I received a lavender scented soap from a dear friend recently and was suddenly taken back to memories of my childhood. Oddly, I didn’t grow up among lavender fields and my parents didn’t have gardens overflowing with this sweetly-musky, spiky flower. I grew up in northeastern Illinois, where lavender often struggles to thrive year-round. To be honest, I don’t think I even saw lavender growing in the ground until I was an adult visiting a southern state, and yes, I was in awe.
Why does lavender take me back to my childhood? It was something I only found in specialty gift shops, dried and neatly wrapped in twine. The scent entranced me and I longed to have it for my own. These sweet bundles often had a hefty price tag (at least to a child), so I began to associate lavender with something the wealthy, living far, far away could have….and never for me. It was one piece of the puzzle that inspired my love for plants and gardens.
That soap gift made me realize I still don’t have the luxury of lavender in my garden so I’ve made it a goal to purchase some plants this upcoming spring. I still live in the Midwest, so called my good friend, Kelly Norris at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, for his advice of lavender cultivars to grow in our area (zone 5). I thought some of you might enjoy seeing his recommendations below too.
Phenomenal French Lavender | Lavandula x intermedia 'Niko'
Kelly’s thoughts: ‘Phenomenal’ is my top pick for around here and in so many parts of the country. It gets big (3x3’) but is very reliable.
Munstead Lavender | Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead'
Kelly’s thoughts: ‘Munstead’ does pretty well. It’s not the longest lived and we have to work on some individuals occasionally to shape them up into something in the spring, but it’s a good old oldie.
These lavender photos were taken in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
What plants impacted you as a child and still inspire you today?
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