December 3, 2014
Lavender plants love warm sunny spots in the garden so it is easy to think they will like the same conditions indoors. The problem is the air in our homes is DRY.
Sahara Desert dry. Growing in pots, lavender has a harder time surviving stressful conditions. In your garden, their roots are below ground where it is usually much cooler than the air above. The roots can go deep and usually find some moisture.
In the house, their roots are confined in a pot. Not only are they susceptible to temperature fluctuations but if the pot really dries out they may wilt to the point of no return. So how can you help your lavender survive inside?
- Provide light, but not necessarily direct hot sun. I have a wonderful south facing window many of my gardening friends covet but the plants are kept 5’ – 8’ back from the window to avoid direct sun, which can be very drying to them.
- Lavender does not like to be kept wet but neither does it like to be really dry. Check the soil every day. One of the simplest methods is to become familiar with the weight of the pot when it is wet and when it is dry. Water the pots well then let them become nearly dry and water again. I’m afraid there is no real formula for this unless you use a meter that checks the water in the soil and tells you when to water. Quite a few seed companies sell these.
- Fertilizing. As the plants are not usually actively growing at this time of year I don’t use any fertilizer.
This year I’m experimenting with pruning the plants I brought inside. I’m hoping that if there is less plant material it will be less stressful for the plant in the house and they may not dry out as quickly. The pruning also encourages new growth so the plants will be bushier.
In March or April, when the light intensity changes, the plants will begin to grow actively and if they are going to stay in pots, I’ll transplant them in to new pots with new soil. I’ll also begin to use some liquid fertilizer when they are watered.
One of the delights of having lavender inside is rubbing the leaves and having the fresh lavender scent. They are not as easy to winter indoors as geraniums are, but a little care and you can keep your plants year round.
Next time – using lavender in you holiday celebrations.
August 15, 2014
At the end of July a group of us went to Grimsby Ontario to the funeral service of a wonderful Canadian rose breeder, Joyce Fleming. This lovely lady not only shared her knowledge freely but started breeding disease resistant roses long before it was a popular goal. She was not financed by a business or government, but worked on her own in her garden and produced some beautiful roses. The Montreal Botanical Garden has a collection of her roses and if you want to see a list of them, visit the site of Hortico Nurseries in Waterdown Ontario. On their site, you can search roses by breeder. Joyce’s favorite of her roses is a yellow climbing rose called after our lady astronaut, Roberta Bondar.
Following the service we decided to head further along the QEW to Vineland Nurseries. Owner Jim Lounsbery was a friend of Joyce’s and has a nursery with a wide variety of plants for sale. I usually bypass the perennials and head for the Japanese Maples and evergreens at the back. I didn’t need anything, so was curious to see what my friends were looking at and they were looking at perennials. A green and cream variegated leaf caught my attention and was I ever surprised to see it belonged to a new lavender called Platinum Blonde™.
This pretty Lavender was bred in Spain by renowned grower Juan Ismael Momparler Albors. Described as a compact variety, it grows 16 to 24 inches tall, with an 18 inch spread. The purple blooms begin in midsummer and continue for weeks. The scent of the foliage is clearly lavender, but not as sweet a scent as many other L. angustifolias.
Like all lavenders, it needs excellent drainage, and water during the first season to help its root system establish. After that, you will find it quite self-sufficient, attracting bees and butterflies by the dozen season after season.
This 2013 introduction is still undergoing hardiness testing. So far it has survived to at least -10 degrees F. It is expected to be hardy in at least zones 6 to 9. It will probably not survive my Toronto area, zone 5b and I will bring the plants indoors this winter but it is so beautiful I’ll enjoy it.
August 3, 2014
Lavender makes quite a few ‘Top Ten’ lists – drought tolerant, deer resistant and in a recent issue of “Birds & Blooms” it was number 2 in their ‘Top Ten Purple Plants’ list. Of course, I would have made it number 1, but I’m a bit biased.
Here is their list:
- Verbena. In my zone 5 it is grown as an annual, often in hanging baskets. It comes in a variety of colors.
