Diarmuid Gavin: Add fragrance and colour to your garden this summer with lavender

Despite this wide range, however, in most people's garden they only have the one variety; English lavender (lavandula angustifolia). There are plenty of varieties that will do much better in an Irish garden than the standard lavender.

Historically, lavender has been very highly prized. It's reckoned that the plant was first brought to the UK by the Romans, and soon made its way to our shores. The Romans were well aware of its healing and soothing qualities, and by Tudor times lavender was established as the herb of cleanliness and calm, and used throughout people's houses.

Subsequently, the Victorians used lavender in perfumery and for the scenting of linen and clothes. It's thought that hundreds of acres of British and Irish farms were planted with lavender as a crop. Happily, on both islands, there's now a definite resurgence in its growth as a commercial crop.

In the UK, it's heavily associated with one garden in particular - Hidcote, in the North Cotswolds. This was one of the few farms to continue through the lavender decline in the 20th century. This garden was created by American horticulturist Lawrence Johnston, and its colourful series of 'outdoor rooms' are packed with delightful surprises. Johnson was an old-fashioned plant hunter and many plants growing in Hidcote were collected on his voyages to far away places.

So, what should we look out for in gardens, parks and garden centres? Well, let's start with French lavender (lavandula stoechas, pictured right). It grows between 18in and 30in, and are the first to flower.

Source: Diarmuid Gavin: Add fragrance and colour to your garden this summer with lavender - Independent.ie