When I think of lavender, I picture great sweeping fields
of every imaginable shade of purple, pink and white. I usually imagine them in
Southern France, and me there with a good bottle of wine-but that's another
story altogether! In reality, I satisfy my craving with a few potted cultivars
on my sunny patio, and dream of the day when I have an actual yard in which to
plant masses of this fragrant plant.
With literally hundreds of lavender cultivars available
worldwide, a definitive reference work on this popular plant is an important
addition to any gardener's library. New Zealand native Virginia McNaughton's
Lavender: the grower's guide is just such a book. If you're looking for a book
on designing with lavender, look elsewhere. This is a densely packed reference
book for serious lavender lovers.
Most of the book's 180 pages are devoted to descriptions
of over 200 lavender species and cultivars. McNaughton includes varieties from
Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and North America.
She provides detailed descriptions of each, using both qualitative and
quantitative measures, and pays special attention to the issues of nomenclature
that have long plagued lavender literature.
Two chapters: The Botany of Lavender, and
Classification and Lavender Species, are worth the price of this book alone. As
a self-admitted hobby gardener, I know a lavender plant when I see one, but I
don't know much about individual cultivars. These chapters are a revelation.
The Botany of Lavender is exceptional for its depth and attention to detail.
Close-up photos of lavender spikes, superbly labeled, along with clear text,
will teach you everything you ever needed to know about the composition of each
In the chapter History, Classification and Lavender
Species, the author provides detailed descriptions of the six sections of the
genus Lavandula: Stoechas, Dentata,
Pterostoechas, Chaetostachys, and Subnuda.
Readers are well advised to read both of
before delving into the cultivar descriptions that follow.
In reading Lavender: the
grower's guide, it's easy to
become overwhelmed by the variety of cultivars available. Granted, not every
cultivar is available in our part of the world. A short but effective appendix
organizes the cultivars by color; another indicates those cultivars suitable
for container growing, both helpful to gardeners who want to add more lavender
to their gardens. I especially appreciated the glossary that is provided at the
back of the book, and found myself referring to it as I worked my way through
the hundreds of cultivar descriptions.
Readers with an eye for detail will notice that
was published in 2000. A good companion to McNaughton's work is The Genus
Lavandula, written by Tim Upson and Susyn Andrews, and published by Kew in
2004. Together, these two monographs offer the most comprehensive information
available on the Lavandula species. I plan to take at least one of them with me
when I visit area lavender farms this summer.