Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), a semi-evergreen shrub, can grow 1 to 3 feet tall. This member of the mint family has a sweet, clean aroma used to perfume soaps, lotions and sachets. The name lavender, in fact, comes from the Latin "lavare," meaning ''to wash.'' There are many types of lavender, from full size to dwarf varieties. All are known for their fragrant flowers, which are usually purple or blue, but sometimes pink or white, and their silvery grey-green foliage.
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Common lavender, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture planting zones 5 through 9, grows 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide. Low-growing varieties, however, such as Hidcote and Munstead, reach only about 18 inches tall and wide. The full-size lavender plants should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, while the dwarf types need to be spaced only 10 to 15 inches apart.
Provence is considered one of the most fragrant of the lavenders. Its violet flowers are grouped in 6 to 10 whorls at the end of 2-foot-long stems. Alba sports white flowers, while Hidcote's blossoms are vivid purple. Munstead has lavender-blue flowers, and the Jean Davis cultivar has pink blooms.
Lavender grows in clumps at a slow to moderate pace. The clumps can be anywhere from 1 to 3 feet tall and wide, depending on the type. All lavenders tolerate drought, heat and wind. One condition they will not abide, however, is soggy soil. They flower in early summer and will bloom again if cut back in mid- to late-summer. This also prevents the clump from sprawling out from the centre. Just don't cut the clumps to the ground, which could kill the plant.
Because lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, it does best in warm climates. It prefers full sun and dry, rocky soil, conditions prevalent along the Mediterranean coast and mountain regions where it thrives. In northern regions with cold winters, lavender should be heavily mulched in late fall or covered with evergreen boughs or corn stalks. This protects it from freezing temperatures.
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