There is nothing like the sight and smell of lavender. I was fortunate enough to travel to the South of France and see the lavender fields. But we don't have to travel to Europe to enjoy this prized herb. There are lavender farms in Connecticut and you can grow it in your own backyard. You just need to select the right varieties and grow them properly. It's the National Garden Bureau's Plant of the Year, so let's grow some lavender.
Lavender is a sun and well-drained soil loving perennial herb. Heavy, wet clay soils and shade are killers for this plant. Select lavender varieties hardy to our climate. The English lavender varieties, such as 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead', are best. While French, Spanish and Portuguese lavenders are not as hardy in Connecticut, newer varieties are proving good choices. The Lavandula hybrid 'Phenomenal' has classic purple, fragrant flowers on 2 to 3 foot tall shrubs that are hardy to zone 5. The newer 'Sensational' is similar with stiffer flower stalks, perfect for cutting.
Grow lavender in a protected location on average soils. It doesn't like highly-fertile soil. We grow ours next to our house protected from the West and North winds. Raise up beds on clay soils. Lavender is a drought tolerant plant, so mix and match it with similar perennials such as poppies, artemesia and red valerian.
Protect plants in late fall with evergreen boughs or wood chip mulch. Some winter injury is okay, as long as the crown survives. Cut it back in early spring, add some compost, and you'll be enjoying lavender flowers in July.