- Bellflower (Campanula)
- Balloon Flower (Platycodon)
- Dwarf Iris
- Catmint (Nepeta – but not the ‘catnip’ one.) This Catmint has a lovely purple flower on 2’ spikes, not unlike lavender. It blooms all summer and the foliage is scented. Popular with bees and butterflies.
- Pasque flower ( Pulsatilla)
I love watching birds and get some good tips from this magazine. Yesterday morning there was a ‘peep peep peep peep peep’ sound that carried on for about a minute. It was the call of a young Cardinal who was sitting on the ground while its’ mother fed it! Dad was on a nearby trellis but I have also seen the fathers feeding young in the garden.
The second year we were in this house we did not put seed out during the summer. I was in the garden and a male Cardinal sat on the fence and chattered away to me. I wondered what was wrong and had some seed, so filled the feeder and put it up. These birds are usually very timid of my presence but he quickly returned with a young bird that sat on the fence while being fed. How brave and clever that father was to ask for food! Our gardens are certainly magical places. Enjoy yours.
July 25, 2014
How many of varieties of lavender are there? According to the folks at Kew Gardens in England, there are over 400. Those of us in climates with winters where the temperatures plummet below freezing have a much more limited selection. The 3 most common ones I see for sale are:
L. angustifolia Often called ‘English Lavender’
L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’
L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ One of the most winter hardy but needs good pruning to keep in shape.
These varieties have good winter hardiness but are often started from seed and may not look identical if you buy several plants to put in a row.
A project to study winter survival of lavender at the Simcoe Research Station in Ontario and headed by Sean Westerveld and Cathy Bakker. Survival can depend on how bad your winter was and this past 2013 – 2014 we had a very severe winter and many varieties that would have survived a normal winter, did not have a chance this winter. The 3 varieties that have done the best over the last 4 years are:
L. angustifolia ‘Folgate’
L. angustifolia ‘Royal Purple’
L. angustifolia ‘Royal Velvet’
A pretty white variety, L. angustifolia ‘Melissa’ has done well over the 4 years and particularly well in a milder winter. A variety that has just been added to the trial and did well last winter was L. angustifolia ‘Pink Perfume’. I have it in my own garden and it is a pretty pale pink with nice long stems for making lavender wands.
Finally, there is a new variety that has only been on the market a couple of years called ‘Phenomenal’. It is supposed to be very winter hardy and a beautiful plant. Some of our lavender farms are planting quite a few of these this year, so we’ll see how it does up here. I ordered one from Gardenimport and the flowers are a beautiful dark purple but my plant is quite young yet.
If you are going to plant some lavender this year, do it sooner rather than later and it will have a better chance of surviving this winter.
Enjoy your lavender!
July 19, 2014
Lavender is still in bloom this weekend so it is a great time to visit some farms. The last entry shared a few near Toronto, Ontario.
Heading a few hours EAST of the city is Prince Edward County Lavender. They have 3 acres of lavender, a lovely store and usually a great selection of plants for sale. Lavender does better if it is planted earlier in the summer, than later. I haven’t seen an explanation for that yet, so if you want some lavender in your garden, get it planted before the beginning of August. I have not been there in a couple of years but they make a wonderful herb blend for cooking.
West of Toronto several more farms: Steed and Co. and The Lavender Farm.
The Lavender Farm’s specialty is distilling their own hydrosols – a bit like essential oils but water based. The day I visited, lavender was being harvested and there was an ongoing demonstration of how the hydrosol was made – very good. Although out in the country, the farm is very easy to find. From the 401, take the exit at Drumbo and follow the road south for 12 – 15 minutes. The farm is on the east side of the road.
Steed and Co. is near Port Stanley, Ontario, and in a unique part of Ontario, border a beautiful Carolinian Forest. The garden is a delight to wander and they sell great products in the store – be sure and try the chocolate!
For more farms, visit ontariolavenderassociation.org
July 14, 2014
Lavender is in full bloom right now so it is a great opportunity to see fields in bloom. I’ll tell you about 4 today, then more in the next few days.
