Today in Provence, France, the hillside fields are transformed into a blanket of purple fragrant lavender blooms. They will soon be harvested for use in soaps and cosmetics and many household products we use daily.

In the Arkansas River valley, we are not lucky enough for fields of lavender, but we do have the climate to grow this favorite herb, and many of us do. This member of the mint family blooms here in late June and July.

We grow lavender in herb gardens, patio containers, along sunny pathways and in large estate gardens and simple cottage gardens.

It’s easy to understand why so many gardeners love lavender. The foliage is attractive, the flowers beautiful and the fragrance intoxicating. It is also bee friendly, attractive to butterflies and resistant to deer and rabbits.

Flowers range from dark purple-blue, to violet-purple, to purple to pink and to lavender blue. They can be compact, can have flower heads packed with blooms, have large spikes of blooms or have conical spikes. Foliage colors are gray, gray-green and silver.

Lavenders need a sunny location and well-drained soil. Newly planted lavenders need to be watered often for the first few weeks; then watered deeply but infrequently (when soil is almost dry). Poorly draining soil and overwatering are the quickest ways to kill lavender. Some growers recommend mulching only with gravel which can lower the humidity around the plant. We all love the look of lavender, but remember, it is a shrub and tends to become woody over time. Most growers suggest an annual pruning to increase stem production and make the plant fill out.

They are also easy to propagate. In fall, take cuttings and push them into the ground and most will root. This tip came from members of the Ozark Garden Club when they shared stems of gray foliage with my sister Rosemary and me recently. Mine are planted, and they look alive. Now it’s up to Mother Nature. Cuttings can also be rooted in pots of gritty compost.

Lavender dates back 2,500 years to the Mediterranean area. The word lavender is Latin for washing — lavare. Before soap was discovered, Romans bathed with lavender water. Actually, today, many lady gardeners add lavender to bath water for a great aroma and a relaxing soak. Ancient Greeks considered lavender a holy herb.

There is a wide range of lavender cultivars. English lavender is the most widely grown in the U.S. It seems to do better here, possibly because it is more tolerant of our humidity. Incidentally, English lavender originated in the Mediterranean, not England. The common name comes from its ability to thrive in an English climate. Others are French and Spanish lavenders.

Some of the tried and true lavenders growing here include:

• “Hidcote has dark purple blooms and is the shortest of all the English lavenders, growing about 12-18 inches tall and wide.

• “Munstead” tolerates heat better than all of the other English lavenders. It is named after Munstead Woods, the home of English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.

• “Platinum Blonde” is an old fashioned English lavender appreciated for its very fragrant variegated foliate and showy spikes of lavender-blue flowers. It was nominated for Plant of the Year at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show.

• “Phenomenal” is a new French hybrid noted for its cold hardiness and tolerance to heat and high humidity. Flowers are a saturated blue with silvery foliage.

• "Grosso” is considered possibly the most fragrant of all lavenders. It is a French lavender that is compact with large conical spikes of violet blue flowers with darker calyxes.

• “Lady” is a dwarf English lavender that produces many soft lavender flower spikes topped with fluffy fragrant flower clusters above dense gray-green leaves. This one flowers the first year.

• “Bandera Purple” is a compact plant that is quickly covered with perfumed dark-purple spikes. This one also blooms the first year.

• "Vicenza Blue” is an English cultivar known for large blue flower spikes that form an abundant crown of flowers on fragrant foliage.

• “Silver Anouk” is a Spanish lavender that produces unusual two-toned flowers framed by silvery foliage that resembles Dusty Miller. Often described as dark plum flowers topped by violet flags — like butterfly wings — or tiny purple pineapples.

• “Anouk” is another Spanish species that has purple flower heads topped with delicate mauve-lilac flags that are sweetly fragrant.

Some gardeners grow several cultivars to extend the blooming season and keep pollinators in the garden. Lavender also repels moths, fleas, flies and mosquitoes. Bouquets of dried lavender are often used inside the house to help keep flies outdoors.

Next week, the topic will be: Water well, water wisely, but most importantly, water, water, water.

Lucy Fry of Fort Smith is a level 4 Master Gardener and writes the area Master Gardener newsletter. Her column, Gardening for the Record, runs weekly in the Times Record. Send questions to gardeningfortherecord@gmail.com.