After having visited Provence a few years ago, it was hard not to be taken aback by the rolling fields of lavender. I decided on the spot to plant some lavender when I got back home. I planted this lavender right by the sidewalk, so passers-by can appreciate the scent.

While on the barge cruise though Provence, we visited a lavender distillery. Lavender has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The guide told us lavender production had been dwindling, slowly, from just after the middle ages to about the 1950s. The change in the 1950s? The American invention of the modern washing machine.

Turns out, that once the washing machine took hold, lavender was a preferred detergent additive. Production soared. These days, laundry detergents may still have the smell of lavender (perception), but more than likely, it is a chemically-induced, faux scent (reality). Currently, lavender production is aimed toward medicinal uses and specialty skincare products.

Lavender likes more sun than you see it getting in this location - but it seems content here. It does over winter here in Zone 6. It does NOT like to be trimmed back significantly (my assistant groundskeeper killed two plants this past spring). The lavender does like sandy, rocky soil and, once established, likes it on the dry side.

Do you have lavender? What's your perception?


  1. You should see my plant of Lavender struggling for life! I do get to harvest Lavender and they do smell lovely all through the winter./Tyra

  2. Your little row will give you immense pleasure!
    I recently planted a long row of lavender and rosemary as a hedge to my veggie patch. I have one little sprig of flowers and dag-on if i didn't catch a whiff walking by!

  3. Hi Jim .. yes, perception and reality can be quite shocking .. I thought after living in Holland for 4 years I could master a magical garden some what like my wonderful Dutch neighbors .. then the Canadian winter told me NO ..
    Flash back to reality and some what native plants to my area who must be drought tolerant now on top of that characteristic.
    I have wonderful lavenders in my back garden and they over winter well (I too am very careful about "trimming" them up) .. This year I bought Provence lavenders with which their tags said hardy to zone 5 .. I am very leery about that claim but I'm happy to try !
    Those areas in Provence .. you never forget : )

  4. We grow lavender quite easily here in So. Cal. and our Mediterranean climate. It is a staple in most gardens.

  5. You illustrate the difference between perception and reality very nicely. interesting tidbit about the advent of the modern washing machine and detergents. Your lavender looks just fine -- I don't grow any, but it's a plant I might consider, even on the balcony. I wonder if it would do okay in a container?

  6. I just discovered your blog today and enjoyed it. I will be back! My lavender experience is more on the side of your "reality" photos but no complaints!

  7. Those perceptions keep us gardening don't they? Autum is the time I can access the realities and begin anew.

  8. I have a hedge of mixed French Lavender - though the term 'hedge' is rather grand for it. It gets loads of sun but the ground is full of clay and it gets very waterlogged. With the rain we have had this summer the lavender isnt looking too good. I'm hoping it will perk up next year otherwise it will be a rethink which will be a pity as the bees love it.

  9. It doesn't do well here in the South unless you give them specific conditions and extreme drainage.

  10. I grow 'Hidcote' lavender (in zone 5) but unlike what I'm reading on your blog, I trim the heck out of it every spring and for seven years now I have seen splendid results. It also overwinters without a problem despite severe weather and much wind. I think it must be adaptable and very hardy. The perfect perennial.

  11. Tyra,
    Even as feeble as my lavender is, the smell is overwhelmingly intoxicating. At least to the bees.

    Sloane's Creations,
    A row of lavender & rosemary - a delight for the senses - I may have to try rosemary (again).

    Gardens in Holland are a singular art. I have photos of dozens of Dutch & Belgian gardens taken from the canals - I couldn't help myself. I'll post them sometime. Good luck with the new lavenders.

    Stop it with the "Mediterranean climate" stuff. Its just mean to mention that to a Zone 6er.

    Not sure how it would grow in a container, although that's a great question - maybe somebody here can answer that. It would be great in a container near a doorway, the smell wafting through each time the door's opened. Although, given my luck, it'd just invite bees in the house.

    Thanks! Come back often. As far as reality goes, it bites.

    Mother Nature's Garden,
    Perceptions do keep me going. My little line of lovely lavender, to me, still does look like the top photo.

    My "hedge" is mixed too. It started off as all one type of lavender, but as one would dye, I could never easily find the same to replace it. Many stores carried these little tiny plants intended to be used as herbs. Some stores didn't keep them with perennials, but with the seasonal (in my climate) herbs. These all came from Home Depot.

    I don't think I'd do well in the south without specific conditions either. Can't blame the plant.

    I've read that they're extremely hardy - once older - but are very fussy as a youngster. Isn't that true of us all?

  12. I have seen the reality in Provence and it is indeed something to behold. I have planted it again this spring; this time a really nice variegated one. I cross my fingers that the soil is not too clay and wet this winter!

    Yours looks happy and walkers would love the wonderful fragrance after brushing up against it.


  13. gail,
    I'll cross my fingers for you too. It does smell good, especially on hot evenings with no breeze.

  14. I grow a lot of Spanish lavender quite successfully. It blooms in the spring. I have deer and full sun, therefore I must grow deer resistant and drought tolerant plants. I actually lost more plants to rain this summer than I do in the exceptional drought in 2007!


  15. Cameron,
    Not having deer here in the inner city, I haven't given lavender's deer-proofness much thought!

  16. I like lavendar, but I've had to move it around my garden. It looks dead until late spring, so I have to keep it in less prominent places.

  17. heirloomgardener,
    It does take a while to kick in in the spring, but is so worthwhile when it does.

  18. Yes, I have lots of Lavender here in central Texas. Blanco, Texas a small town near by has nearly the same weather/soil as Provence and they have a Lavender Festival yearly. I purchased 4-5 different kinds several years ago and sprinkled them throughout my native landscape...some have lived, some wet years they just can't take it!

  19. I realize this is an old post, but as a blogger, I realize that doesn't matter when people are looking for info and they hit the Google search.

    I am in zone 4b/5a and we can have very wet, cool summers (though not this year, 2012) and very nasty winters.

    I have three lavender 'Munstead' growing by my deck in pretty much full sun. They have been there 4 years now. The area is limestone and clay road base as it is off my alley (a village maintained road). It is part of my scree garden which I dug out the bed mixed what was there with peat moss (for some organic material) and planted. Its companions are sedums and fescue and a sometimes unhappy PJM azalea (who gets special treatment when I remember). It is mulched with pea gravel. This bed is where the snow gets shoveled (to the dismay of aforementioned azalea). I think you can successfully grow this next to asphalt, cement, in gravel scree, providing it is not in standing water in the spring and has "white mulch" in the winter.

    Pick your micro-climate carefully!

  20. Rachelle,
    Thanks for the comment - yeah, blogging really does not have to follow a timeline if the content is relent! Your garden sounds beautiful - with lavender, an alley and more. My lavender does actually come in much better than the photo. It's pretty much in bloom all summer. I'm learning all the time about my microclimates in my yard.


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