Our upper chaparral climate offers hot, dry summers, and cooler and variably moist winters. Although the soil varies in clay, stone and sand content, all our native soil is lacking in organics. Two excellent plants that actually enjoy our environment are Lavender (Lavendula) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus).
These plants are remarkably adaptable to our lean soils and thrive where sun would burn most other plants. They will also accept a little dappled shade.
During blooming season, lavender plants and rosemary plants are covered with small blue, purple, pink or white flowers. Both types of plants are woody shrubs that remain evergreen through the winter. Use them singly, as a group or to form a nice backdrop for other flowering plants.
Some lavender plants can grow into 5-foot-tall shrubs, while dwarf varieties can stay as low as 18 inches. We have been experiencing relatively warm winters, particularly at night, for the past several years. If you recently planted lavender in your garden, there is a good chance almost any variety will have fared well. In the past, however, it has not been abnormal for temperatures to drop into the low twenties or even the high teens in colder areas.
Whether things go warmer, cooler or stay the same, probably the most resilient lavender for the Santa Clarita Valley is the Spanish lavender, Lavendula stoeches. This is a medium-sized plant, usually staying at about 2 to 3 feet in height, so it fits easily into many landscape designs. The flowers are showy with what look like tall, colorful feathers topping the spike of blooms. Although Spanish lavender is most commonly found with reddish purple flowers, there are now hybrids that offer purples, pinks, whites, greens and combinations of any of these colors. There are larger and smaller sized shrubs, too.
Garden rosemary can grow to 4 feet tall and spread 6 feet wide or you can find varieties that stay low, mounding or trailing along the ground. The creepers are ideal to use as ground covers to carpet large areas or to have spill over the edges of walls or pots. Rosemary can sprawl and become woody. It doesn’t hurt to do some regular, judicious pruning to keep the plants shapely.
There are also smaller growing varieties like the sky-blue flowered “Ken Taylor” that stay at about 2 feet tall and need little or no pruning. Low, trailing rosemary plants can be found blooming in pale lilac, white or brilliant blues. They offer a good solution for covering hills or cascading over rocks and walls.
Both lavender and rosemary work well in the general garden or the herb garden. They can be used for scent at any time of year and a dog or cat, who has been romping through the garden in rosemary or lavender, will come back into the house smelling absolutely wonderful!
Even decorative rosemary plants in bright leaf or flower colors, are all fine for cooking or for making herbal teas. Creeping varieties are also edible, although each variety will have a slightly different flavor. Rosemary and lavender offer multiple uses for crafts, cleansing, aroma therapy, medicinal oils, decor and sachets.
Plant lavender and rosemary in your garden for beauty, scent and practical use. They are easy to grow and do well in areas of the chaparral or desert where many other plants would burn and shrivel. They adapt well in our chaparral landscapes, don’t need a lot of water, demand little attention and rarely are bothered by pests. What’s not to love when it comes to adding lavender and rosemary to your garden?