I wish it could be forever spring in Malta. It’s the season to be joyful as everything interesting and perfumed is in bloom right now from citrus and honeysuckle to lavenders. Not so in the dusty days of searing summer when bulbs hibernate, browned seed heads wave in the wind and gardens sport garish bougainvillea.
Flower of the month for me in April is lavender. It’s been at near perfection over the past few days – not quite in full flower, so still with the promise of an even deeper purply-blue haze to come. My four established bushes are a hive of industry, covered in bees. I wish I knew which hive they came from as lavender honey sounds tasty.
Lavender is not a wild flower on the Maltese Islands unlike in the maquis areas of France and macchia of Italy. At least, I’ve never come across it here on my many cycle rides and walks; nor for that matter its Mediterranean scrubland neighbour, rosemary. But you will find it in corners of public gardens, some front yards and even cropping up in a roundabout here and there. When you can, pause to take it in. Brush against it to release its scent – from leaves, not just flowers. It’s not an old ladies’ scent at all; it’s the ultimate heady Mediterranean scent.
You will find it in garden centres at the moment, but if you haven’t a plot of earth, you may find keeping it in a pot a disappointment. It can do fine, but will need a deep pot as its roots, in the wild, are used to digging deep to seek water. It can die off almost overnight, wilting inexplicably (or perhaps from ants in the pot). Potted lavender is tricky as it needs some water, but not too much. If you haven’t green fingers, then make the most of the few plants you find around. Sniff them out!
A note for gardeners
French ‘stoechas’ lavenders, as in the photo, are rare in garden centres here. You’ll find regular lavandula augustifolia, but if you want these tufted ones, you may have to ask the centre to order them in, but for next year now as it’s almost too late to plant up before heat hits!
Photo: Robert Crouse-Baker