Lavender (Lavandula) is a genus of flowering plants in mint family of Lamiaceae, comprising 39 species of annuals, herbaceous plants, subshrubs and shrubs. It is native to the Mediterranean regions, south to tropical Africa and southeast regions of India.
Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. The fragrant, purple flowers and buds are used in potpourris while the flower spikes can be used for dried flower arrangements. The flowers also yield abundant nectar from which bees make a high-quality honey. Monofloral honey is produced primarily in the Mediterranean regions and it is marketed worldwide as a premium product. The flowers can be candied, used as cake decorations, add flavors to baked goods and desserts ( pair especially well with chocolates), make into lavender sugar, and also blended together with black, green, or herbal tea to give the tea a fresh, relaxing scent and flavor. Lavandula is also used extensively in herbalism and aromatheraphy. Essential oil of lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Dried lavender flowers and lavender essential oil are used to deter clothing moths ( a species of moth which derive nourishment from clothing, particularly wool). The clothing moths do not like the scent of lavender.
Lavandula angustifolia ( Common or True Lavender, English Lavender) is the most commonly cultivated species. It is a compact, hardy shrub and parent of many lovely garden plants and native to the western Mediterranean region, primarily in the Pyrenees and other mountains in northern Spain. Lavandula angustifolia is a strongly aromatic shrub growing to 1-2 m tall. Its leaves are evergreen, 2-6 cm long and 4-6 cm wide. The fragrant flowers are pinklish-purple, produced on spikes of 2-8 cm long at the top of the slender, leafless stems of 10-30 cm long. The species name angustifolia is latin for 'narrow leaf'. It is commonly grown as an ornamental plant, popular for its colorful and fragrant flowers. In addition to being ornamental plant, the flowers and leaves are used as herbal medicine, in the form of lavender oil and as herbal tea. The flowers are also used as culinary herb. Lavender essential oil, when diluted with a carrier oil, is commonly used as a relaxant with massage therapy. Lavandula angustifolia yields an essential oil with sweet overtones. It can be used in balms, salves (medical ointment used to soothe the head and other body surface), perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications.
Lavandula multifida (Fernleaf Lavender, Egyptian Lavender) is a small plant or shrub, native to the southern regions of Mediterranean, including Iberia, Sicily and the Canary Islands. The plant has double pinnate leaves and dark blue or blue violet flowers borne on long stems of grey and wooly, held above the foliage. It is grown as a herb and as an ornamental plant.
Lavandula stoechas (French Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Stoechas Lavender, or Topped Lavender) is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a perennial shrub, growing to 30-100 cm tall and wide. The leaves are 1-4 cm long with greyish tomentose. The flowers are pinkish-purple (lavender-colored) and borne on spikes 2-3 cm long at the top of the slender leafless stems of 10-30cm long. At the top of the spike are anumber of much larger, strile bracts, 1-5 cm long and bright lavender purple. Lavandula stoechas is used commercially in air fresheners and insecticides.
Lavandula can be grown for edging and hedging, in gravel gardens and in containers. It grows well in full sun and in well-drained soil. Leave plants untrimmed over the winter to attract seed-eating birds. Insect-eating birds will be attracted by the insects surrounding lavender in the summer. Propagation is by seed in spring, or semi-ripe cuttings in summer. The plant is proned to honey fungus and mould attack.