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Lavendula spp (Labiatae)
Habitat and appearance: There are many lavender species. The English ones are beautiful to look at and use for essential oil, but in my opinion the best and sweetest to drink are those that are grown and harvested in the South of France (Provence region, especially). The hotter climate produces higher levels of essential oils, and therefore medicinal properties are also greater. However, I regularly make fresh lavender tea from my English-grown lavender and it is really delightful.
Lavender is a perennial sub-shrub reaching 30-90cm. It has a much-branched, irregular stem, short, thick and wooded at the base. Leaves are narrow, lanceolate, greeny-grey and slightly tomentose (furry). It’s a generally aromatic plant, particularly the flowers, which appear from mid-summer to early autumn. They show spikes some 1cm long and are grey-blue olive/lilac in colour.
Garden suitability: Enjoying well-drained, slightly sandy conditions (but also poor soil), it needs sunshine – at least four hours per day.