Author: Alice Spenser-Higgs
Lavender never seems to lose its allure. Besides all its qualities as a healing, soothing and fragrant herb, lavender is a landscaper’s dream. It always stands out, whether it is used in formal or informal gardens, planted en masse, in containers or in combination with other plants.
Be creative and use Lavender in different ways:
- Plant en masse rather than use single specimens,
- For interest combine different kinds of lavender, with taller lavender at the back and shorter varieties in front. Dutch Lavender (Lavandula allardii) and Spica (Lavandula x allardii ‘African Pride) are excellent hedge lavenders. Both have silvery grey leaves and don’t flower prolifically so are ideal for clipping.
- Colour affects our mood and the silvery blue foliage of lavender helps to create a quieter, relaxed and contemplative space. Silver or grey foliage plants also tone down hot colours so that lavender can be used as a restful buffer between strong colours.
- For a lively effect use lavender as a contrast for yellow and orange flowers, such as daylilies and wild dagga (Leonotus leonurus). This colour combination works well because blue/mauve is directly opposite yellow and orange on the colour wheel and when the two opposites are used together they enhance each other.
- A very lovely colour scheme is to combine silver, white and blue with deeper hints of purple. Lavender can be combined with other silver foliage plants such as Stachys, wild garlic, Helichrysum, artichoke and various Artemisias’, like Southernwood and Wilde als. Offset the silver with white flowering plants (‘Iceberg’ roses, agapanthus, feverfew, various daisies) and blue (agapanthus, catmint, Russian sage (Perovskia) and hints of purple (mallow) for a garden with a depth of colour that is cool in the day and sparkles at night.
- Another bonus of lavender is that it is drought tolerant and combines well with indigenous drought tolerant flowers. Those with similar water requirements include Leonotis, agapanthus, and wild garlic (Tulbaghia).
- The texture of lavender is another of its greatest assets. This is particularly useful when putting together combinations of plants for a gravel garden where colour, shape and texture are very important. Gravel gardens are a beautiful alternative to lawn or other groundcovers and not only conserve water but are low maintenance. The central feature of a gravel garden is the garden path and lavender is an excellent choice for planting along the pathway.
What lavender wants
The basic requirements for all types of lavender are plenty of sun and soil that drains well. The drainage in heavier soils can be improved by adding compost and also palm peat, which comes in brick form and swells to five times its size with the addition of water.
Lavender also does well in containers and this is the best alternative if the garden soil tends towards clay. Use potting soil that drains well and water and feed regularly. Lavender in containers can take semi-shade conditions.
Trim lavender after it has flowered to prevent the bushes from getting woody but be prepared to replace lavender bushes after two or three years. This seems to be unavoidable on the highveld as the bushes tend to lose their vigour.
Depending on the variety, space lavenders fairly widely apart so that there is room for them to grow and for the air to circulate. Lavender planted too close together can become susceptible to fungus diseases.
Popular landscape varieties
- Candicans (Lavandula dentata var. Candicans) grows into a small shrub (60cm high) with very aromatic soft, serrated grey leaves topped by large blue flowers with pale purple bracts. It flowers from spring to autumn.
- Royal Crown (Lavendula dentata var Royal Crown)is a tall growing dentata (80cm) with aromatic green leaves and large blue flowers throughout summer.
- Dutch lavender (Lavandula allardii) is tall growing (80cm) with grey-green slightly serrated foliage. It is spectacular en masse and is ideal for hedging as it does not flower prolifically.
- Spica (Lavandula x allardii ‘African Pride’) also grows up to 80cm and has a grey, slightly serrated leaf similar to the angustifolia. It is ideal for contrast planting and hedges and is useful for its foliage rather than its flowers.
- French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) grows to a medium height (60cm), has very aromatic grey leaves and large purple flowers topped with pale purple bracts. The main flower flushes are in spring and again in September and when in flower it is a very showy lavender.
- Kew (Lavandula stoechas spp) is a tall growing stoechas variety (up to 80cm) with narrow grey leaves and large purple flowers.
- Margaret Roberts (Lavandula intermedia) is one of the most popular landscape lavenders that looks good planted en masse as well as in containers. It grows in to a large bush 75cm high and has fine aromatic grey leaves and small blue flowers that are borne on long stems. It flowers off and on throughout the summer and just need trimming after flowering as it doesn’t become woody.