Hello lavender fans!
This post will be a bit of an introduction into the species and varieties of lavender, giving you some consumer advice as to which lavender you should buy.
There are 39 different species of lavender in the world, but here at Hitchin Lavender we only have two of them planted in the display area and main field. Though this doesn’t sound like there is much potential for differing types of lavender, we do in fact have around 60 different varieties of those two species, all with different qualities and different shades of lavender.
The species that we have the most of here, as it makes up over half of the main field, is a species called lavendin also known as intermedia. We have so much of this, because it produces a long stem, which is convenient for the harvesting process (I will talk more about this in upcoming posts). Furthermore it has a high yield for the production of oil; 9% of the weight of the plant can be turned into essential oil, making lavendin a much more cost effective method for the production of this cosmetic.
In domestic settings, this species of lavender can be a bit problematic. As the stem grows longer, so too does the shrubbery, meaning that it can be a difficult plant to control. I’m sure you’ve seen flowerbeds totally overrun by lavender – this is probably because it is a lavendin. If you do have a larger space to fill – a bed over 6-10 foot wide, say – then this may be the species for you.
The other species is known as angustifolia. Whereas our main field is dominated by lavendin, our display area is dominated by this second species. There are around 100 different varieties, with lots of different colours, from pink, to blue, to light and deep purple – we like to debunk the myth that there is such a thing as the colour lavender! Whereas lavendin grows quite broad, angustifolia remains smaller, producing satisfyingly neat rows. In terms of its lavender production, however, it has a lower yield of 3%, but produces a higher quality oil, which is used a lot in aromatherapy.
A slight issue with this species, is that it does self-seed, meaning that you may find smaller lavender bushes growing alongside the plants you have bedded. Furthermore, due to cross pollination, the lavenders can come back in different colours (if you have different types of lavender in your garden.) This does produce an interesting patchwork of colour, however, that may not what you want in your lavender rows.
A lavender that we don’t grow in the fields, but do have on sale in pots, is a species known as lavendula stoechas, sometimes known as French lavender. This lavender is striking, and totally different to the other two we have been looking at. It produces beautiful ‘wings’ around the flower, almost like a butterfly, which are incredibly delicate and gorgeous to look at. The reason, however, that we don’t grow it in the ground, is because it does not deal well with cold snaps and can die during a frost. But if you were looking for something a little less conventional, that you could grow in pots indoors or outdoors during the summer, then this may be the one for you!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, giving a very brief introduction on lavender! Join us again next week.