BRIAN KIDD: Forget wild flowers, go for lavender

Long-lasting: lavender will do you proud.
Long-lasting: lavender will do you proud.
Elaeagnus maculata Aurea  - its golden leaves shine in winter.

GARDENING: Shrubs which are suitable for those who live in flats

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It is great to receive letters which inspire me to write about a particular subject so, by popular demand, I thought it might be a good idea to look at lavendula spica which we all know as the humble, beautiful and elegant lavender.

I often read in gardening magazines that it is a good idea to plant wild flowers and to leave the odd dandelion.

However, if I do this I notice the wild flowers bloom for three weeks and then, instead of birds eating the seeds, the seeds produce masses of wild flowers in every crack and crevice. It even gets in the guttering of our bungalow.

But lavender flowers last 10 weeks or longer. Hope you noticed I didn’t mention that dandelion...

The flowers are best cut once all the florets are open as this ensures the perfume is captured at the right time. When the plants are only one or two years old this is the only pruning which has to be done.

One reader has written to ask where she can buy a new lavender because her original is too large and once the old one has been removed can another be planted in the same place? She also wants to know where she can buy a dwarf variety.

Ask yourself, will it really be too large if it is pruned right now?

If you decide to cut it back hard make sure you leave some live leaves on each of the branches.

Do this and it may be possible to cut off as much as a 12 inches all over the shrub.

But be warned: if you cut back into very old wood it may not survive.

After pruning, which is normally done as soon as the flowers have all faded, cuttings can be taken.

These should be about three inches long.

Remove the lower leaves leaving just a frill at the tip.

The cuttings can now be inserted around the edge of a flower pot in any compost.

However, half of it should be potting sand well mixed with the compost. This ensures the cuttings will be well-drained.

Cuttings root in about five to six weeks at this time of year.

Once they have rooted they are usually potted in three-inch diameter pots until spring when they can be planted in the garden.

Why not consider a lavender hedge?

Lavender of all types loves a sunny, open situation in well-drained soil and even loves chalk.

It will survive in shallow sandy soils close to the sea as long as it is planted in groups of seven or more. This is because one plant protects the next during the autumn and winter gales.

There are many varieties and you will see a good selection at garden centres, or if you are in the Isle of Wight, go and have a look at the lavender farm near Newport.

A dwarf one which is easy to find is Munstead Dwarf.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Have you stopped watering your indoor amaryllis? I hope so.

The pot needs to be put on its side somewhere sunny and not watered at all. The leaves should all die back by next month.

Then repot in dry John Innes No3 compost and don’t water again until February or once a fat flower bud emerges.