Lavender has become a strong symbol of the Italian garden and subsequently the Tuscan style garden and it's use will clearly suggest a Mediterranean feel in any garden. However it does require some quite specific maintenance and the number of old, woody and dying lavender plants in many gardens stand as strong testament to this fact.
A plant of Mediterranean origin, it thrives on free draining soils and adores full sun but these factors alone are not enough to keep the lavender plant healthy and vigorous. Like most Mediterranean plants the lavender has become used to being burnt in scrub fires and thus requires e reproduction of these conditions in our gardens (see www.lifeinitaly.com/garden/pruning.asp)
To maintain your lavender plant in perfect condition the most important maintenance steps are these;
- prune the dead flower stalks off after flowering with secateurs, without cutting into the leaves
- apply a pottassium based fertiliser in the autumn to aid root growth
- prune harder into the leaf layer with shears in March (or when growth starts) and leave a shape that follows the natural shape of the plant, without cutting lower than where the vegetative growth starts (into the brown part of the stem).
- apply a gravel-based mulch at around 3-4 inches
- apply a Nitrogen, Pottassium and Phosphorous fertilizer and water well.
If these steps are followed then your lavender plant will most definitely flourish!
Here in Tuscany they say that a lavender will die after 7 ears if it is not pruned correctly!
Good varieties are;
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote blue' or
For more tips on growing Mediterranean plants see www.lifeinitaly.com/garden/lavender-plants.asp or www.web-ecologica.com