Monday, 21 March 2011

Lavandula stoechas colloquially known as Italian, French or Spanish Lavender

At this time of the year Lavendula stoechas is in flower all along the Mediterranean coast. The word "stoechas" is derived from the Greek name for the Iles de Hyeres (Ile de Porquerolles, Ile de Port Cros and Ile de Levant) namely "Stoechades". It was this type of lavender that was known by the ancient Romans and Greeks. It was used as an antiseptic. The essential oil of Lavandula stoechas has a rather camphorus odour, very different from the usual lavender smell. Nowadays it is used in diluted form in aroma therapy to treat chronic sinusitis, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections.

There are several species of L. stoechas found in the Mediterranean region, Madeira and Tenerife. The differences are in the size, colour and length of the plant and the sterile bracts (rabbit's ears). In the shops at the moment the modern cultivars of L. stoechas are breathtaking.

How do we look after it? It needs very different care from the usual lavender. It likes acid soils and as we have mainly alkaline soils in this area of the Provence, it is best grown in a pot. They are more frost tender and grow best in warmer areas. They are also more tolerant to humidity, but will not do well in an area with very high humidity or heavy rainfall. Prune lightly after flowering, the plant will very often flower again, but the main pruning should be done in early to mid autumn by pruning one-half of the plant.

Bibliography: Virginia McNaughton: Lavender the grower's guide, Julia Lawless: Lavender Oil
Photo: Gerda Nagtegaal

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