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Use Lavender to Sweeten Your Dreams

By Judy Feather, Master Gardener, Denver County Office of of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

The Romans prized lavender for its fragrance and flowers, and so do modern gardeners.

Variations in leaf and flower color, stem length and plant size make lavender equally useful as an edging plant and as the back of the flower border.

Dwarfs for edging include Nana Alba, reaching 1 foot tall with gray foliage and white flowers. Munstead, the most popular compact lavender, develops lavender blue flowers a month earlier than other varieties

Pale pink flowered Jean Davis is a midsize plant at 1 - 2 feet. The harvested flowers and leaves make fragrant sachets and potpourri.

Taller varieties also have their place in the garden. The hardy English lavender variety Twickel Purple is superior for its densely clustered gray leaves and fanlike flower clusters on extra long spikes.

Provence is a 2-foot-tall, light purple, fragrant plant grown in the lavender fields of the French region of the same name. Fred Boutin, another French variety with woolly white foliage and light purple blooms, is readily available at nurseries.

Any type of lavender works well in containers and will produce a refreshing fragrance indoors. Be sure to provide at least four to five hours of sun each day and keep soil lightly moist, not soggy.

Lavenders languish in shade and succumb in heavy, wet soil. Sandy soils or clay amended for good drainage will serve lavenders well.

Throughout the summer, as flowers fade, remove old stalks to encourage reblooming. Plants typically freeze back in the winter. In spring, cut back by one-third before new growth begins. This will reinvigorate the plant.

In France, a washday tradition is to drape pillowcases over lavender bushes to dry. Sunshine and lavender are believed to sweeten dreams.

Lavenders make excellent fresh and dried flowers for decorative arrangements. Fresh wreaths or wands of lavender alone or with other flowers such as roses will serve for months.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010