ASK THE MASTER GARDENERS
Q: I would like to plant lavender this spring. Is there a particular variety that grows well in the Lower Hudson Valley?
A: Lavender, a fragrant herb that belongs to the mint family, grows as a compact, rounded shrub, about 2 feet tall with many erect stems. It has fragrant silvery-gray leaves and lavender-purple, pink or white flowers that bloom in early summer. Bees love them.
Lavender grows best in full sun, in well-drained, alkaline soil and, once established, can tolerate drought. Because many of our local soils are acidic and very dense, it may be a challenge to find a suitable site in your yard. You may grow lavender in containers as long as you have a protected place to winter them over. Containers drain well, you can adjust the soil pH, and move them to your sunniest location, if necessary.
The hardiest lavender is Lavandula angustifolia, also known as English lavender, a stocky plant with full flowers. Popular varieties are ‘Compacta’ (very hardy), ‘Dwarf White,’ ‘Hidcote,’ and ‘Munstead.’ ‘Premier,’ ‘Sharon Roberts’ and ‘Susan Belsinger’ are hardy varieties that may rebloom.
Prune back any damaged stems in mid to late spring. Do not prune after midsummer, or soft new shoots will be injured. In early summer, when lavender is blooming, harvest in the morning, after the dew has evaporated.
Once dried, the buds are easily stripped from the stems and can be used to make sachets or potpourri. With luck, you may get at least two pickings of lavender each summer. Enjoy!
Amy Albam, Senior Horticulturist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester