We grow the two best, hardiest, English Lavenders for garden and culinary use, Lavandula angustifolia Munstead and Hidcote...
English lavender for hedging and cooking
Munstead is named after Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey. It has a beautiful slender bluish-purple flower. A slightly more compact form than Hidcote, it is thought to be better in windy and coastal areas.
Hidcote is named after Lawrence Johnson’s garden at Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire. It is a deep purple variety that produces lovely plump flowers over a dense mound of foliage growing to around 60cm high.
Using Lavender in the Garden
Lavender plants make a lovely additional to a garden, patio or balcony as they have great flowers, attractive evergreen foliage and contribute a fantastic scent. They are one of only a few plants sold for culinary use that look good and grow well outside the kitchen garden as well as in it.
As both varieties make thick little ornamental hedges they make an excellent edge to a rose border or herb or vegetable garden. If you've got straight lines in your garden, and you'd like to soften them, this low level hedging is a really great addition to blur the line of terraces or paths. They are a fine addition as they bring colour, structure and scent to your garden and, even better, Lavender is beautiful from spring to autumn and tidies up nicely for the winter.
There are many gardens across the country which use lavender to a wonderful effect, and Castle Hill Gardens in Devon is a particularly fine example.
The lavender walkway at Avebury Manor in Wiltshire is punctuated with Box balls, which is a lovely detail and adds some interest.
If regularly pruned, lavender can be kept in very neat form. And when planted into gravel, along with other structural plants and topiary such as Box (Buxus sempervirens) a garden takes on a positively beautiful Mediterranean feel.
And given a warm, bright summer’s day, this style of planting will be strikingly reminiscent of the classic Italian gardens of the Renaissance period. One garden that demonstrates this superbly is Nicole de Vesian’s garden ‘La Louve’ in Provence.
Planting lavender plants
The best time to plant lavender is into warm soil, usually from late May through to early August (depending on our ‘characterful’ climate!).
Being a Mediterranean plant, it thrives in a poor, free draining soil in full sun. A heavy or clay soil can be improved by adding organic matter such as leaf mould and gravel. A good tip is to create mounds of soil to plant into, which keeps the base of the plants above any excessively wet ground.
How to plant and prune
When planting a hedge, plant on a ridge and allow for 3 plants per metre. There's a longer guide on how to plant a lavender hedge here
Pruning should be carried out every autumn, in order to keep plants looking bushy and healthy. It involves careful clipping of the foliage, back to around 2cm of new growth. Lavenders do not take kindly to hard pruning, so cutting back into old woody growth should be avoided. We also have a longer advice page on how to prune lavender plants. We recommend pruning twice a year to get the best out of them but we also cover what todo with older plants that have got a bit 'leggy'.
It's worth noting that a bit of commitment to dead-heading your plants regularly through the season will encourage plenty of repeat flowering. And who would argue with that!
- Queen Victoria was a lover of lavender as a scent, and it became very fashionable with the ladies of the day.
- English lavender became a profitable industry with the main growing areas being just south of London.
- Sadly the rise in land prices after the First World War pushed the growers out of business.
- These days commercial lavender growing is more commonly associated with the Provence region of France.
- The vast expanses of purple and blue in summer have become an iconic image and are a huge tourist attraction.