There isn't just one type of lavender. Every cultivar has a different scent, taste and bloom! The plants range in size from small and compact to large and sprawling. Scent-wise, some lavenders have a stronger and almost astringent smell, while others are soft and sweet. The buds can taste sweet, floral and herbaceous.
Lavender originated in the Mediterranean, but has been selectively bred for desirable traits, such as its ability to grow in colder wetter climates for hundreds of years. This selective breeding is why we can grow lavender in Ontario.
We currently grow six lavender cultivars; both “English” and “French” lavender. More below.
English lavender - Lavandula angustifolia
The proper name for “English” lavender is actually Lavandula angustifolia. It’s called “English” lavender because it was selected and bred for the English climate. This means these plants can grow well in Ontario: it’s cold and wet here too. They have a sweet herbaceous scent and make high-quality essential oil. All Lavandula angustifolia can be eaten, as it has less camphor, but not all are great for culinary uses.
We grow four Lavandula angustifolia cultivars: Munstead, Hidcote, SuperBlue and Folgate.
- Munstead has a light purple bud/bloom. It is one of the older English varieties that was often grown from seed, which means the plants today can look very different from one another. We chose to grow it for its soft floral taste and scent.
- Hidcote Blue has a dark purple bud/bloom. It is a smaller more compact plant making it good for containers or gardens. We love it deep purple blooms and its unique peppery taste, so we grow it for bouquets and culinary uses.
- Super Blue has a dark purple bud/bloom and is even a smaller more compact plant than Hidcote. We selected it as it can bloom very late in the season and is hardy to Zone 4 – meaning it is better able to handle our climate.
- Folgate has mid-purple bud/bloom. It ends up being a pretty large plant and is great for culinary uses. It has a sweet refreshing taste.
French lavender - Lavandula x intermedia
The proper name for “French” lavender is “Lavandula x intermedia”. It was selected and bred for the French perfume industry. It yields more oil and has a stronger scent than Lavandula angustifolia. Often when people think of lavender scent, they are thinking of French lavender. We grow two types:
- Phenomenal has a light purple, almost grey, bud/bloom, and is much hardier than other Lavandula x intermedia. It can be grown in Zone 4, meaning it stands up to our harsh winters here in Ontario. For reference, our farm is located in Zone 5. Phenomenal plants end up being quite large, which makes them perfect for bouquets. We also selected this variety for use in our self-care products that include dried buds.
- Grosso has a light purple, almost grey, bud/bloom. We don’t have a ton of these plants as they just don’t love Ontario's wet and cold weather, but the plants we have are used for bouquets or our self-care products that include dried buds.
We have also tested a few other cultivars. Some (Twickel Purple, Gros Bleu) did very poorly for us and mostly died. Others (Royal Velvet and Ellagance Pink) did really well in our test plot, and we hope to grow more of these one day.
For thousands of years lavender has been selected and bred to be the beautiful and diverse plant that it is today. And we are grateful to the plant breeders and horticulturalists who developed the cultivars that we grow on our farm. Arthur, Ontario couldn't be more different than the Mediterranean! ;)
Ps. Do you have a lavender plant in your garden, but don't know what cultivar it is? Comment below; maybe we can help!