A fragrant shrub from the Mediterranean, lavender has a long history as a healing herb and has been utilised as a tonic, antiseptic and sleep aid for centuries.
The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming and in cosmetics, while the ancient Greeks extracted lavender oil for medicine and aromatics.
It was carried by Roman soldiers to dress wounds and combat infection and was grown by monks and nuns in England in the Middle Ages.
Lavender became fashionable in Tudor times when it was used to perfume linen and its popularity peaked with the reign of lavender enthusiast Queen Victoria.
While lavender can be used as a culinary herb, these days it is mostly valued as an essential oil but still has many applications around the home.
Lavender comes in three main types, English, Italian and French. Italian lavender has two brightly coloured wings at the top of each flower, while the French variety has serrated leaves.
The English variety is known as true lavender and is the most popular with home growers. It has deeply perfumed purple flowers that bloom on square stems from winter to spring with aromatic grey-green foliage.
Growing to 800mm high and 1m wide, this evergreen shrub forms a tight mound if pruned regularly.
It tolerates light frost but wet soil can cause root rot, while high levels of humidity lead to mould problems.
Avoid planting in exposed areas where it can be pummelled by strong winds and instead choose a warm northerly spot that receives full sun.
Position lavender next to a wall or solid fence to protect it during winter nights, as these surfaces retain heat from the day and release it after dark.
Lavender grows well in containers in part to full sun. Use a terracotta pot, as it’s porous and dries out quickly. Good drainage is essential, so raise pots off the ground.
TIP: Place potted lavender near vegies as a valuable companion plant.