Lavender’s delightful fragrance has permeated Scottish gardens for centuries. But, like mine, your choice specimens may have succumbed to this winter’s cold and wet – the foul root-rotting weather that doesn’t know when to end this year.

You may need to plant some replacement lavenders over the next few weeks and possibly plan to take semi-ripe cuttings in the summer. Where possible I do this to fill any gaps winter has doled out.

Lavenders, especially the vibrant blue-purple beauties, like Lavandula angustifolia ‘Little Lady’ are always winners. I’m afraid I find paler flowered varieties a little dull and white varieties, such as L x intermedia ‘Edelweis’ are less charming once the blooms start dying back and turn a shabby brown. On the other hand, a few whites interspersed with bold deep purple put on a goodly show.

We grow these little gems especially for the powerfully sweet fragrance we enjoy every time we pass and consciously stroke the foliage to release yet more gorgeous scent.


There is an alternative to mowing the lawn

Have you ever seen a black carrot?

How to grow wild primroses in Scotland

But the Romans, who probably introduced these eastern Mediterranean plants to these islands, probably had more practical reasons. They valued the antiseptic properties of the leaves so they were often used in healing wounds and were said to repel the likes of clegs and midges. Queen Elizabeth of England was apparently said to have made use of its cleansing powers. Indeed, the Latin ‘lavare’ - ‘to wash’ is said to be the origin of our ‘lavender’.

I expect that unlike Elizabeth Tudor you don’t need the plant’s cleansing properties, but want to enjoy its beauty and scent. And lavender is very versatile: it’s a good pot plant, especially since it grows leggy and sparse if it has close neighbours. But it also makes a lovely focal point at the front of a bed. Or it can be used as a low dividing hedge as the Scots gardener John Reid did 350 years ago.

Lavender hates wet soil, which may largely explain why we have had so many casualties this year. The plants need very free-draining and only moderately fertile soil and, just like me, require lots of sun. I have one, L. angustifolia Hidcote, gracing the corner of a fairly dry, very free-draining bed, and it has come through the past 30 winters with flying colours.

If using a pot, 20 or more litres, mix 50:50 general purpose compost/horticultural grit.

Lavender can become very leggy and doesn’t usually grow fresh shoots from old wood, so I like to keep the plants quite trim. I use secateurs, though hand shears also do, to trim off wayward fresh growth. And after flowering I use secateurs to cut back the spent flower stems.

If using lavender to border a bed, use a spade to cut off any roots wandering too far into the bed.

The Herald: SorrelSorrel (Image: free)

Plant of the week

Garden sorrel has been developed from wild sorrel, Rumex acetosa, which grows throughout Britain, usually in damp grasslands. Garden sorrel has much larger leaves so easier to pick and use. Add raw to salads and sandwiches or cook in sauces, soups and quiches.