It was New Year's Day, 2012, just a little over a month ago and it was a cloudy, cool day here at Blooming Hill but nothing like it could have been for that time of the year. I was walking through the gardens, admiring the muted hues and tones plants take on during their winter respite while making a list of chores that need to be completed before the first breaths of spring arrive. Of course, I had a sneaking suspicion, looking at many of the plants that seem to have not gone fully dormant by then and even now that the first breaths of spring may have already arrived.
I think that's why I decided to experiment a little. After all, it had been such a mild December and January seemed to be coming in like a March lamb, way back on that first day of the year. Many of the lavenders still looked rather vigorous without too much frost-kill and cold damage.
So, I decided, on a lark, to take some lavender cuttings and see just what they would do. The stems, although stiff from the cooler weather, were clearly green and healthy as I scratched away a little of their grey, woody protective coating. The leaves at the tips of many of the stems were still not only green but also soft and pliable hinting that the natural sugars and oils inside many of the plants may still be running at least somewhat freely.
I took sixty cuttings in all that day from several varieties like "Victorian Amythyst," known for it's plump and true purple blossoms, culinary favorites "Melissa" and "Royal Velve", "Baby Blue" because I don't think yuo can ever have enough of this true Hidcote rival in the gardens and even a little of real vintage "Munstead" because real Mustead is getting harder and harder to find these days even though many nurseries will tell you that they have the this plant. Given the time of the year, I didn't put too much stock into their surviving. Yet, in spite of it all, hope does spring eternal so I dipped them in rooting hormone, and planted them in some pro mix, tented them up inside plastic storage boxes placed in a sunny guestroom window with a grow light on top of them for good measure. I crossed my fingers, said a little prayer--I did say that hope springs eternal, you know-- and walked away.
Flash forward, almost six weeks later, and these happy little plants have not only settled in but also thrived and are growing vigorously, almost ready to make their spring debut way ahead of all of the other cuttings that I will be making in April when the green things really get going and, for the most part, a much better and reliable time, at least for me, to be taking lavender cuttings here in Northern Virginia.
After removing the plastic box/tents away from these cuttings, the entire room was filled with the lavenders' citrusy-green scent! Proof positive that spring is not too far off.
This coming weekend will be reserved for transplanting most of these little guys into bigger, sturdier pots with some fresh pro mix and then easing them into the greenhouse where the nights can be a lot chillier than what they have been used to. Still, I believe that the cooler and humid climate with constant, natural light together with a bigger pot will be better for them in the long run. Keep your fingers crossed that this good idea does not go bad!
Generally, January is thought to be the time to peruse catalogs and order seeds and not for making and plant cuttings straight out of the garden. Maybe it is the luck of the lavender along with the mild weather but I'm glad that I asked myself in the garden that day, why wait? Either way, in the words of Martha Stewart, "It's a good thing." And, making lavender cuttings on New Year's Day was a good decision too--at least this year.