Dig It! Lavender (9 April 2018)
With temperatures slowly increasing, gardeners are starting to think about summer-flowering plants for their gardens and terraces. I'd choose a lavender plant, you can cut and dry the flower heads later on in the season, and enjoy the insect-repellent properties right now. English lavender, or Lavandula angustifolia, is the first to flower, and resists cold the best. It prefers a warm, sunny position and well-drained soil and flowers from late spring. My favourite variety in this group is the classic "Hidcote" with deep purple flowers and greyish-green leaves.
The French lavenders, or lavandins, tend to be a bit taller and flower a bit later than their English cousins. They do best in hot, sunny positions and don't mind a bit of drought. I like the variety Lavandula x intermedia "Grosso" which gets to 1m tall and wide and makes a superb low hedge.
The most cold-sensitive plants are in the Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula dentata groups, and both prefer a pot to damp clay soil. I often give them as gifts in the summer but wouldn't expect them to survive a cold winter here.
The new "Phenomenal" lavender is a new cross of the Lavandula x intermedia goup, but has been shown to withstand -25C in field trials, so it's good with very hot situations as well as very cold ones. It's also good for bees, as a cut flower, deer-proof and very fragrant. It will be appearing in garden centres near you from this spring.