Lavender has been a hot topic among my gardening friends here at home and in the virtual world. I thought I'd try to summarize some of the information that I've gathered from my personal experience of growing lavender in North Carolina.
The lavender that you see in my photos here are Spanish Lavender. I've found it very easy to grow here as long as it is planted high-and-dry and watered from the base to get it established. Either in the fall or late winter, I take a cordless hedge trimmer and shape the lavender by trimming off about 1/3 of the top. This keeps the lavender from getting too woody and it helps produce lots and lots of blooms. After the blooms fade, I once again use the hedge trimmer to deadhead and shape the plant. It looks a bit stubby at first, but then there is lush new growth.
This spring, I added Provence Lavender. So far, it's looking good but I don't have photos of it in bloom. I also moved some Munstead that was in a spot last year that was too wet. It is now flourishing, so I hope to have lots of blooms next year.
The lavender looks great with a variety of companions -- roses, dianthus, lamb's ear, nepeta and buddleia are my favorites. Around the roses, the lavender is planted higher due to the different needs of roses and lavender. Dianthus, lamb's ear, nepeta and buddleia have similar growing conditions and are centered on a grey foliage color scheme.
In my area, the lavender blooms in May, so I don't worry too much about blooming companions. In the vignette with the Bath's Pink, there is also a purple heuchera that bridges well with the dianthus and the lavender. Looking at one clump of our lavender from another direction, there is a mass of scabiosa 'blue mist' and daylilies. Another good foliage plant to use with lavender is a sage -- tricolor or purple. If you want more color around the lavender summer foliage, magenta blooms such as rose campion, agastache 'Red Fortune' or penstemon 'Red Rocks' work well as companions.
With rose bushes (not in bloom):
in October with roses in bloom.
Close up with nepeta in background:
An advantage of lavender is the evergreen foliage here in NC. While it might get a little dull in late winter, it provides some structure in the winter scene.
And, there's the fragrance! It's wonderful to walk through the garden and brush your hand over the lavender at any time of year. You can cut bloom stems, band them with a rubber band and hang them upside down in a dry, warm environment (attic) to use for other purposes. I've not ventured very far with drying lavender, but there is a commercial lavender farm in nearby Hillsborough that has a wonderful website with a wealth of information about harvesting, uses, recipes, etc. http://sunshinelavenderfarm.com/planting.htm
Next year, I will try to add a few more varieties -- perhaps Hidcote or Goodwin's Creek.
By the way -- the deer, the bunnies, the Japanese Beetles -- will not munch on the lavender!Happy Gardening!