Cut Lavender

Last week I cut my lavender.  It was a beautiful morning and the solitary activity in the stillness of early hours was therapeutic.

Observing the variation in color, the itty bitty flowers, how the scent varies slightly from plant to plant was good for my soul.  How grateful I feel for this slowing down that July has brought to us.

The bundles are now hanging to dry in my studio.  I bundle the lavender with rubber bands.  As the lavender dries the stalks will shrink so rubber bands are perfect for holding it together.  A turquoise ribbon over the rubber band to hang and I was done.

It feels good.  My first lavender harvest in years.  I look forward to the increased yield that time will bring when my young plants produce more.  For now, the faint scent greets me when I walk in the room and the beauty of it hanging in front of my mirror makes me smile.

{Happy sigh.}


More Lavender

Imagine my delight to happen upon Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ in a local nursery this week.   Immediately I was sorry my lavender garden isn’t ready for planting, for if it was I would have happily scooped up two dozen Munstead lavender plants and taken them home.  This, I am certain, is what I grew at my old house with such success.   My heart skipped a beat when I spotted it, but I limited myself to only three.

The lavender garden will have to wait for now.  I’ve decided on the plot of ground, but first I must clear it of weeds, rid it of ants and prepare the soil for lavender.

Early in June a friend stopped by unexpectedly and I offered her my most recent lavender recipe experiment for sampling.  She told me she had some lavender plants she was going to pull out of her yard.  I told her I’d take one if she had nothing to do with it.  Later that week she called me, saying it was out and ready to be picked up.  I was surprised when I got there; it was huge!  It took both of us to carry it and get it in my car.

It’s approximately 3 feet in diameter and very woody; not what you want lavender to look like.  This is what becomes of lavender when it isn’t pruned.  The transplant made it uglier than it was before she took it out.  Some of the branches fell off or started to sag.   It’s got to be at least 5 years old, which means it only has a few years left so I figure I can at least harvest it until then.

I worried that it might not do well.  I was moving it from a part-sun location to full sun, and also to a spot that is much windier than where it came from.  Happily it appears to be thriving (even after a couple of bad wind storms), and is now beginning to bloom.

I’ve now planted all around it as well, so the general appearance of the bush isn’t such an eyesore.

Finally, I found a French lavender that is just gorgeous, although it’s not good for harvesting.  It’s called Lavandula dentata ‘Goodwin Creek’ .  The dentata is a giveaway – it refers to the shape of the leaves, which is what I love about it.

Sometimes called “toothed lavender”, the dentata name refers to the toothed leaf  shape.  The flowers themselves remind me more of wildflowers than lavender but I thought it was so beautiful that I added it to the yard.  I hope it thrives.

What do you think?


Spanish Lavender

Yesterday I wrote about the English lavender I recently planted in my yard.   I also planted some Spanish lavender.

The Latin name for Spanish lavender is Lavandula stoechas .   In my opinion the most distinguishing characteristic of L. stoechas is the showy “flower” which forms at the tip of the flower head (see below picture).  In fact, that bright purple decoration isn’t a flower at all; it’s a type of leaf formation called a bract .  Gorgeous.

Spanish lavender’s aren’t as hardy as English lavenders.  While most L. angustifolia is hardy to -20 degrees Farenheit, L. stoechas is hardy only to 15 or 10 degrees.  It was, perhaps, a gamble to put some in my garden, but I decided it’s worth a try.

The plant I bought was labeled Lavendula stoechas ‘Madrid Purple’ .   What I’ve read indicates that the bract is all show and no flavor and that it is also difficult to get much fragrance from the flower heads.  On this particular cultivar the individual corollas seem too small to be of much use.  It would probably be beautiful, however, in a flower arrangement, and my reading also indicates that the foliage, when cooked or grilled, stands up well as an herb in culinary dishes.  Spanish lavender, however, is not a flower of choice for sweet desserts.

In addition to the beautiful bracts, I was attracted to the Spanish lavender because the scent of the foliage seemed stronger to me than the English lavender I’m familiar with.  Again, my reading so far has indicated that the aroma of the L. stoechas foliage is, indeed, more robust.  Apparently it yields more essential oil per acre harvested than L. angustifolia , (English lavender).

I purchased a second Spanish lavender plant, also labeled Lavendula stoechas ‘Madrid Purple’ which has white bracts instead of purple bracts.  The flowers on this plant also seem a bit brighter than the midnight purple color of the flowers above.  I’m wondering if this lavender with white bracts is actually a different cultivar.  In The Lavender Garden: Beautiful Varieties to Grow and Gather Robert Kourik mentions L. stoechas ‘Alba’ , a Spanish lavender with pure white bracts.  This beautiful lavender will, I hope, thrive in my garden  for several years to come.

And so, in my little corner of the world I now have three slightly different lavenders growing.  While I’m pretty sure L. angustifolia will be my final choice for serious growing, the Spanish lavender is a beautiful plant.    It will be fun to observe these plants as summer arrives.

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