Originating in the Southern and Western areas of the Mediterranean,
Lavenders have been used decoratively and as medicinally
since Roman times.
The various wild forms have been in cultivation since
the Middle Ages when they featured strongly in European
gardens. Interest in their fragrance and oils also increased
during this time, and the various hybridisation's have
left us with a rich tapestry of forms, many with quite
different uses and appeal.
New Zealand with its high density sunlight
and largely coastal aspect, mirrors many of the features
of this Mediterranean environment and it is little surprise
that nearly all lavender varieties do well throughout the
The Mediterranean influence has hit New
Zealand in a big way.
Plastered and colour-washed houses, wrought iron, terracotta
and terraced gardens featured strongly in decorating magazines.
Supermarkets stock several varieties of olive as a matter
of course and sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and pesto are
no longer exotic fare for many New Zealanders.
But there’s another group of
Mediterranean imports that have been made their presence
felt in New Zealand gardens for years and their popularity
transcends fashion trends.
Lavenders, those aromatic garden favourites,
have always been a top choice for cottage and herb gardens
and were widely used in the thematic white and silver
gardens so popular a few years ago. A natural solution
in dry and coastal situations, they’re obviously
on home ground as the passion for Mediterranean garden
There are twenty-eight known species of lavender world-wide,
mostly native to the countries bordering the Mediterranean,
and to Asia and India.
In New Zealand the lavenders we grow and love fall into
two distinct groups.
The "English" - angustifolia
or spica lavenders are thought to have developed from
a Mediterranean hybrid taken to England in sixteenth
century and later popularised by great horticultural
artists like William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll. These
species have a period of winter dormancy and are less
vigorous than their cousins from warmer climes, flowering
usually once a year, in late spring or early summer.
Their showier relations from the continental
nations are known as stoechas or "Mediterranean" types
and are characterised by their colourful compressed flower
spikes topped by striking bracts. They are robust growers
and abundant bloomers. Their flowering season begins in
early spring and lasts for months, with some varieties
flowering almost year-long. These lavenders thrive in our
temperate climate and flourish throughout New Zealand.
Liddle Wonder’s picked the very
best of the Mediterranean lavenders, and their release
each spring, reflects that enthusiasm.
The subtle colour combinations, fragrant flowers and easy
disposition of Mediterranean lavenders will fill a gap
in all sorts of planting schemes - exotic or distinctly
Silvery foliage and a hardy nature
makes them ideal companions for native coastal dwellers
- hebe and olearia species, arthropodium, senecio and
New Zealand helichrysum. And they’re the perfect
foil for a blazing summer backdrop of flaming pohutukawa.
Or mix them with other Mediterranean,
African and Australian heat lovers for a striking "dry" garden.
The silver leucadendron, protea, cistus, rosemary, thyme,
olive, agapanthus, artemesia, sedum, arctotis, Federation
Marguerite Daisies and catmint spring to mind - but the
list is endless.
Other showy plants that complement the theme include Choisya
ternata, the non-invasive Convolvulus cneorum and Blue
Lake, ceanothus, cordyline, Lithospermum Graceward, Meyer
Lemons and other citrus, osteospermum, Solanum jasminoides,
Echium fatuosum - the Pride of Madiera, Genista Yellow
Imp and gazania - look for the new Sunbather series.
Garden designers like Gertrude Jekyll
and Australian Edna Walling recommended the use of grey
and silver plants as garden "catalysts". In
bedding schemes they have long been used to break up
strong colours and subdue potential garish clashes. And
the powerful light-reflecting properties of the foliage
will light up the dullest garden. As accent plants they
can be used to highlight edges, corners or special features.
In a container close to the house their fragrance is
And in combination with terracotta pots they exude the
essence of Mediterranean style ...
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