Dress your garden with the fragrance of English lavender. These herbs boast wonderfully perfumed leaves in shades of gray-green that bring a cooling hue to plantings. Flowers add classic purple when plants are in bloom. Both leaves and flowers of English lavender are intensely fragrant. This is probably the most popular lavender grown, and it brings quintessential lavender fragrance and looks to the garden.
English lavender is known as a true lavender, and it’s frequently planted commercially for a source of lavender oil for making perfumes. English lavender is also a favorite type of lavender for use in the kitchen. Botanically, English lavender is Lavandula angustifolia. It’s actually from the Mediterranean region, not England. The common name comes from this lavender’s ability to thrive in an English climate.
In the garden, English lavender forms a rounded mound that’s roughly 24 to 36 inches tall and wide when plants are mature. These fragrant perennials are hardy in Zones 5 to 10 and have a sunny disposition. Give them a spot in full sun for best flowering. The plants prefer well-drained soil year-round, especially in winter. Poorly draining winter soils quickly kill English lavender. Soil should also be alkaline. Take a soil test to see where your soil pH falls.
Several types of English lavender have earned tremendous popularity. ‘Hidcote’ English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) is renowned for its dark purple blooms. This lavender opens the darkest purple flowers and grows to the shortest height of all the English lavenders. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide, providing an ideal height for edging a walkway.
If you want the true ‘Hidcote’ lavender, look for a supplier that sells lavender grown from cuttings. Purchasing seed-grown ‘Hidcote’ is something of a gamble, since seed may not produce plants that grow exactly like the parent.
Another popular English lavender is blue lavender, which is short for ‘Hidcote Blue’ lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’). This English lavender has a compact shape and is an ideal choice for a border hedge around planting beds. Also look for ‘Hidcote Pink’ lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Pink’), which opens pink blooms.
‘Munstead’ lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’) is another popular English lavender. It grows to about 18 inches tall and was named after Munstead Woods, the home of renowned English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. ‘Munstead’ lavender tolerates heat better than all of the other English lavenders.
Prune plants to shape in spring after new growth appears. Harvest flowers for culinary or craft uses, or simply remove spent flowers. A second flower flush may appear, especially in regions with cooler summers. English lavender dislikes high humidity. If you’re trying to raise it in a humid environment, add a stone mulch around plants to raise air temperature. English lavender grows best where summer temperatures hover in the 80-degree-range instead of 90 degrees F. Flowering typically stops as temperatures rise in summer.