Amongst the many types of lavender, three main varieties stand out, English, French and Italian lavender. Some have been hybridized and these are easily grown hardy, though you can’t grow the seeds, as they will revert back to the original plant. The hybridized plants have larger flowers; so if looks are what you are after, go for it.
If you intend to harvest for the oil, or to make lavender pillows, the English
lavender has the strongest scent. It is the most popular lavender, with its
compact bushy growth reaching about 3 feet high. It has silvery pointed leaves
and tiny mauve flowers grow at the end of long stems. Different colored flowers,
from white through to pinks, blues and mauves, are available and the highest
concentration of oil is in the flowers.
French lavender is considered the most hardy of all, reaching a height of about five feet. If the spent blooms a snipped off regularly it will bloom for nearly nine months of the year, giving good value for money and time. The blooms cut off can be dried and used for pot-pourri or sleep pillows. So can the leaves. Given a sunny spot, it will reward you with a greater depth of color in the blooms.
Italian lavender is the baby of the three, growing to only about two feet high. It is a bit scarcer, but well worth cultivating if you can find it. Its leaves are tiny, smooth and pointed and although similar in many respects to the other lavenders, it is still different enough to form a good contrast. It flowers from mid-winter to early summer and will make a most attractive small hedge or groundcover, the deep mauve flowers covering the bush profusely. It is not as highly perfumed as the other two lavenders.
The best time to pick lavender flowers for drying is just before the last flowers have opened. Do it on a dry day while it is still cool to retain the oil essence. Hang in a shady, airy place to dry out and then strip the flowers from the stems and store in airtight containers. Lavender is most effective visually if grown as a hedge or with several bushes grouped together. They all like a sunny well-drained position.
Lavender is used as a remedy for giddiness and faintness. It calms and relaxes and cosmetically is good for oily skin.