Sunday, May 25, 2014

State of the Lavender Late May 2014

Well,I suppose it could have been much, much worse, considering this winter. At least, that's what I keep telling myself as I prune away the dead parts of each plant. Because each plant has winter die back. It ranges from 30 percent to, well, 90 percent. So, here are some pictures. These were taken a couple of weeks ago. Here is a row of the Croxton's Wild. The entire east side greened up, about another quarter on the western side greened up in the last week, but the Croxton's are also budding where it is green so last night I cut away the remaining gray stems, to make room for the new growth coming on underneath. When I am completely done pruning, I will take a picture of the giant pile of gray lavender fluff on the compost so you get an idea how much I've had to cut away. I'm not sure if the western half of the plants didn't come back from wind burn or what. I'm still not as aggressive of a pruner as I should be, and this will force me into a corner. Of course it is the Croxton's that are doing the best. My least favorite variety. My Marge Clarks, my favorite variety are among those doing the worst. But, at least they are not dead. Like the Lavandins. Every single one. The Abriallis, the Dilly-Dillys, the Seals, all bought on a 6 hour round trip to Hartford City, are all dead. I don't think it was the winter that killed them but the long cold, wet spring. They just couldn't outlast it. neither could my remaining surviving lavenders from Asheville. Kaput. All plants are gray and dead looking in the spring but the difference is the leaves. See how this Lavandin's leaves are all turned down? Like a miniature maudlin weeping willow? Dead. As compared to this plant that has some greening up to do. But that plant is not a good example, because it never greened up and after removing all the winter dieback, it looked like this. This is a drastic example. The only other ones this bad are the hidcote giants, and I'll post about them later. Here is a better example of the type of pruning I'm doing. Before: And after: As pruning and blooming progresses, I'll post more.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Planting the new Lavandins So this summer Andrew and I made our way to Carolee's Herb Farm, just north of Muncie Indiana. Why you ask? For lavender of course! Every year Carolee has a weekend lavender festival where one can buy varieties not found at Lowe's or Home Depot. The first year I heard about it, I couldn't go because I had an awful sinus infection. Then, the summer after that, the extremely dry, warm spring, had the lavender blooming 6 weeks early in the midwest while on the pacific northwest coast, the plant nurseries were overwhelmed with wet weather and there were no plants to be had. I bought two royal velvets, and they are angustfolias. Then I bought three Abriallies, three Dilly-Dillys and three Seals. These are all Lavandins. What is the difference between lavender and Lavandins? These are Lavandins. Look, I'm standing hip-deep in them. I would like to kindly remind you that the camera adds 10 lbs. And I would like to happily tell you that I have lost 10 lbs since this photo was taken thanks to weight training, zumba, and yoga! Here are the baby lavandins planted 4th of July weekend. Think of lavender, as the original plant, the wild lavender, then cultivated to a domesticated lavender, with the label “L. angustfolia.” Lavandula Intermedia plants, or the Lavandins, are hybrids of angustfolia and L. latifolia. So what is Lavandula Latifolia? It's also knows as Spike or Spanish or Portugues Lavender and likes even warmer climates than angustfolias. Sometimes you will see a spike lavender at nurseries around here. You can tell them by their shorter/fatter heads of blooms and two little petals at the very top that stick out horizontally like ears. They won't last a winter here and I'm not sure how well the do in pots outside. Of all the Lavandula's, spike has the strongest scent because it has the highest camphor content. Spike lavender has a lot of the same healing properties as angustfolia (also called true lavender) including that very special “lineol” compound...and that is what makes lavender so calming. Latfolias are found through Spain, Portugal, and northern Italy. So when you cross a spike with true lavender you get intermedia, or Lavandins...got it? Lavandins are bigger than lavenders. The Lavandins at Carolee's Herb farm were easily as tall and wide as some small dining room tables, with base stems as think around as a man's fist. According to, “The Genus Lavandula” by Upson and Andrews, “The industrial demand for essential lavender oil led to vast areas of land to be cultivated. It was cheaper to produce than from lavender and was particularly suited for scenting soap. Today the amount of lavandin essence produced is well in excess of 1000 tons...In Provence 100 tons of lavender essence was produced in 1923 , 90 percent of which came from wild lavender. Today this figure has been reduced to 25 tons and most comes from cultivation...Lavandula angustfolia is a more difficult crop to produce than lavandin as it requires greater care in its cultivation, grows at higher altitudes and has shorter stems* and thus does not take as easily to mechanised harvesting. (Silvestre, 1995) The asterisk there is mine. Lavandins are large. That beautiful bunch of lavender as long as your arm, is most likely a Lavandin, with stems easily as long as 18 inches. My green thumb friend helped me plant them in “mounds” something I have been resisting all these years. Is that why they have grown so much so quickly? Or is it because as lavandins, they get big? I did do one thing special this year with these plants, and that is I got some gritty, sandy, rocky soil from an undisclosed location that used to be a gravel quarry years ago. I think I have planted them too close together...but am hoping this will motivate me to keep them pruned down, as I still struggle with being too conservative in the trimming department. What will they bring this spring? We'll have to see.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

