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Lavender is indigenous to the
Mediterranean area and is a perennial herb plant, with a heavenly
fragrance, that grows best in climates that don't have a lot of
high heat or humidity. If planted under the right conditions,
it is a relatively easy plant to grow. It
prefers a well-drained soil that is somewhat sandy, not rich in
humus, and slightly alkaline (pH factor between 6.0 and 8.0).
It loves full sun and rarely needs to be fertilized.
Lavender has been
used medicinally for centuries and is reputed to have relaxing and
healing properties. It can help
relieve headache, migraines and insomnia. Many caregivers like to place lavender in sick rooms to
ease the patient's distress.
It has soothing properties and is often associated with
calming the nerves or relieving anxiety.
hundreds of different varieties of lavender; each one with its own
special quality such as plant or flower size, flower or leaf color,
fragrance or hardiness. Although
lavender is usually associated with shades of blue, plants are
available in varying hues of purple and lilac, white, pink, mauve
and even yellow.
The charming city
of Sequim (pronounced "Skwim"), in Washington State, is located
on the majestic Olympic Peninsula and offers the perfect climate for
growing lavender. The
climate conditions are said to be similar to those in the famed
lavender growing regions in France, making Sequim the North American
capital of lavender production.
Fields of lavender are the crop of choice for many small farms in
Sequim. Lavender is in full bloom generally from June through
September and every year it's such a treat to see the beautiful
purple fields swaying in the breeze.
beginning on Friday of the the
third weekend in July, thousands of people arrive to celebrate
lavender at the three day annual Sequim
Lavender Festival. Every
visitor is invited to experience lavender and treat their senses
during its peak performance. A
great way to experience "all things lavender", is to stroll
through the many vendor booths, including Let's Do Lavender, at the Lavender Street Fair. There you will
find anything and everything lavender offered by local lavender
enthusiasts whose products have been selected for their high
Many local lavender farms are open to the public so you can
roam through fields of blooming lavender, pick fresh bouquets, learn
about the plant and techniques for growing, caring for, harvesting
and using this wonderful plant.
You can plant lavender in spring or fall in well-drained, slightly
alkaline, sandy soil. Planting
on mounds or in raised beds can help to promote good drainage if
your soil isn't ideal. Select
a sunny location, allow enough space for growth and good air
circulation and plant with other plants that have similar water
requirements. Add about
one-half cup each of bone meal and chicken manure into the soil, mix
well; place the plants in the holes; give them some water
and watch your lavender plant grow.
Water plants regularly the first year to ensure that they
root well in their new surroundings and then they will be hardy and
drought tolerant and need little or no water.
Generally, Mother Nature can take care of the watering.
Be careful not to over water since they don't like "wet
feet." Depending on
the variety and mature size of the lavender plants you choose, the
plants should be planted 2-4 feet apart.
In general, the use of fertilizers in not necessary and may
cause excessive leaf growth and minimal blooms.
I do, however, dig-in a small amount of bone meal (1/2 cup
each) around my
plants each spring. Flower
stalks should be cut off the first year to encourage plant
development rather than flower production.
Depending on the variety,
lavender blooms are usually at their peak from late June through August.
Harvest the flower stems on a dry day, in the late morning hours
after any dew has evaporated. Fresh bouquets should be cut when about one-third to one-half
of the flowers have opened. If
you will be drying your lavender for bundles or buds for sachets,
pick them when the flowers are about one-half open.
If you will be
drying your cut lavender in bundles, each bunch should contain about
one hundred stems. Wrap a rubber band around the bottom of the
bunches and hang upside down to dry, in a well-ventilated, dry area,
out of direct sunlight. When
they are completely dry, about two to three weeks, you can either
strip the buds from the stems for easier storage, or store them on
Plants should be pruned in early spring or early fall to one-half to two-thirds of
their size, leaving about 2-3 inches of green stems. Never
cut into the woody part of the plant.
The plants respond well to this pruning and it will help them
maintain their attractive mounded shape.
As summer progresses to fall, it's a good idea to remove
all remaining bloom stalks and shape any straggly areas.
It's wise to purchase lavender plants rather than starting them
from seed. Plants
started from seed usually have a poor survival rate and the process
is very slow. Lavender
does root well from cuttings taken from mature plants in early
spring. Take two to
four inch cuttings, remove the bottom leaves, dip the end into
water, shake off excess and dip into rooting hormone.
Place carefully into pre-moistened potting soil.
Water regularly, keep warm (heated from the bottom if
possible) and wait about six weeks for the cutting to root.
Another method of
propagation is called layering.
Bend the lower
stems of a mature plant and mound soil over them, leaving only the
tip visible. It takes
about six months for rooting to take place.
You may then cut the rooted plant from the mother plant and
transplant in a sunny, well-draining location.