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April's plant of the month is the lavender2 April 2013
April's plant of the month is the lavender, one of the best-known and best-loved of all the herbs. It's got it all: fragrant, well-behaved, and versatile enough to grow in borders, as a hedge or to edge a path in a romantic cottage garden. The beautifully scented violet-blue flowers, adored by bees, can be dried for pot pourris and scented lavender bags, or baked into fragrant cookies.
Most varieties grow to about 75cm tall, making bushy, evergreen shrubs with a silvery-grey tinge to the leaves. The flower spikes appear in summer: English lavenders have densely-packed bluish spikes, while French lavender flowers carry curious butterfly-like bracts, in shades from white to deepest purple.
Lavenders are Mediterranean herbs, so enjoy a gritty soil in full sun – they're very drought-tolerant. The only maintenance they need is a quick trim after flowering to keep them neat and compact.
When it comes to picking a variety, you're spoilt for choice. 'Hidcote' is a fine choice for hedging, while for something different, try soft pink-flowered 'Loddon Pink'. 'Nana Alba' is a white variety growing to just 25cm tall, and Lavandula stoechas subsp. pedunculata, also sold as 'Papillon', is one of the best French lavenders, its flowers topped with long, purplish-pink bracts.