Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blooming Thoughts On Lavender

'Thumbelina Leigh' L. angustifolia is a favorite of mine here at Blooming hill.
During the Loudoun County Spring Farm Tour, this past weekend, when it seemed as though I talked endlessly, even by my standards, about lavender, it occurred to me how confusing this plant can be.  I must have heard, over and over again, "I had no idea that there were so many kinds of lavenders out there!"  Then I would reply, "There are literally hundreds of varieties classified under the genus of lavender that is comprised of more than thirty species of small shrubby, uniquely fragrant semi-woody plants and what I have here is only the tip of the iceberg."  They would then look at me, their eyes clouding over, and respond with an, "OHHH!"  I went on to explain that the genus lavender belongs to the Labiatae (Lamiacea) family of plants which contains square (or rectangular) stems such as thyme, mint and sage.  This only  resulted in further clouding over of their eyes.  Time, I realized, to stop being boring and just let visitors to Blooming Hill enjoy the gardens and the lavender in particular.

'Hidcote' L. angustifloia is an old variety and favorite of almost everyone I know who likes lavender.
'Melissa' L. angustifloia.  A pink variety that's a culinary type as well.
Somewhere in my rambling on about what were some of my favorite lavenders and what were new lavenders to me, and so on, I realized that these people were merely interested in it blooming...period!  And, although it was still a little early to see even the earliest lavenders in bloom, I think visitors were able to see differences in plant structure such as height and width as well as the burgeoning rainbow of hues from a myriad of purples to pinks and whites in the newly forming buds.  I could see that they were as captivated with lavender, at that moment, as I am always. Although probably not as crazy as me as to have over 600 and counting lavender plants in my backyard to tend to on a daily basis.

Several different lavender beds surrounded by stone paths still a few weeks away from being ready to harvest.
In the distance, beds of different varieties.  The tallest you see here are 'Grosso' L. x intermedia and 'Provence' L. x intermedia still a long way away from their bloom time.
Today, while surveying the property after a heavy nighttime rain making it probably one of the last cool mornings of this spring season as we approach Memorial Day Weekend,  I've decided that lavender is lavender, no matter what the differences from one grey-green variety to a silvery-green variety and on to a true-green variety.  Lavender's allure, stemming from a kind of  practical magic or just plain practicality, only contributes to the beauty of this complex plant that has a history dating back to long before the bible, itself.

The gracefull, bowing wands of 'Sleeping Beauty' L. angustifloia.
An early bloomer, 'Irene Doyle' L. angustifolia.
I always chuckle when I see lavander plants labeled as "true lavender" in plant centers. Afterall, what is true lavender?  Well, any species or variety of lavandula should qualify as "true lavender" no matter how they are classified from angustifolias to intermedias and chaytoreas (hybrids), to stoeches, dentatas, delphinensis and the list goes on and on.  From there the list of varieties ranging from the popular Hidcote (typically English) to another popular one called Grosso (typically French) is even longer.

'Pink Hidcote' L. angustifolia coming into bloom.
The truth is that the vast majority of plant nursery customers or those looking for lavender to plant in their garden beds just want a common or garden variety lavender that will look pretty and be hardy through unpredictable summers and winters with everythng else, season-wise, thrown in. That includes me as well although it seems I'm on this unending quest for the fairest of them all. However, believe me when I say every last variety of lavander out there is somehow already the fairest.   Yet, different strokes for different folks keeps me searching for new varieties.

A setting of Laura  Ashley's lovely 'Mayhill' dinerware that my dear friends, Kim, Joan and Karen of Two Broads and a Brit Afternoon Teas gave to me recently.  I shall be bold and classify this variety as L. china.
So, as I watch my collection of lavenders green up, and now begin to "purple up," I'll enjoy the view just as the farm tour visitors did this past weekend and I am grateful to them as they reminded me not to get too caught up in the logistics of the plant itself but appreciate lavender's beauty and grace in my gardens all year round.


  1. *sigh* Beautiful china, fabulous lavender.
    How would you like to plant some culinary lavender and just plain gorgeous purple lavender in my yard? It needs help!

    (And it makes sense to me that lavender and sage are related -- I see sage plants around here that fool me from a distance.)

  2. Love the pattern! I private messaged you for the number of the club again...