Sandy's Garden ... Lavender

My interest in popular music dates back to my early years at Perth Academy.

And also the mandatory visit to Paterson’s Music Shop straight after school every Friday afternoon, in the hope that the single sheet of flimsy coloured paper giving news of the week’s Top Twenty would be available to be discussed and mulled over throughout the weekend and at school on the following Monday.

I still recall the names of the vocalists who enjoyed Billboard Number Ones in 1949 – they were, in alphabetical order, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Evelyn Knight, Frankie Laine and Dinah Shore.

But, though I remember Spike Jones and his Orchestra, I don’t recall any of the other maestros whose orchestras topped the charts that year - Blue Barron, Vaughn Monroe and Russ Morgan.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

Dinah Shore’s 1949 Number One was Buttons and Bows – yet I remember a slightly earlier, less-successful Dinah Shore release … ‘Lavender’s Blue’ … even better.

“Lavender’s blue, diddle diddle / Lavender’s green, / When I am king, diddle diddle / You shall be queen. // Lavender’s green, diddle diddle / Lavender’s blue, /You must love me, diddle diddle / ‘Cause I love you.”

This song was regarded as a nursery rhyme, which was a surprising choice for an established singer, although Vera Lynn’s version appeared two months later and numerous artists recorded their versions in subsequent years and decades.

I am willing to bet that very few … if any … of them knew that a version of the words was printed in England between 1672 and 1679, under the name ‘Diddle Diddle, Or The Kind Country Lovers.’

The words were to be sung to the tune ‘Lavender Green’, so people must already have been familiar with the plant.

These musings are prompted by the plethora of lavenders on display in every plant centre this year. I have succumbed to their tempting fragrance, their long-lasting flowers and their glowing colours and have added a number of them to my garden.

Lavender is thought to have come originally from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands and is found nowadays in temperate climates across much of the northern half of the world, grown as an ornamental garden plant, as a culinary herb and for the oils which can be extracted from it.

I write ‘it’, but there are actually 47 known species of lavender, the most widely cultivated one being Lavandula augustifolia - the narrow-leaved (augustifolia) version of the plant used to make soap (Lavandula).

With a fine choice of varieties on plant retailers’ shelves, there are two words to look for on the label … ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ … the names of the gardens where Lawrence Johnston and Gertrude Jekyll developed these differing species.

Hidcote lavender flowers are a deeper, violet-blue colour, are more compact than Munstead and have silver-grey foliage which changes colour slightly through the seasons.

Munstead is half the size of Hidcote, with rather ‘looser’, lighter-coloured flowers. Both do well in central Scotland. The choice is yours – I have both.