COMMON NAME: Lavender ‘Provence’ (also sold as lavandin ‘Provence’, French lavender).
BOTANICAL NAME: Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’.
FLOWER DESCRIPTION: The flower heads are large, 3 inches tall and 7/8 inch wide. As with many lavenders, a few individual flowers may be scattered along the stem below the flower head. Blooms are not as richly colored as a ‘Grosso’ flower, but a solid violet with light purple highlights. Because of a straight flower stem and a prolific bloom, the slightly paler color of ‘Provence’ is counterbalanced by its abundant display.
Flower aroma is both powerful and sweet, sometimes also described as heady, grassy, fruity, herbaceous and mildly woody. This is the plant which has a sweet aroma closer to what the chemical lavender perfumes have conditioned the consumer to expect. This plant lacks much of the camphor/eucalyptus-like overtones that make other lavandins more intense and spicy. The plant is gaining popularity for its potential in perfumes, potpourris, sachets, lavender wands and its culinary potential.
BLOOM PERIOD: Mid-June to mid-July in the eastern United States in Zone 7. In more moderate zones, from early to late July, about two to four weeks after L. angustifolia.
PLANT AND FOLIAGE DESCRIPTION: Leaves typically longer, wider and grayer than the species form of English lavender. Foliage gray-green but less gray than ‘Grosso’ and grows to 12-18 inches tall and slightly wider. The flower stems often tower 12-16 inches above the foliage. The well-behaved foliage looks better with a tight clipping each year after bloom. Canopy can be cut back to cute little “buttons” eight to 10 inches high and a foot wide; new growth quickly fills in to cover the stubble and pale yellow color of the old leaves exposed by the shearing.
HARDINESS AND PLANTING RANGE: ‘Provence’ has a similar climate range to ‘Grosso’. Hardy to 0o F and perhaps lower.
TYPICAL USE IN THE LANDSCAPE: As an accent plant, in mass plantings and in large pottery24 inches in diameter. Plant every 18 inches for a reasonably quick fill-in of the foliage. If planted every 24 inches and given a yearly trim, foliage of adjacent plants may just touch. Has potential as a formally-trained topiary, a neat hedge, or a naturally irregular hedge.
CULINARY USES: Perhaps the sweetest of the lavandins and, therefore appropriate for desserts, ice creams, sorbets and breads, as well as the heartier fare. Because ‘Provence’ is culinarily stronger in all respects than English lavender, you may not want to use as much as is called for in recipes using the English variety. Heat and cooking tempers the intensity of lavender/lavandin aromas, you may need to experiment for appropriate seasoning to taste.
SPECIAL USES/COMMENTS: Because ‘Provence’, being a lavandin, produces more oil than English lavenders and is so highly valued for its sweet aroma, this would be the first variety to experiment with in distilling and making tinctures in limited amounts. You’ll need to harvest about 4 pounds of blossoms to make 1 ounce of oil, or 66.5 pounds of flowers to distill about 17 ounces. With English lavender, around 8 to 16 pounds of flowers are needed for each ounce of oil.