Winter is the perfect time for dreaming of the perfect garden.

Even if your garden is established, it is never really finished. Preferences change over time. Inspiration strikes from viewing other gardens, visiting garden centers, drooling over magazine layouts, becoming aware of new introductions, or just wanting to change things up a bit.

One plant that works well in multiple sites and situations is lavender. These plants have features that make them desirable for a garden plant: they are low water-use, they attract bees and other pollinators, they have a heavenly scent, and they require little maintenance.

The flowers are lovely and are available in a palette of colors besides purple. Years of breeding efforts have resulted in a wonderful choice of flower colors, from white, light pink, and fuchsia, to dozens of shades of purple.

Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), with its floppy bracts at the top of the flower spike, always make me laugh: there is something faintly ridiculous about them. But they are wonderful companions to white, pink, or blue-flowering plants, and they have the bonus of flowering more than once, putting on another flush later in the season, if pruned, when many spring-flowering plants are finished with their show.

Spanish Lavender

Spanish lavender

English lavender

English lavender (photo © Maja Dumat / Flickr)

English lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia) are perhaps more commonly planted, and are supposed to be hardier than Spanish lavenders, but hardiness depends on your local growing conditions, including soil type, protection from cold winds, and the lowest winter low temperatures.  In my garden, I’ve had more success with the Spanish lavenders than with some cultivars of English lavender, even though the heavy clay soils in my garden are not optimal for either species. ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ are two varieties of English lavender that have repeatedly failed in my yard, and I’ve given up on them. I’ve also found that the lavandins (Lavandula x intermedia) with fuzzy leaves are not hardy at all in my garden, which is in the mid-Willamette Valley.  It may take some trial and error to see what will survive in your area, but the effort will be highly rewarded. The smell of lavender in full bloom is heavenly.

The Master Gardeners in Jackson County, in southern Oregon, have a demonstration garden that includes around 80 cultivars of lavender. The garden is free and open to the public from June to mid-August. (Most of the plants flower in June.) It is a great place to see the difference in flower color and plant form, and there are usually brochures that identify the plants. It is well worth a drive. For more information, see their web page at https://jacksoncountymga.org/demonstration-gardens/

There is additional information on growing lavenders, plus links to even more information at https://ngb.org/year-of-the-lavender/. It’s worth a peek.