Sea lavender looks great when mass planted.
Sea lavender looks great when mass planted. Contributed

Lavender: an oldie but a goodie for your garden

GARDEN writing in spring is often dominated by the newly released plants.

All the poor plants that have been around for a while sometimes struggle to get a mention. And yet many of the new releases will disappear without trace in a year or two.

They're fun to try, and some will prove to be really successful in gardens and landscaping, but others will not stand the test of time.

One plant that certainly has stood the test of time is limonium perezii, commonly known as perennial statice or sea lavender. Native to the Canary Islands, this is a fabulous plant. The dark green, leathery foliage forms an attractive mound about 40cm high and wide. Sometimes the leaves develop an attractive bronze margin. The foliage alone is attractive enough to warrant a place in most gardens. The heads of numerous small, deep blue flowers form on stems that are held above the foliage in spring, summer and into autumn. The papery calix of the flower lasts for months, so these flowers are terrific in fresh or dried arrangements.

Limonium perezii performs best in full sun or a partially shaded position in well-drained, even sandy, soil. Those leathery leaves are able to withstand salt spray, making it a very useful plant for coastal or poolside gardens. It looks lovely when mass planted in garden beds, rockeries, borders or large containers. Those clouds of blue flowers look spectacular when in full bloom. Because it stays quite compact, you can use it in confined spaces and be confident that it won't grow too big. You can lift and divide the plants every few years if you want. The best time to do that would be late winter or early spring.

Blue flowers create a cooling effect in the garden, so I love to have them in the garden in summer. Add some white (think daisies, agapanthus, alyssum, petunias) to amplify that effect. Limonium also works nicely with succulents, cacti, aloes and lots of the native heathland plants like dwarf tea trees and paper daisies.

It's a very low-maintenance plant. Removing spent flowers will help to encourage more to form, and will keep the plant looking neat and tidy. You might need to trim away old foliage every now and then, but that's about the extent of the maintenance required. It will tolerate prolonged periods of dry weather once established. A complete plant food in spring will help to keep it growing strongly. Keep the garden beds mulched to conserve water and suppress weeds, thus keeping maintenance to an absolute minimum.

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