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 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.