Close to Toronto, just an hour west is Terre Bleu. This lovely farm is located west of Campbellville Road, north of the 401 on Side Road 25. They are open for the first time this year but they have different varieties, all well labeled, growing in their field. Honey bees were hard at work when I was there on Saturday and their honey is sold in the store. You’ll find honey infused with lavender flowers for a stronger flavor or honey flavored as the bees collected it. I purchased the second one and it has a light floral flavor. There is an admission of $5 per person and they are only open on weekends 10am to 4pm.
Weir’s Lane Lavender & Apiary
Located near Hamilton Ontario, on Hwy 8, south of Hwy 5 is Weir’s Lane Lavender. They also have bee hives and sell honey as well as a variety of other lavender products in their store. Their lavender infused honey is lovely as well. The lavender field in front of the store was in full bloom when I was there and behind the store is a larger field. Remember, these lavender farms are still in their early years so we are not talking about 10 acre fields but you will see different varieties, many you can grow in your gardens.
Check with them for hours.
Apple Hill Lavender
If you have never been to this part of Ontario, you are in for a treat. The next two farms are located near each other, just north of the town of Simcoe. It is about 2 hours from Toronto in an area of diverse agriculture. Plan to stop at the local farms stands and markets for fresh produce. Lavender took quite a beating this winter, not only in Ontario but as far south as Georgia. Apple Hill’s lavender fields show some of the winter’s damage. They grow several different varieties of lavender. Owner Jan is passionate about lavender and distils her own lavender oil, which is available in the store. They also sell pottery made on the farm by their daughter. The farm is part of an agriculture association promoting conservation projects and I’ll write more about the farm in the future.
They are currently open Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 5pm
1795 Windham Road 11, Norfolk County, ON
Bonnieheath Estate Lavender & Winery
Not far from Apple Hill Lavender is one of Ontario’s newest wineries. In front of the vineyards is a beautiful arc of lavender plants. You can walk among the lavenders, explore the vineyard, or walk further back on the property to the fields of prairie grasses or relax with a glass of their wine. They also produce their own lavender oils. You will feel you have traveled to another world at this family owned farm.
They are open weekends but currently during the week. Check before you go.
410 Concession 12 Townsend, Waterford ON
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July 9, 2014
Prince Edward County lavender
The lavender in my garden is in full bloom. A little later than usual due to the severe winter, but it is beautiful!
Time to head off to visit some lavender farms. You can find a farm near you by visiting the Ontario Lavender Growers website at: ontariolavenderassociation.org
If you are in the United States, try to visit the Lavender Festival in Sequim, Washington this month. Lots of farms and beautiful fields of lavender to see.
I’m heading off this week to Bonnie Heath Lavender (they produce wine as well!) and Apple Hill Lavender in Simcoe. Earlier this year I visited the Simcoe Research Station and what a beautiful part of Ontario that is. On the way home I’m going to Weir’s Lane Lavender and Apiary, near Hamilton Ontario. This weekend they are having a lavender and music festival. You can find details on their website: http://www.weirslanelavender.com
To harvest your own lavender to use in crafts or cooking, the best time is just as the first flowers begin to open. Cut the stalks early in late morning after any moisture has evaporated from the stems. If you are too late this year, not to worry. The bees and butterflies will relish the lavender nectar. As soon as the blooms are finished, cut the stalks off and if you have not already pruned the plant this year you can cut it back now. If you have L. a. ‘Hidcote’ or L. a. ‘Munstead’, they should bloom again this year. If we have a mild fall, I have even had lavender in bloom in October.
Get out and enjoy a lavender farm.
