Archive for January, 2010

Growing lavender from seed

January 30, 2010

Arrival of my mail was very exciting today. There was an order of seeds and a new rose book! What to open first? The book won. It is called “Right Rose, Right Place” and is by Peter Schneider. He has a wonderful rose garden in Ohio, which I had the pleasure of visiting several years ago and although I just started the book, I really like it so far. However, as this blog is more about lavender, I’m going to focus on the seeds instead.

Two years ago I made notecards from some of my sketches and included seeds with them. They sold very well, so I thought I would make some more this year. The seeds I ordered were this year were L. angustifolia ‘Lavender Lady’, L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’ and L. angustifolia ‘Pink Perfume’. Having lavenders accurately named is a bit of a challenge and I’m not sure there really is a variety called ‘Hidcote Blue’. I think they mean ‘Hidcote’. L. a. ‘Lavender Lady’ is a smaller variety and if started early enough, will bloom the first year from seed. Most other lavenders need to be 2 or 3 years old to bloom. I’ve never tried to grow “Lady” to have it bloom the first year, but think I will give it a try this year.

Lavender is not difficult to grow from seed, but not as easy as tomatoes. The seeds are a little slow to germinate. Always use a sterilised potting mix to help avoid a disease called ‘damping off’, which will quickly kill off your seedlings. Cover the seeds with soil. If you have a system where you can provide bottom heat, lavender seed appearantly like it. However, I have never used it. Once the seedlings begin to germinate, move into a sunny window, or under lights and grow as you would any other seeds. I find the only challenge with lavender is when the seedlings are a couple of inches tall. Do you transplant them to give them more space? They are a little more fragile than tomatoes at this point, so if you haven’t planted the seeds too close together, I would leave them until their roots have developed more fully and the seedlings look robust. They need good light or they can look stringy and weak.

Carefully separate the plants and put in larger containers. I would mix some horticulture sand with the potting mix at this point to help with drainage. I’ll try to photograph my seedlings in 6-8 weeks or so and post the photo. When it comes time to harden them off, I’ll cover that too.

With so many varieties of lavender, you may wonder why there is not more seed available. There are several reasons. One is that lavender hybridises very easily with other lavenders, so commercial seed production must be under very careful circumstances. Another reason is that the L X intermedia group, including ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’ are sterile and do not produce seeds. If you want those in your garden, you need to purchase the plants.

All for now

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Lavender Indoors

January 9, 2010

Snow is finally blanketing my garden. As much as I hate shoveling the stuff, it provides insulation for the perennials and protects the plants from temperature extremes. Today we have a windchill of -25C, while by Wednesday it might be around freezing. That is very hard on plants.

Each spring as I’m carrying plants outside I vow not to bring so many indoors the next fall, but I can’t seem to help it. I feel sorry for them! One such plant is a lovely standard orange hibiscus I’ve had for 6 years. I was determined it was not coming in this year. It takes up quite a bit of space in the south facing dining room. You guessed it – it was blooming beautifully this fall, so I removed it from the large 20″ pot it was in, cut the roots back with a knife until it fit into a 14″ pot and brought it in. It is doing very well and has been in constant bloom.

However, you are not reading here to find out about hibiscus. I also brought in for the second time a L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’. It is actually winter hardy, but I haven’t found just the right spot for it in the garden, so it has been in a container for several years now. When researching my book, I grew all kinds of lavenders in the house. The L. angustifolias really hated the dry air in the house, but this particular plant does quite well. Some of the L. x intermedias did alright – at least they stayed alive. In particular I have had L. x intermedia Silver Edge and L. x intermedia Goldburg winter quite successfully in the house. The south window has proven to be too hot for most plants, so they sit on a table, 4′-5′ back from the window. There are scented geraniums on the floor, but in sun doing very nicely.

In early November I visited Humber Nurseries. (They are located south of Hwy 7 on Hwy 50 near Brampton Ontario) They have wonderful greenhouses and are a great place to wander on a rotten winter day. One greenhouse is full of herbs. It has been a few years since I’ve had some tender lavenders in the house over the winter and wanted a few. I purchased three: L. dentata, L. stoechas and L. Goodwin Creek Grey. The L. stoechas is not looking very happy, but the other two plants look great. (I think I let it dry out too much and then over watered it)

L. Goodwin Creek Grey is one of my favorite lavenders. It is not frost tolerant, but if you live in a warmer climate can probably grow it in your garden. When I do talks I’m often asked for a variety that would suite someone who lives in an appartment and this one is perfect. It grows in a container and is quite happy indoors or out. It is easy to grow – treat it like a geranium. Good sun and let the soil dry out between waterings. In the photo here, you’ll see lovely grey foliage that is velvet to the touch and a light lavender scent. It does bloom, but they are not as spectacular as other varieties, so I consider blooms a bonus.

It was found growing at Goodwin Creek Nurseries – check out their lavenders on their website! (It is believed to be a cross from L. lanata, which in my experience is very hard to grow. Because it is a hybrid and not part of any other lavender family the name is just shown as L. Goodwin Creek Grey.)
Only 2 months until the garden shows begin!!