English lavenderBotanical name: Lavandula...


August 17, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

English lavender

Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia

Pronunciation: lav-AN-dew-la

Family: Labiatae (Mint)

Origin: Mediterranean region

Class: Herb

Display period: July-August

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Environment: Sun

Lavender is a plant that evokes feelings of sentiment, bringing to mind thoughts of old lace, sweetly scented linens, knot gardens and other embodiments of old-world charm. The Egyptians raised lavender thousands of years ago. The Elizabethans sniffed it to mask body odor and other scents fouling the air. Lavender's name, deriving from lavara, Latin for "to wash," indicates the plant's use in scenting bath water. And yet, in the language of flowers, lavender stands for distrust. Poisonous snakes, it was said, found plants a safe haven for hiding, so lavender came to be regarded with suspicion.

The genus encompasses about 30 species that include both stately types tall enough to form hedges and shorter versions suited to edging or border display. English or true lavender, as the plant is also referred to, produces the best oil and has therefore been the species of choice in the manufacture of perfume. The name notwithstanding, lavender is also found in pink and white.

Hidcote -- the variety that takes its name from a famous garden in Gloucestershire, England -- is the one preferred by most gardeners for its violet flowers. They are the prettiest, most deeply colored and longest lasting of all lavenders, according to Lena Caron, executive director of Ladew Topiary gardens, who grows plants extensively there.

The enticements of lavender -- including cooking and decorating with it -- are represented by Lois Vickers in the beguiling lavender-perfumed-and-garlanded pages of her new little volume, "The Scented Lavender Book," (Bulfinch Press/ Little, Brown and Co., $16.95).

The secret of growing lavender, Ms. Caron says, is to avoid overwatering it. Cutting the flowers off after they have turned brown stimulates plants to produce a second crop.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.