March 29, 2014
Canada Blooms has drawn to a close for 2014. After any kind of winter, it is nice to be surrounded by flowers and trees and start thinking about the new gardening season. There were 2 lavender booths at the show. For several years now, NEOB (Niagara Essential Oils & Blends ) has had a booth showcasing their products and promoting their festival. This year they are having a Garlic and Herb Festival in September. They are unique in the Ontario landscape as their focus is growing plants they can distill for essential oils and they now have several farms growing plants for them. Their store is located just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake, about ½ hour from Niagara Falls, Ontario. One of my well-travelled girlfriends picked up some of their rose geranium soap and says it is amazing. Their web site is: http://www.neoblavender.com
Rebecca and Melissa at the NEOB booth.
The Ontario Lavender Association, a group of lavender growers, in Ontario had a booth for the first time. They had products from members and lots of information to share about growing lavender. They have a new initiative for the next 2 years – The Purple Road – to promote the lavender farms in Ontario. They have produced a lovely guide and I can’t wait to hit the road this summer. Visit the site at: ontariolavenderassociation.org
Kevin Beagle of Weirs Lane Lavender, Anita Buhner and her husband Steve, of the Ontario Lavender Association.
Apple Hill Lavender
A few years ago I went to Sequim in Washington State for their lavender festival and conference. I hope I can go again because to see lavender growing against the background of the snow topped Olympic Mountains is a sight I will not forget. There was one other Canadian at the conference and although I was booked to fly from Seattle to Vancouver to Toronto, she was looking for company to drive to Victoria, BC. From there she was flying to Toronto. I decided to join her and we had a lovely drive and I had the chance to look for lavender around in nurseries around Victoria.
Friday, my mother and I went to One Of A Kind and who did I meet? This same lady, Jan Schooley! She and her husband, who is into Apples, are now growing lavender on their farm in the Simcoe area, south of Brantford, Ontario. They had their first booth at the show, filled with soaps, oil, dried flowers and even lavender hydrosols, which are not easy to find. Lots to see this year in Ontario.
March 16, 2014
Canada Blooms opened Friday March 14th and I spent Saturday there soaking in the garden sights and smells I’ve been craving since the first snow fell. Tulips and hyacinths filled containers.
The gardens are very good this year. The Toronto Botanical Gardens, inspired by head horticulturist, Paul Zammit, designed an urban backyard garden, overflowing with vegetables from around the world — Okra, Chinese hot red peppers, Thai hot chili peppers, Yard-long beans, Bottle Gourd, Daikon radish and exotic eggplants. Many of these veggies are grown locally in Ontario.
There were some herbs in the mix, including lavender, and they had small L. stoechas topiaries for sale. It took great restraint not to pick up a few of these but I have enough plants in the house at the moment.
The Ontario Lavender Association has a booth at Canada Blooms this year. They are in the area behind the Garden Marketplace and are promoting Ontario Lavender Farms.
Last year a new lavender was available in Canada. Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ is supposed to be one of the better lavenders introduced in a few years. It has excellent winter hardiness and performs well in extreme heat and humidity. Richters, located north of Toronto at Goodwood Ontario, has greenhouses that are a treat during our frosty winters. They sell plants and seed through mail order and offer ‘Phenomenal’ plants. As it is a L. x intermedia, it will be sterile and seeds will not be available. Visit their site at Richters.com and look at all the other lavenders they offer.
Gardenimport.com also has ‘Phenomenal’ plants for sale via mail order and I am looking forward to acquiring one this year.
February 7, 2014
Canada’s premier garden show, Canada Blooms, is just around the corner in March. Last week I had the pleasure of attending a preview event at the Intercontinental Hotel on Front Street in downtown Toronto. They served food that was not only tasty, but lovely to look at and the desert was the highlight for me. It was coffee cake, topped with vanilla ice cream and lavender honey. Lavender leaves were used as a garnish. Lavender continues to grow in popularity and if you don’t already have some in your garden, it is a good time to think about adding a few plants this year. You will need at least 6 hours of sun and soil that drains well so the plants are never sitting in water.
If you want to grow it from seed, one of the few varieties to bloom the first year from seed is Lavender Lady. You will need to start it this month if you are hoping for blooms. I have previous blogs about starting lavender from seed, just look at the index on the side.
More about Canada Blooms next week.