genus Lavandula is divided into six sections; Lavandula, Stoechas,
Dentata, Pterostoechas, Subnuda and Chaetostachys. The first four
are the main types.
This section comprises three species and an important group of
hybrids. The species are L. latifolia, L. angustifolia (with two
subspecies) and L. lanata. The subspecies are L. angustifolia ssp
angustifolia and L. angustifolia ssp pyrenaica. (For all practical
purposes L. angustifolia ssp pyrenaica can be disregarded, and all
further reference to L. angustifolia ssp angustifolia has, for the
sake of brevity, been shortened to L. angustifolia.) The hybrid
group is L. x intermedia.
L. latifolia (sometimes referred to as a ‘spike
lavender’) is a rangy, untidy lavender with axial shoots, long
stalks and a conical flower head which produces large quantities of
very camphoraceous oil. There are no known cultivars of L. latifolia.
In England it does not over-winter readily and is more of curiosity
value than anything else, principally because it is a progenitor of
L. x intermedia. It is mainly grown in Spain, and from it is
obtained spike lavender oil. This is sometimes available in
pharmacies but its main use is as a cheap oil for use in room sprays
and the like. It can also add a special lustre to the varnish used
on oil paintings and has been used as a moth repellent.
L. latifolia is present in our national collection.
L. angustifolia tends to be much smaller than L. latifolia,
with short stalks (9-12 inches/21-30 cm) and a regular flower head
which looks rather like a bottle brush. There are no axial flower
shoots. The flower colour varies from white through to very deep
purple. The dwarf lavenders are all cultivars of L. angustifolia.
Unless weakened by damp or damage, L. angustifolia is not
susceptible to shab.
L. angustifolia is the variety used to distil pure, essential
lavender oil, as opposed to Lavandin (see below under L. x
intermedia). The oil is used in aromatherapy and perfumery, both in
lavender fragrances and as a part of fragrance compounds, where it
is particularly useful as a ‘lifter’, its high volatility
helping to emphasise the top notes of other less volatile oils. It
is cultivated commercially by us in England as well as in France,
Tasmania, China, Rumania, Bulgaria and Russia, among others.
Depending principally on the cultivar chosen, but also on the place
of cultivation and weather conditions at harvest time, the
hundred-plus chemical constituents of the oil and the habit of the
plant will vary.
For the gardener, the following points are important to note:
common name ‘woolly lavender’, is an attractive plant if you can
keep it alive. It has silvery, woolly (or felt-like) leaves which
mark it out as a particularly tomentose (drought loving) plant. Its
flower spikes are pale blue drying down to grey. For the gardener it
is the foliage which is most valuable.
angustifolia is hardy in the UK providing soil conditions are
- It needs
a sunny aspect on light, well-drained soil.
- It makes
excellent fragrant hedging, attractive to butterflies and bees.
- Be very
careful to buy your lavenders from a reputable source. Often,
lavenders are grown from seed and because lavender hybridises so
easily, the seed does not come true and you may not get what you
are hoping for.
L. lanata has hybridised with L. angustifolia to give L.
‘Sawyers’ and L. ‘Richard Grey’ of UK origin and L.
‘Silver Frost’ and L. ‘Lisa Marie’ of US origin. It has also
hybridised with L. dentata to give L. ‘Goodwin Creek’.
L. x intermedia, also known as ‘lavandin’, a French
elision of Lavande intermedia, is now recognised a group within
section Lavandula. The plants were named ‘intermedia’ because
they are ‘between’ L. latifolia and L. angustifolia but with
certain L. latifolia characteristics being dominant:
they are normally infertile and can only be propagated vegetively.
With the exception of ‘Grosso’ they are susceptible to shab.
- They are
- They are
prolific oil producers
oil is much more camphoraceous than that of L. angustifolia (but
less so than L. latifolia)
have axial shoots
flower heads tend to the conical
have broader leaves
By far the largest proportion of the lavender grown in France and
for the perfumery industry is lavandin and, because of its disease
resistance, almost exclusively ‘Grosso’. For the gardener, those
lavender plants often seen in cottage gardens are L. x intermedia
plants – large, woody and, like many a spaniel, enthusiastic and
somewhat out of control.
There is a theory that when pruning plants from this subsection you
should not cut into the old wood. That theory has not always been
borne out by our experience here at Caley Mill.
The distinguishing characteristic of this section is the flower head
topped by infertile bracts of varying length. The plants hybridise
readily, however, and consequently there has recently been a huge
explosion of varieties within this group, many from Australasia.
This group includes L. stoechas ssp stoechas, L. stoechas ssp
pedunculata, L. ‘Helmsdale’, L. ‘Marshwood’, and L.
‘Willow Vale’. ‘Papillon’ and ‘Butterfly’ are two common
names which have been given to L. stoechas ssp pedunculata by
nurserymen to help their sales of that cultivar. Plants in this
group are not used in the production of essential oils because of
their high ketone content.
For the gardener, the plants within this group are largely hardy,
although I am least confident about L. viridis. Cultivational
information is much the same as for section Lavandula. Because of
the risk of hybridisation, make sure that your plants have been
raised vegetively. Dead-headed, Stoechas plants will repeat flower
Originating from the Mediterranean, this comprises L. dentata and
the silver-leafed L. dentata var ‘Candicans’. It is only used in
gardens and is distinguished by the toothed leaf (hence the name).
The flower head has bracts like L. Stoechas, although not nearly so
pronounced. The dentatas are of doubtful hardiness and are therefore
best kept in pots but given plenty of ‘fresh air and exercise’
in the summer.
L. dentata has hybridised with L. latifolia (from section Lavandula)
to produce the vigorous and beautiful L. x allardii which we have
over-wintered outside here in Norfolk, but keep a spare plant in the
conservatory just in case.
L. ‘Goodwin Creek’, a hybrid with L. lanata, is referred to
This section, comprising eight species, includes lavenders from
Arabia, Socotra and Somalia, of which the most important are L.
Subnuda, L. macra and L. aristibracteata.
This group comprises two species from central and southern India –
L. bipinnata and L. gibsonii.
The cultivars of L. angustifolia, L. lanata, L. x intermedia, L.
stoechas, L. dentata and L. pterostoechas which we offer are
available from the farm.
Lavender Shop Where
Trent Valley Lavender,
Lavender growers, gift ideas, festival, hedges, weddings &
Phone 01159 663836
by: MUTEX SOLUTIONS