Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Family: Lamiaceae also Labiatae) is most breathtaking when grown in drifts reminiscent of the Provence area of France. The grey-green, needle-shaped foliage and spikes of blossoms which range from white to pinks to purplish-blues are beautiful and refreshing in nearly any setting. The darker purplish-blue varieties are especially dramatic when surrounding a rose garden.
Another member of the mint family and an evergreen, perennial shrub, lavender is vulnerable to hard winters. While it can be grown from seed, propagation by cuttings is recommended in the colder climates where the offspring plants are more likely to assume the hardiness developed and conferred by the parent plants. Bearing prolific blooms in June and July, this plant prefers full sun, dry conditions and good drainage in sweet soil.
There are at least 28 species of Lavender and many varieties, but the varieties most favored in the Midwest are the cultivars 'Hidcote' and 'Munstead'. Used for many things from insect repellents and antiseptics to fragrance in soaps, perfumes and aromatherapy oils, lavender leaves and blossoms can also be used sparingly for culinary purposes. The long stems and lavender flowers of the 'Provence' or 'Grosso' cultivars are especially beautiful in decorative projects such as wreaths, flower arrangements, and lavender wands.
While there are few recipes available, suggestions for its culinary use include fruit salads, soups, beef, pork, and stews; combining with rosemary in breads, herb butters, and marinades for lamb or chicken. The St. Louis Herb Society includes lavender as an ingredient in its very popular Herbes de Provence mix.