Friday, 11 August 2017


I have been deadheading the lavenders in the turning circle, as a change from trimming the ivy hedge and to give a mixture of clippings to go on the compost heap so that it doesn't end up with a two foot layer of ivy.  I don't know if it will really make much difference, since the lavender stems are about as woody as the ivy, and what I really need is some nice soft green stuff, but there's nothing suitable.  The lawn is so full of weeds the Systems Administrator tips the contents of the lawnmower grass catcher on to its own slimy pile, rather than add it to the compost bin.

I am not good at lavender.  I diligently read books and study the websites of specialist lavender nurseries, and try to remember whether Lavandula x intermedia or Lavandula angustifolia is better on acid soil, and which cultivar names belong to each type, and my brain shies away in sheer boredom and refuses to retain the information.  I buy named varieties, plant them, and two years later cannot remember which is which, and then a few years after that they have seeded themselves and I am even less clear about what anything is.  Lavender is a grey leaved plant with spikes of purple flowers, and that is as much as my subconscious seems to want to know about the subject.  Odd, when I always really enjoy looking at the Downderry Nursery display at flower shows.

I have tried taking cuttings, and they have always shrivelled and died, as if the lavender could detect my basic lack of interest.  And yet as a child I loved lavender.  There was a hedge of it across the full width of the garden, perched on top of a little dry stone retaining wall of rough lime blocks, that was always full of bees when it was in flower, and that was one of the things that kindled my interest in beekeeping.  We used to pick stems, dry them and make lavender bags out of muslin.  How can I be so cack handed about propagating something I grew up with, when I am fine with Dianthus, with Perlargonium, and Hebe, and Penstemon cuttings?

In the meantime I am cutting off the spent flower stems, taking off the top few growth buds from each stalk to encourage the plants to remain bushy, while making sure to leave some on every stem.  Some stems have died entirely, which I remove as I go.  I don't know why they have died, except that lavenders are not the longest lived plants, and perhaps something about the acidity or lack of alkalinity is not to my plants' liking.  A tall white variety given to me by a colleague at the plant centre and which I think she described as Old English White is looking very sad.  The plants look sparse and ratty after their haircut.  I read a gardening article the other day that said that the silver leaves of lavender looked attractive at all times of the year.  Not in my garden, they don't.  They are shockers by the end of winter as well, until their pinched buds swell and they produce a new crop of leaves.  Maybe they are lovelier in other people's gardens, who have the right kind of light soil and understand their whims.  Or maybe the article was a piece of wishful thinking.

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