This week we are exploring the world of Lavandula angustifolia, also known as lavender. This evergreen shrub is a delightful addition to any garden with so many benefits to humans and wildlife. While the leaves will persist throughout the year, you can enjoy the flowers from midsummer to early autumn. As far as name origins are concerned the “-angustifolia” part of the botanical name for lavender, refers to the leaves of the plant with the translation from Latin meaning “narrow leaf”. Thoughts on the origin of the name “Lavandula” are varied, however the most popular opinion is that it is rooted in the Latin word “lavare” (to wash). This likely refers to use of the plant as an infusion.
Cultivation & Care
While lavender is tolerant of most soils, it does favour a light, warm, well-drained soil which isn’t too acidic. A sunny position is favourable as lavender tends to struggle in shady spots. Once established plants are drought tolerant. It’s also worth noting they are very tolerant of maritime exposure, so if you live on the coast and want to grow some lavender you can rest assured it should cope fine. You can trim the plant back to keep it tidy, which can also prevent the plant from becoming too tall. When trimming be sure to carry this out in spring. If trimming is done in autumn it can often encourage new growth which will then be damaged by colder weather.
Lavender is a great plant for wildlife. It attracts butterflies and bees, providing them with an abundance of nectar to keep their energies high. Lavender also attracts hoverflies, who will often lay their eggs on the plant. This works in our favour as the young will feed on pesky insects such as aphids and mealybugs. Birds can also benefit from this plant as they can feast on the seeds produced by the pollinated flowers.
Apart from attracting beneficial insects to the garden. lavender can also function as a deterrent to other garden visitors. Many garden pests are put off by the strong scent of lavender so by carefully positioning them between plants which fall prey to pests, such as slugs, you can help protect them in a way that doesn’t involve killing any little creatures. While it is not companion planting as such, you can also hang lavender around the home to deter flies and mosquitoes. So next time you are having an irritating time with flying creatures in your home, think lavender and take some cuttings from the garden to hang around the house.
Not only is lavender great for the garden, you can also make good use of the flowers in cooking. You can use fresh or dry flowers in a tea or perhaps you fancy making some lavender flavoured ice cream or jam? They have a very aromatic flavour but can make an interesting addition when cooking. The leaves, petals and flowering tips are great used raw in salads or even in soups or stews as a garnish. You can even make lavender sugar!
Though commonly used in aromatherapy and beauty, the value of lavender for herbalism is often overlooked. It can be taken internally in tincture form and as a tea or externally as an essential oil. After a long day in the garden we at Wildlife & Eco Gardens enjoy a pot of lavender tea in the evening to help us relax and get a good nights sleep.
Listed below are some of the healing benefits of lavender:
Wildlife & Eco Gardens can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
So whether it be for wildlife, the beauty, or the uses of lavender, why not plant some in your garden this year?