Plant Profile: Lavender


Plant Profile: Lavender

The word lavender derives form lavare, to wash, which suggests one of the uses in Roman times. The leaves and flowers are highly fragrant and the plant has multiple uses beyond garden applications, including scenting laundry liquids, flavouring food, burning of the fragrant oil and even embalming. The majority of the 30 species of lavender originate from the Mediterranean with others found in Turkey, East Africa, Arabia and even Southern India.

Native habitats are often hot, dry and exposed. Most varieties will tolerate these conditions and temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius but like many plants they prefer free draining soil. Lavandula angustifolia is one of the most widely available species, also known as English lavender because of the historical production of oil in England. Mitcham in Surrey was the centre of the world for lavender oil production in the early 1900’s and many of the south-facing slopes of what is now urban South London were lavender fields – including Lavender Hill in Battersea. Still to this day you can see lavender fields between Carshalton and Woodmansterne in Surrey, just south of Mitcham.

Other commonly used varieties include ‘Hidcote’ favoured for its squat size and abundant intense blue flowers and French lavender, L. stoechas known for the varying colour of the flowers from black to white or pink.

NewsCarl Meredith