Lavender is one of the most iconic smells of summer and when you gets wafts of it in the air it immediately conjures up images of rolling hills of purple which stretch for mile and miles in France. Even with a brief moment of warm sun you can almost transport yourself to the South of France.
When it comes to lavender there are two main varieties that most people will come across in Irish garden centres. English lavender and French lavender are the most common but you will from time to time come across Spanish and also Italian lavender. All offer something different from variations in flower type to scents or even foliage colour.
The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the flowers. French lavender has almost feather like tips to its flowers while English lavender does not. French lavender is also exclusively purple or lilac in colour while English lavender can come in shades of purple, pink or white. English lavender is the hardiest out of the two and can survive a harsh winter (to a degree) which can make it a better option for people living in exposed areas. French lavender would benefit from a more sheltered garden where very low temperatures are a minimum.
In general which ever type of lavender you decide to have in your garden soil type is very important. Lavender likes a loose free draining soil and will not perform well in wet clay soils. This is why you will often see lavender planted in raised beds or even in pots in some areas.
Lavender is very versatile and can work equally as well planted alone as a specimen plant as it does in large groups or sways within a flowerbed. The latter can work very well if you have a large amount of space to work with in the garden. One of the most iconic ways to use it though is to plant it in rows along footpaths or the edges of flowerbeds. Using the plant in this way can create great impact leading up to an entrance and makes for a fragrant welcome
Lavender is a plant which requires very little attention. In terms of feeding a boost in spring with crushed fish and bone mix will encourage flowering and can be followed with tomato feed during flowering.
One key job in the coming weeks will be once the flowers begin to fade you can give them a light trim to remove the flowers and give the shrub a general tidy up. Then in spring, just before new growth starts, you can prune back the plant much harder to improve the overall shape of the plant.
In the past when a lavender plant has become too woody and unsightly I have simply cut the plant right back and it has regrown again. This method though can give varied results and should only be tried as a last ditched attempt before digging up the plant.