Monday, June 21, 2010

Lavender Reigns in June

Hot, humid, muggy, buggy conditions are often the harsher perks of a Virginia Summer and gardens can pay the price of withstanding the season.  As June wends it's way into longer hours of unrelenting sunshine and heat, and the bright blooms of spring make way for the warm flowers of summer, my gardens are transforming into peaceful corners of solace and welcoming outdoor rooms that rise to meet the weather challenges with a certain "jois de vivre."  Colors like golds and oranges, reds and pinks mingle carefree with creams, blues and lavenders among the green textures.

June is a lavender month and the Lavender...ahhh, the Lavender is blooming in shades from white to pink, blue, grey and the darkest of purples.  These plants are the "Princesses" of my garden domain, offering promises of lasting color, texture and fragrance while they rule, steadfastly, this month and beyond.  Lavender will continue to bewitch and bedazzle the most skeptical of garden visitors even after the last of the blooms have been picked and gathered by the middle of July....that's the beauty of majestic Lavender.

Wonderful, mystical, practical Lavender!  I can't seem to get enough of it.  And, although I don't see lavender as my favorite color--that would be pink which coincidentally, Lavender comes in as well--I cannot live without Lavender in my garden.  Even the word itself--lavender--evokes images of a soft, calm, gracious way of life, thanks to this wonderful gift of nature in the form of a simple plant called Lavender.

I have been growing Lavender for fifteen years now and, although I sometimes complain about the manual labor of it all, (I won't mention how Peter and Kevin feel about harvesting it--I think you may already have a good idea) along with the bugs and the heat of the day, I really do relish the rewards that Lavender provides throughout the year, whether it is in full glorious bloom or deep into it's winter sleep.  Lavender, in it's own way, has given me so much from wonderful friends to a deep appreciation for beautiful flowers of all kinds.  And, to my surprise and delight, honey bees have been returning to my garden in ever increasing numbers this year, flitting from one blossom to the next while gathering sweet nectar for their hives and pollinating everything they land on...oh, happy day!  In short, Lavender is a gift that keeps on giving and I intend to keep on growing it and learning about it's many wonderful qualities. 

And because of my never-waning interest in Lavender, I had a wonderful visit to Willow Pond Lavender Farm located in Emmitsburg, Pennsylvania this past Saturday morning, with my friend Kim, to enjoy their Lavender Festival.  It seems as though I am not the only one who has developed a deep appreciation for this wonderful plant that comes in so many different species and varieties.  In fact, I think I am a "newbie" at this Lavender growing business when I see the dedication Willow Pond has cultivated in promoting this versatile plant that attracts people as though they were bees to honey. 

Having over 40 different varieties growing in my own gardens, you'd think I wouldn't need or think of adding even one more Lavender plant and I went there with just that intention of looking, not acquiring any more!  However, the road to you know where is paved with good intentions and I came home with five new varieties of lavender to add to my own collection.  No, it is not an addiction problem--I'm pretty sure.  But, it has gone way past an infatuation with Lavender to perhaps how I prefer to think of it as a long-standing relationship with a fascinating plant that I can't ever seem to have enough of! 

So, try as I might, I  found I could not resist and had to bring a few new lavenders home with me from Willow Pond.  After all, Peter has been talking about adding a third demonstration garden out in the field to balance the two that are already there.  It was a very hard choice, but I somehow managed to select some lovely English Lavenders (Lavandula  Angustifolia.) with names like "Madeline Marie," "Two Amy's" and "Rebecca Kay" along with a really dark specimen called "French Fields."  I have a tendency to pick out lavenders based on their beautiful and poetic names rather than on their appearance.  Who can resist a lavender named Madeline Marie, anyway?!  I also bought one French Lavender (Lavandula x Intermedia), "Grosso Kew," a variation of the original"Grosso" but grown at Kew Gardens, the National Botanic Garden of England, just to see how different it might be.  All were tucked safely into a box and carried carefully home to Blooming Hill.  What is the fifth type of Lavender plant you brought home, you ask?  Well, I am always asked whether I know of very small lavenders.  So, for good measure and in my continual pursuit of more Lavender knowledge I added a variety called "Petite Lavenite" (L. Ang.) to my assortment as well and will keep an eye on it's growth habits in the coming months.

As beautiful as the lavender fields at Willow Pond are, (and, they really are) all in bloom, for those who came to spend time cutting sprigs of lavender for their own use or just to gaze upon the fields of purple haze, I had no problem resisting that urge, however, knowing my own plants were not yet completely harvested at home.  I have a few more weeks of harvesting to go and this part of being a Lavender grower, for me, is the hardest--the bushes are so beautiful in full bloom it's hard to begin cutting them yet, I spend every day fretting about getting them cut at just the right time to preserve their color at their truest shade.  When I finally begin cutting, I find every bundle to be just as beautiful as the one before and the rhythm and sway of gathering lavender helps me lose all track of time for at least a few hours.  No matter how much I have to do, it seems that I forget all of that and focus on the task of gathering Lavender blossoms...not such a bad thing, after all.

Grosso and Provence Lavender (both L. x Int.) especially, as well as Royal Purple (L.Ang.) are currently at their peak and boasting "technicolor" purple in their long, production beds.  However, others like Ana Louisa, Mitchum Grey,  Backhouse Nana (all L. Angs.) and many others, scattered about, are also in full bloom and harvesting is now becoming a necessity throughout the entire yard in order to capture their true shades of lavender, blue and purple at their peak.   The pink lavenders are already down and the whites are almost cut as well.   Grosso, Provence and Royal Purple are all pedigree work horses when it comes to the Lavender Genus.  They are large, prolific bushes with beautiful full blooms perfect for potpourri, crafts and arrangements. And, there are so many more bushes yet to burst out in their sheer purple-blue majesty, my head is spinning just thinking of them all.  Whew!  I need to stop and just go one bush at a time...they'll wait but not for too long.

And, lest I forget the rest of the flowers in the yard?...Never!  Their rainbow of colors and texture perfectly compliment that of the Lavenders, of course, calling me to admire each lily, hydrangea and rose's own unique charm and personality.  June, in all of it's glory and grace, is a lovely month producing so many stars in my garden and, because of the "royal princess" presence of many different Lavenders, they all are quite happy to serve as ladies-in-waiting. 

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