Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lavender Lessons

"There’s flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun,
And with him rises weeping; thes are flower
Of middle summer, and I thek they are given
To men of middle age."
William Shakespeare The Winter’s Tale, iv.4

There are not many of these flowers given to THIS man of middle age, but I do GROW some of them.  I don't rightly know of all the places on the six habitable continents where lavender may grow well, but the Kansas sunshine and heat certainly don't hurt its survival prospects here. 


I did have some trouble, back in my Zone 5B years, wintering lavender through to Spring, but those troubles seem to be gone now that I've been magically transported, garden and gardener, into Zone 6.  I grow several varieties as a sort of short hedge along a rock wall in a very exposed and wind-swept area, and I've got a couple of other bunches of lavender in my outer garden beds. I am a big lavender fan, but I am probably a poor second next to the butterflies pictured here, in my admiration for it.  I depend on it, after all, for luxury and indulgence, but not for my sustenance.

The majority of my soil is clay, and I was skeptical about growing lavender here since it is supposed to like well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils.  What I believe I have learned from growing it here in Kansas, is that it may not require good drainage if the soil doesn't get wet enough or stay wet long enough to be a bother.  Certainly the soil is solid clay next to the rock wall but it does have decent drainage and anyway, we haven't had enough rain to wet your whistle, let alone drown lavender.

I unfortunately haven't keep track of the cultivars along the wall.  Ten cultivars have lived or died or been divided into a hedge that now appears to be composed of three.  In flat areas of my garden, many of the lavenders I've planted have died out, but the lavender pictured in such blue splendor at the bottom of this blog grows in a clay bed with little drainage and it is the best bloomer of all of its cousins this summer.  I don't know its name either, because its identity was lost when I lost my notes of new plantings last year.  It may, however, be L. intermedia 'Grosso', a memory supported by the vivid color and prolific bloom.  I believe that most of the other survivors in my garden are L.augustifolia cultivars as those always seemed more hardy.

So, Kansans, try some lavender.  Keep it dry and treasure it well. The return in flittering beauty alone makes the effort worthwhile.

1 comment:

  1. Ah! Your post gave me hope - thank you! I'm growing some lavender for the first time this year - Blue Fragrant Lavender and Pink Fragrant Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia & Lavandula angustifolia ‘Rosea’ ). Mine also are out in the full sun, in a bed that runs along a retaining wall. They have a long way to go, but I at least think I've got them situated as best I can!


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