5 ways lavender is ideal for the Melbourne garden

Lavender in a herbaceous border along a path.

5 ways lavender is ideal for the Melbourne garden

Lavender or lavendula is a very hardy evergreen aromatic shrub which is grown for its scent as well as its flowers.

Lavender Flower Structure
Lavender Flower attracts butterflies, honey bees and bumblebees. A honey bee sips nectar from a lavender flower.

Lamiaceae

There are many species to choose from as the genus Lavandula has more than 30 known members. The family to which the they belong is Lamiaceae.  The Lamiaceae is a huge family is well known for its aromatic volatile oils and includes plants like the Rosemary, thyme, oregano and mint. It is in fact these oils which makes the plants in the mint family so useful as medicinal and culinary plants.

 

English or French Lavender

 

The so called English version can live up to 25 years whereas the less hardy French or Spanish lavender will only live to around 5 years old. The fatter flowers of the Spanish and French varieties tend to be a little more flamboyant.

 

Where does Lavender come from?

 

The lavender grows naturally around the Mediterranean and was taken to Britain by the Romans. The Roman legions and their Greek doctors took medicinal herbs with them on their marches.

What is the origin of the name?

There are two possibilities for the origin of the name “Lavender”. Possibly it comes from the Latin “lavare” meaning to wash. It has been used since before Roman times as a bath perfume and to scent washed fabrics. The other possibility for the source of the name is the Latin “lividus” meaning blueish or livid.

 

Landscaping Melbourne with Lavender

This is an ideal plant for creating the authentic Mediterranean garden. It will also thrive in sunny locations in your Melbourne garden provided the soil is well draining and not too acidic.

Lavender or Lavandula with a terracotta pot
Lavandula with a terracotta pot. This is a great combination for a Mediterranean garden. The complementary colours also look great together.

Growing Lavender in pots

If you do not have enough sun, you can plant them in a terracotta pot and move them to get some extra sun. The blue and violet flowers of the lavender will be complimentary to the rich earthy colours of the terracotta.

 

Where is it best to plant lavender?

Lavender plants thrive in full sun and can grow well in raised garden beds and containers. They can even be used in hedges and make a great herbaceous border along a garden path.

 

How do you take care of a lavender plant?

  • Cut back the flowers as they finish.
  • Do not be afraid to prune twice a year with one pruning after flowering has finished.
  • Lavenders that are not pruned regularly will become spindly.
  • Replace plants that have become too woody.
  • Do not over water.
  • Very little fertiliser is required.
  • Soil must be well drained to avoid root rot.
  • Annual light application of garden lime in acidic topsoils.

 

Potential Diseases and Pests

 

Grey mould or leaf spot can appear. Prune your plants to allow good air circulation and move plants to a sunnier location in the garden. Plants can also be attacked by frog hoppers, so look for signs of frothy “cuckoo spit”.

 

Lavender Varieties

 

Varieties for essential oils

Old English Lavender (Lavandula spica) is often grown on farms for the harvesting of the fragrant essential oils. This is a tall variety that can grow to around 90 centimeters, so it will need plenty of space.

 

Lavendula Augustifolia (English Lavender)

Despite being known as English, this plant originates in Southern Europe near the Mediterranean. It is a bushy shrub to around one metre tall and quite wide. In mid to late summer the long unbranched stalks will produce deep or pale purple dense fragrant spikes of flowers.

English Lavender Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

 

Popular varieties and Colours

Lavender Farms

These plants are often grown on farms where the plants are harvested to make essential oils. Often the distillation process takes place on the farm itself. The farms are also a great tourist attraction drawing visitors to experience the aroma and the beautiful sea of purple that stretches into the distance.

Lavender farm for essential oil manufacture
Lavender farms like this one in the Cotswolds are great tourist attractions and are also used for essential oil manufacturing.

 

Visiting the farms

Lavendula Swiss Italian Farm is around 120 north-west of Melbourne and has over 40 Hectares of lavender farm to explore.

In the UK there is a farm just near the National Trust property of Snowshill in the Cotswolds Area on Natural Beauty, where many of these photos were taken.

 

Landscaping with Lavender

The hardy and versatile lavender has hundreds of uses in landscaping and garden design. As a border it can give the violet or blue design theme continuity through a landscape. When used as a border opposite a long blue swimming pool it provides visual balance to the garden.

 

Lavender border opposite a swimming pool
Lavender border opposite a swimming pool. The lavender provides continuity as well as visual balance.