State of the Lavender January 1st 2014

The lavender is doing really well. Half of my varieties are still green. I can't hardly believe it. It may be that insulating snow when it was cold in early December. The plants are vulnerable to "wind burn" and where they are at they can get that wind from the Northwest. Here is a shot of them from beside the house. Look how green the Grossos are. Unbelievable. The Munsteads are more in winter mode here. But look how green the grass is! Here are the Marge Clarks, also holding up well. The Lavender Ladies bloomed late this year. I let the bees have them and never trimmed them off so as soon as it is safe to do so this spring, these ladies will be getting a haircut. The grew like gangbusters though this summer so I am looking forward to harvesting them this year. The bricks that you see in the picture above mark the spot where the Hungarians died out last spring in the cold and wet weather. I'll be replanting this spring. The black landscape fabric you see I graveled over after I took these pictures. There is going to be some serious maintenance work come spring. I have yet to post about the Lavandins planted this summer. They were planted July fourth weekend and were no bigger than a computer mouse and now look at this guy, almost the size of a volleyball. I'm convinced they have been growing even during this weather. And yes, when I run my hand through the leaves, my hand comes away smelling like lavender...even on January 1st! I am going to put the buckets over them next week when it gets really cold just as a precaution, especially if it is going to be windy. It may not help them at al and they might not even need the help, but it will make me feel better. Even more surprising to me were the signs of new growth on these plants. Take a look at the Croxton's here, growing new leaves in the center of the plant. I'm astounded because the Croxton's are a very spindly plant, and rather then being dense in the center, they are quite open to the elements. I also didn't think Croxton's were that hardy since they were developed from a wild French lavender. But maybe that hardiness has been developed. Look to the upper center of the picture below. And remember, you can click on any of these pictures to start a slide show of larger images. And here in the upper left. And I think this shot if kinda pretty. I may take my macro lens out the next warm day. And one last shot of the Grossos. Yes, this color represents the plants today, January 1st.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lavender Harvest 2013

To celebrate a decent harvest despite the cold wet spring, here is a rare photo of the blogger herself... So I prove to continue to be hopelessly, hopelessly behind on blogging. I have big plans for this weekend that I hope won't take me six weeks to post. For now, I review of this year's harvest. So, I have a little lavender... I have about 100 bundles drying and this is the first year the house has significantly smelled of lavender. I had to throw out a whole basket of grossos because I must have set it on and ant hill and there were like, 5 billion ants in the laundry room so had the chuck it all out and simple green the floor where the ants were. I didn't cut croxton's at all and left them for the bees. The mystery lavender also went to the bees so I have tucker's, provence (still small but making it throught the winter) munstead, hidcote, cynthia johnson, marge clark and niagara also hanging up. I am hoping to get some serious maintenance done and write about the plants that didn't make it and why and write about it soon so, Maxwell says "stay tuned!"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lavender Harvest Begins

The cold spring has made the lavender a little smaller this year, and I also need to fertilize the plants. I lost quite a few new plants to cold, wet root problems but will post more about that later. Here are the tucker's always first, even if only by a week this year.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lavender Signs and a Kildeer Moves In

I have been so busy this spring, it's a bit unbelievable that these signs were painted two months ago! These are the bricks I got last year to use as signs for the different varieties of lavender. Since the ends are pointed, they will double as "arrow" signs. It took me a while to get the hang of painting the letters thin enough and I still had to use abbreviations as a lot of varities are two words like hidcote giant, Marge Clark, and Cynthia Johnson. Take a good look at these pictures from early spring before the weeds grew up. The lavender still had a lot of greening up to do because of the cool wet spring. I was still pretty optimisitc about some of the plants not greening up as quickly, especially many that were the new plants I put in last summer. But I got behind doing other things, and the rain encouraged weed and grass growth and just when I was getting ready to roll up my sleeves and tidy up, guess who moved in... After three years of wondering why Kildeer weren't making their nests in the gravel, Momma killdeer lays 4 eggs. I am hoping they will hatch this weekend. The Lavender is blooming and I don'w want to disturb her. My hope is that by Sunday June 9th I can cut the 4 varieties of lavender that is currently blooming and weed and tidy up. It has never been this overrun. It's a cosmetic issue mostly and even though Killdeer are a bird of least concern, they are one of my favorites, so here's hoping there is a workaround this weekend. Notice the lavender plant she is standing near, that is where her nest is and notice how the plant is brown. I have a lot of brown plants but won't be able to report out the extent of the damage until I can get in there...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Well if it's good enough for the Duchess of Cambridge....

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/04/kate-craving-lavender-biscuits.html