French Lavender

Attractive, low-growing lavender shrubs are beneficial to all gardens, as bees love these plants.
The hardy French lavender, Lavandula dentata, has soft, grey-green leaves and spikes of fragrant purple flowers. Also known as the toothed or fringed lavender, this variety produces flowers almost all year in most parts of Australia. Originally from the Mediterranean, it enjoys hot summers and is drought-tolerant. It does not require a lot of fertiliser or care, and is happy in pretty much any well-drained, or gravelly, soil that has a pH close to neutral. An annual sprinkling of agricultural lime around the base, watered in, not only keeps these plants healthy, it increases the strength of the perfume. A light, haircut-style pruning when flowering is finished will encourage side shoots to produce flowering stems. However, avoid cutting into old wood as they do not produce new shoots.
Although not used in recipes like English lavender because the flowers and leaves contain more camphor, dried flowers and leaves placed into small muslin bags make excellent moth and pest deterrents for linen and clothing storage. They are also used as lavender pillows for insomnia and, interestingly, they have a similar calming effect on bees.

Bees and lavender

Beelavender Bees love lavender, and because French lavender* flowers during winter, it provides them with nourishment when there is little else in flower. Lavender is known for its calming effect on people and it has the same effect on bees. A hardy plant, French lavender prefers a gravelly soil with a close to neutral pH. It is an efficient water user and requires little complete fertiliser, suits warmer climates, makes an attractive hedge, and is happy in beds or a large pot. All it needs is a light hair cut when flowering has finished.
Bee numbers are declining around the world. This is a matter for concern for all of us as we rely on bees to pollinate a good number of our fruits and vegetables. As well as growing some French lavender or some winter-flowering annuals, please ensure you keep some clean water available in your garden as bees need clean water, too. Many drown each year from trying to drink chlorinated pool water. A bird bath or large plant saucer, regularly topped up with clean water, is all they need.
* French Lavender (Lavendula dentata) is also known as Toothed Lavender, so named for the edges of its leaves.