 

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Agricultural uses for lavender

In agriculture lavender also has a wide varieties of uses. Home gardeners can learn a few tips from these. Some varieties are grown for the cut flower industry for fresh and dried bouquets.The flowers of these plants are very high in nectar and many varieties have a long flowering season. This has made them a great plant for attracting and feeding bees. The quality and the quantity of honey produced from hives close to lavender plants is well known in the industry. Attracting bees is important too for the orchard industry. Lavender is a useful companion plant as the aroma repels some pests as well as attracting pollinating insects. The main agricultural use is essential oil manufacturing.

 

Essential Oil Distillation

 

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To make the essential oil on the farm, the cuttings have steam passed through them. The steam collects the oil and takes it to the condenser. The oil steam mix condenses and is them separated into the pure oil and floral water.

Uses of the essential oil

The essential oil has a wide variety of uses including helping with sleep and anxiety. It also has been used to treat fungal infections and to repel insects. The main uses however are in the cosmetics industry where it is used in fragrances, soaps and shampoos to help purify the skin. It is also used in the food industry, but concentrated oil should never be ingested as it can be toxic in this form.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT LAVENDER

What is the best lavender to grow in Australia?

The best climate for the production of lavender is warm and temperate, where the winters are cool and summers are dry and hot. The Lavender plant requires full sun and need protection from strong winds. English lavender struggle to be established in areas where summers are humid because it is less tolerant to these conditions. However, the French and Italian lavender can accept these conditions (mild, humid conditions). So every type of lavender can grow well in Australia. Still, in some areas of Australia, the temperature in the summer season are usually high with maximum humidity, which is not favourable for English lavender because water is not the lavender’s friend in the air or the soil. Therefore the French and Italian lavender are best for such areas of Australia as Western Australia. Despite that our favourite colour for lavenders is Hidcote, which is an English lavender.

What are the best lavender for pots in Australia?

Any lavender variety will grow in a container and can be clipped in decorative balls and cones, but some are better suited than others. They produce flowers fast and maintain a manageable size in pots. Several varieties, including dwarf varieties, are best for pot growing and can be trimmed in attractive balls and crowns. The smaller varieties are the most fantastic options. Levante Petit is a type of English lavender that is best for pots. This lavender is dense and compact, and the flower is exceptionally fragrant, having intense violet colour. Its stem is short, and the foliage is tight. It produces flowers in mid to late spring. Due to these qualities, this type of lavender is best for pots.

What is the best lavender for hedging in Australia?

You can also plant a lavender hedge to outline the landscape. The hedge can grow about one to two feet tall. These hedges are very low maintenance and can handle drought. Dozens of varieties are available, which are used as hedging. However, English lavender varieties such as Munstead, Hidcote etc., are the best varieties for planting hedges. These varieties are drought and heat resistant and live much longer (up to 15 years) compared to other varieties. Due to this, you do not have to frequently replace plants in the hedge. These varieties are favourite for landscapers and commercial growers because of their low maintenance and sweet smell. Both varieties can grow up to 50 cm in height and spread up to 60 cm. Both varieties are best for trim hedges.

In addition to that, an English variety, “Vera”, is best for larger hedges. It is not just a decorative hedge but also a windbreak to protect more petite and delicate plants. French and Italian varieties can also be used as a hedge but due to its relatively low life span (4-5 years), using these lavenders as a hedge could be pretty costly.

What to plant with lavender in Australia?

As we all know, it is quite sensitive about the habitat in which it grows. It requires full sun, minimum water, and little to no fertiliser to grow well. It is normally happiest when it is alone, which means that if you place it next to a plant that favors extra care, then one of them will suffer. However, there are Mediterranean plants that you can grow with them. Echinacea, rock rose, rosemary, sage, scented geraniums, Alliums, zinnia etc., are the plants which can be combined with lavender to give you a beautiful garden. Some plants nearby benefit because lavender is a natural repellant of moths, slugs and deer. Any plant that suffers from these pests will benefit from having a lavender plant nearby.

 

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© 2020 Reds Landscaping and Civil quality commercial landscaping Melbourne

 

Further Reading

Gardener’s World

 

How to distill Essential Oils

 

Country Life Magazine

 

Welcome to Provence

 

Cotswolds Farm 

 

How to propagate from cuttings.

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Hello, I’m Callum. A little bit about me? My passion ever since I was young is for the environment and the outdoor world we live in. Something we neglect in our concrete jungles and glass palaces. It’s this passion that’s been infused into every fibre of my company’s processes.

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