Its relatively easy to grow lavender. New Mexico and other parts of the Western U.S. are ideal for growing lavender. The two most popular varieties of lavender grown are English lavender( Lavendula angustifolia) and French lavender (Lavendula dentata). The word angustifolia means "narrow leaved". The English lavender is favored for culinary use, perfumes and aromatherapy. The fragrance is sweet and floral. The word "dentate flows from the English word "dentures" which means toothed. The French lavender leaves have a lacy edging. The fragrance is pungent, medicinal and herbal.
Lavender thrives in full sun in a protected area away from strong winds. It is difficult to grow lavender from seed, but it can be propagated by cuttings. Plant cuttings 4 feet apart in dry, sandy, well drained soil. Water the plants right after planting and then only after the top inch of soil becomes dry. During the first year cut off blooms to strengthen the plant. To encourage the lavender to spread out, make sure it has enough lime. Adding lime makes acidic soil more alkaline. You may want to add course gravel to improve the drainage in heavy soil. In the autumn cut plants back halfway to promote next season's growth. Lavender plants will bloom mid to late summer.
Full harvesting of lavender is possible in the 2nd to 5th year. Harvest lavender stalks when the buds show color but not yet in full bloom, so they will hold their scent for many years. The best time of day to harvest is midday when oils are most concentrated. Some gardeners replace lavender plants after the 5th year and plant in a new location with fresh soil. Others believe the lavender plants will do well in the same location for decades.
Lavender remains one of the most popular perennials in the home garden. It makes a very fragrant pathway hedge where your guests walk by and release its scent. The lavender flowers pair well with pink yarrow or red or pink roses.
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs 1987 Rodale Press Inc.New Mexico Magazine April 2005Herbs An Illustrated Encyclopedia A Complete Culinary, Cosmetic, Medicinal and Ornamental Guide by Kathi Keville 1997 Barnes and Noble Inc.Herb Companion Magazine June/July 2002