Lavender

People say lavender is hard to grow in the south. They are right. People say that they cannot get it to survive our hot humid summers. They are right about that also. People give up after deaths and disappointment in trying to grow lavender here.

Lavender is one of the favorite plants at Faire Garden. The original vision was a row of lavender along the newly built wall at the back of the house. The English ivy was just a bonus. The ivy is gone now, along with all but one of the original lavender plants that graced the structure. They bit the dust one or two at a time, at different times of year, for who knows why. It was a good idea though, with the beauty, fragrance and usefulness of lavender reason enough to not ever give up trying to grow it here.

Some of the shrub like plants planted at various places around the beds survived, thrived even. All are in the same type of soil, the same drainage, and the same full sun exposure.

It seems that plants labeled ‘Lavender’ turn out to be many different varieties when purchased at big box stores or even good nurseries. Some, like the one shown above were grown from seed saved from a bouquet gathered and dried. The flower color can vary greatly among the lavender. Some of the plants here have the darkest blue violet flowers, some are a light purple, and some are many shades in between. There may have been some party hanky panky by their parents and no one has been able to keep track of the offspring. It is just lavender.

Another vision, we are full of visions around here, was a mass planting of lavender, like those seen in France or California wine country, neatly clipped into little balls of beauty. Dark ajuga was to be the ground cover giving a nice contrast of silver and purple. The wild violets had other ideas about what ground cover would be growing there. It is pretty when in bloom though.

The lavender chosen for this bed was ‘Provence’, said to be able to withstand the conditions of summer in this neck of the woods. That seems to be the commonly offered variety here lately. This type is visibly different from the other lavenders on the property. The leaf blades are wider, the whole plant taller, and the flowers less blue than the ones with no identifying labels. There have been deaths though. A possible problem could be caused by these volunteer pine seedlings. They are no longer seedlings, but could be called trees at this size. They have to go. But doesn’t lavender like a more alkaline soil? And pines like acid soil? What is going on here?

Sometimes plantings haven’t read the literature about where they will grow and what conditions they prefer. This is the lone piece that is still growing on the long wall at the back of the house.

The lavender bed is being transformed to the ‘Black Garden’. But it seems the lavender is not giving up without a fight. A purple leaf ornamental peach tree that was given to us by a neighbor, thanks Mae and Mickey, was the first planting of the newly themed area. The lavender would be replaced with something black, or with black in the name, as it died. Red flowers have been added to jazz it up a bit in the growing season. The lavender has never looked better. Because it is so loved, when a large section of an older lavender plant browns up, after it is pulled out of the ground, any living pieces are stuck back into the earth. There is now more lavender in this bed looking better than it ever has. It is hard to explain why this is happening, but long live the lavender!
Frances

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16 Responses to Lavender

  1. brokenbeat says:

    i wonder if the five degree temperature variance between faire garden and casa brokenbeat will be something that gives our lavendula an appropriate growing climate, encouraging it to thrive like blue-gray balls of sweet-scented wind-fed fire. right now, that’s what our lavendula look like. even the spanish lavender and it’s many cuttings are doing excellent, producing much hope. anyway, i’m always happy to chant, no matter what about, so i’ll join in. everyone else should too, unless of course you hate lavendula. LONG LIVE THE LAVENDER! awesome…

  2. Frances says:

    brokenbeat… only time will tell if your lavendula is happy at casa brokenbeat. But thanks for joining the chant LLL!

  3. jim/ArtofGardening says:

    I’ve got a row of seven “clumps” of lavender along the front of my house by the sidewalk so passers-by can get a wiff. My nod to a trip to Provence.

    After the first year, I lost two. They were replaced by what I thought was the same thing (they were labeled the same by Home Despot). They are not the same. A few more died and were replaced. Now I have three different lavenders in my forest of seven. I’ve given up on that perfect Provence row of purple lavender and am just embracing the scent.

    I visited a lavender distillery while in Provence. Quite the operation. It was a dying industry until after WWII, when washing machines became all the rage in the U.S. and the demand for fresh-smelling detergents sky-rocketed and invigorated lavender market. Now detergents use chemicals to do what lavender did. Lavender oils are more often used for perfumes, medicinal purposes and luxury bath products these days.

    Thanks for sharing your lavender laments. You certainly seem to have a lot of it! (Lavender I mean, not laments.)

  4. Frances says:

    jim…how lucky you are to actually see those lavender fields. Thanks for all the good lavender info as well.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    All this talk of lavender makes me want to try again. Like you mentioned having so much die I have had no luck with it. I have tried it in sevearl places. I don’t know if our summers are too hot and humid too but geez it can be frustrating.

  6. Frances says:

    lisa…do try again. I don’t know the secret to getting it to live, drainage is key, and poor soil fertility, so if you have a spot like that, or try it in a container. Good luck and LLL (Long Live Lavender)!

  7. chickenpoet says:

    lavender, lavender
    how fine thy be
    let the wind carry your seeds
    northeast to me
    let your soothing sweet scent
    take me away
    as i close my eyes
    and envision the day
    when my garden speaks
    with a silent grace
    like that of faire garden,
    semi, and brokenbeat’s place.

  8. Frances says:

    chickenpoet…now that lives up to your name! we will make sure you get some lavender, seed or plant, up your way.

  9. Dave says:

    I have a slope in my backyard that I have envisioned putting lavender all over it. I may need to go another route eventually but I’ll give it a try. Have you ever tried the Spanish Lavender (Lavendula stoechas)? We put some of that in my in-laws yard and it grew very well in a heavy clay soil. What variety do you like the best?

  10. Frances says:

    dave…We are just cold enough for the spanish lavender to not make it through the winter.(zone 7a). My favorite variety is the small dark blossomed type, ‘Hidcote’, but it is not always true to name when purchased. Anything that lives is best at this point. Good luck with your hill, it should be lovely.

  11. semi says:

    LLL! I will try some more from the lavender festival this year!! Yours are beautiful! love semi

  12. Frances says:

    semi…oh yes, the lavender festival! We will stock up.

  13. chuck b. says:

    I didn’t realize lavender was hard to grow in some places. But I can imagine that it would not be hardy everywhere. Of the three kinds most common in California, I like L. stoechas the best. It also seems to have the most color variation, my favorite of which happens to be white. There’s a variety they sell as ‘boysenberry’ that I like a lot too.

    When we bought our house, the backyard was simply a sod lawn and rows of lavender along both side fences. It harbored amazing numbers of small, fast-moving, gray spiders, which I’m sure smelled very nice.

    My neighbor whose garden I work on now and then has some very old lavender plants that I would love to replace. She won’t let me because they have sentimental value. They are kind of pretty, but they lack vigor.

  14. Frances says:

    chuck b…fragrant spiders, an interesting concept! L. stoechas is not hardy here, it has been tried many times, but may be worth trying yet again, maybe in the gravel by the house.

  15. Phillip says:

    I have never grown it successfully. I heard that you had to plant in raised beds filled with poor soil but even that didn’t work for me. I love the look of it though.

  16. Frances says:

    phillip…it isn’t easy. When we lived in Houston I just gave up, too humid. Sometimes it lives for a while in a container here. The first photo in this post shows lavender in a gold pot that hasn’t been touched in four years and has grown into the gravel through the hole in the bottom.

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