by Charlene Burgi
The bees are abuzz as I walk through the garden. They are busily gathering the pollens of the multiple types of lavenders. Their intense activity suggests the bees know our warm season is about to end along with the plentiful blooms now provided by this amazing plant.
Lavender is a nostalgic yet still-underrated plant as far as I am concerned. Deer and rabbits typically won’t eat it. Insects do not attack it—in fact, it attracts beneficials. It doesn’t demand much water, but it does demand good drainage, thereby forcing the gardener to pay attention to the soil. There are a multitude of species to choose from, and lavender will fit almost any criteria needed for a garden apart from planting in deep shade. The colors range from various shades and intensities of purples to lavender as well as pink and white. Not only do the flowers come in a range of color, but the foliage varies from green to gray-green to gray and almost white. Additionally, some lavenders will grow as tall as four feet, while others almost hug the ground.
The fact that lavender comes in many shapes and sizes had me smiling the other day as I walked with friends along the front entrance to the house. They asked how many plants it took up to fill the space of the lavender growing along the walkway. They were horrified to learn it was just one plant, as they had just planted a similar variety in a very narrow spot in their garden.
Lavender is no exception to the rule to “know before you buy.” We tend to look at tiny plants in the nurseries forgetting these plants will grow. Too often we overplant shrubs and perennials to give the garden a “fuller” look, not realizing the negative effect that look has on the plants. Overplanting will require you to thin plants out completely or constantly prune to maintain some semblance of order and allow sunlight to enter into the foliage for good health. Crowded plants also will compete for the available nutrients in the soil—not to mention water.
But with the right plants in the right places, lavender will reward you handsomely. Books could be written about all the things that can be done with the flowers and by-products of lavender, as well as their healing properties. The flowers make beautiful wreaths and mixed fragrant bouquets. Lavender potpourris and oils delight the senses. Teas, lemonades and other beverages can be infused with their blossoms. A favorite tip I read is to sprinkle lavender flowers under the front doormat prior to company arriving; when the flowers are crushed underfoot they release an aromatic welcome. And sprigs of lavender on windowsills will repulse mosquitoes and flies from wanting to gain entry. What’s not to love about that?
Consider checking out this wonder plant. Just be cognizant of its growth and needs prior to putting it into the ground.