Stimulate your senses

Known for its fresh floral scent and aromatic uses, lavender is an easy-to-grow, beautiful garden addition. Every garden needs this plant. Add it for greater color, texture and scent in your garden.

Although there are several species of lavender grown in the world, the most popular is English lavender. A few basic requirements must be followed to ensure it stays healthy and overwinters in USDA Zones 5-8.

Lavender requires 8 hours sunlight a day and well-drained soil. Don’t let poorly drained soil stop you from growing this magnificent plant. It can be grown in containers and raised beds with a potting soil mix that does not contain added fertilizer. This way it can be grown as an annual that you discard at the end of the growing season or perennial you bring indoors during winter months.

English lavender has a shrub-like habit, growing 1-2 feet high and wide. It has silvery, serrated foliage and bluish-purple flowers, both which contain scented oil glands. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to the scent and high levels of nectar in the flowers.

Timely pruning of lavender ensures a compact and tidy shape while increasing flower production. In the spring, prune the plant when new growth appears by snipping dead stems down to the first set of green leaves. After flowering, prune a third to half the plant to keep it compact. This second pruning may encourage the plant to bloom again. When pruning, do not cut down to the leafless wood, as it will not regrow.

Newly planted lavender should be watered regularly the first year. Once established, lavender is drought-tolerant and should only be watered when the soil dries out. Added fertilizer is not necessary as it can cause excessive foliage growth and a decline in blooms.

The best part of growing lavender is the wonderfully scented blooms. Enjoy the fragrance in the garden or harvest the stems to use. Dried lavender flowers can be used in a variety of ways, including sachets, potpourri, crafts and in baking. For optimum quality and scent, cut flower stalks when the blooms are about to open. To dry it out, lay it flat or hang in a cool, dry place.

With feathery foliage and a soothing scent, lavender is an exceptional plant choice for a sensory garden. Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate the senses and encourage interaction with plants through touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. Studies show these gardens are calming and beneficial for adults and children with sensory problems.