowers begin to open, and then dry them for use in sachets in the home.

Cheryl and I love the calming aroma of lavender that surrounds us as we work in our garden. We think you will, too.

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Steve Jones

Steve Jones, The Plantman, is a professional gardener and landscaper. His advice is based on the concept that our goal should be to leave the land better than the way we found it. Or at the very least, to do it no harm.

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