Archive for January, 2012

Swansea Horticultural Society and Lavender Seeds

January 26, 2012

Relaxing at home.

Katie enjoying the new garden chair. She is on a harness.

Last night I had a great time with the folks of the Swansea Horticultural Society. They invited me to speak about lavender and there was a lot of interest as the seats were full and the questions excellent.

What a nice group!

My new BF Beverly called me a few weeks ago to organise my visit and not only did we talk about lavender but our cats! Last night I met a lovely woman with a cat called ‘Larry’. (Trust me to remember the cat’s name and not his owner’s.) She told us how her son and husband brought this fluffy grey kitten home and how she wanted no part of him. Quickly that changed as his personality worked it’s magic and Larry is now a valued family member and an excellent snuggling companion when you are not feeling well.

My own precious ‘Princess Katie’ was adopted from ARK, a Peterborough, Ontario rescue group. I can’t explain it, but this cat was meant to live with me. She was 1 1/2 years when she joined me and originally would only drink bottled water – hence her name ‘Princess”.

Thank you to everyone at Swansea for an enjoyable evening. If you live in that area of Toronto and would like to join a garden society, check them out. Information about Ontario horticulture societies is available at http://www.gardenontario.org.

Lavender Seeds.

Have you started tomatoes from seed? I consider those easy.

Lavender is a little trickier but not difficult. If you have never started seeds before, I wouldn’t start with lavender. L. angustifolias usually do not bloom until their second year. L. a. ‘Lady’ will bloom the first year from seed but you need to start it early – like now. Lavender started from seed will have some variation in flower color. If you have your heart set on a nice dark purple lavender, you are better to purchase plants already in bloom.

The larger L. x intermedia’s are sterile and do not produce seeds, so you can only purchase plants.

Lavender seeds are a little slow to germinate and to grow. Always use a sterilised potting mix to help avoid a disease called ‘damping off’, which will quickly kill off your seedlings.

There will be directions on the seed package letting you know how much soil to cover the seeds with. 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. They need good light ot they can look stringy and weak. 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 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.
Eventually you will need to separate the plants and put them in larger containers. I would mix some horticulture sand with the potting mix at this point to help with drainage. When the outdoor temperatures are above freezing, day and night, you can begin to move the plants outside. Any plants that have been in the house, or in a greenhouse need to be “hardened off” (gradually aclimatised to outdoor light) gradually. If you put them directly outside in the sun, they will burn and die. You need to find a sheltered spot in your garden with dappled light and gradually accustom them to full sun.

I often leave my seedlings in containers well into the summer before moving them to their permanent home in the garden. Remember, while lavender is popular because it is drought tolerant, new plants need water. If they wilt, they will have trouble recovering.

Where can you buy seeds? Here are a few sources to get you started.
Vesey’s Seeds http://www.veseys.com
Richter’s Herbs http://www.richters.com
Renee’s Garden http://www.reneesgarden.com

If you have any questions about starting seeds, please ask.

L. x intermedia ‘Seal’ and Lavender in the Laundry Room

January 6, 2012

January 5, 2012

L. x intermedia ‘Seal’ and Lavender in the Laundry Room
Happy New Year

Here in southern Ontario, Canada we had the lovliest fall weather and I had some lavender plants in bloom well into November! Two fully mature L. angustifolias grow next to my south-facing front steps. They were loaded with flowers into November. A cousin visiting from out of province commented she loved running her hands through the flowers as she went up and down the stairs. Isn’t that why we have it?

One I enjoyed the most was L. x intermedia ‘Seal’. I found this plant for sale at Prince Edward County Lavender (PEC Lavender) in 2010. I had seen it growing at Norfolk Lavender in England and loved it there but had not seen for sale here. Now ‘Seal’ is a big plant when mature so I was careful to plant it where it could have lots of room. These larger varieties can take 4 years until they reach their full size and take several years for their first bloom. This is unlike the small L. angustifolia’s like ‘Lady’ or ‘Hidcote’ which bloom often in their first year. The ‘Seal’ plant should be nearly 1m (40″) tall and wide when fully grown. The foliage is a lovely grey-green and the flower stems nearly 40 cm long (16″). Our previous winter was very hard on the roses in my garden but this lavender came through it perfectly. So far the plant is dense with leaves, showing no sign of woody stems. It gets sun most of the day and is in a fairly new bed, with good soil and planted near some roses. “Lavender, The Grower’s Guide” by New Zealander Virginia McNaughton, says that the fragrance of the dried flowers often lasts for two years! I can hardly wait to have enough flowers to harvest.

I’m sorry I couldn’t find my photos of this plant but I’ll try and put them in the next blog.

Speaking of roses, the reason for my lack of blogs this fall was due to the Canadian Rose Society. For a reason I have yet to sort out in my head, I became the President at the AGM earlier this year. I was already doing their publications and this last fall put my first “Annual” together. I enjoyed the process but it consumed a lot of time and energy. Today, I am getting thier December newsletter in the mail! However, I thought I’d indulge in some ‘me’ time this afternoon and I thought – “What would I like to do?”

Laundry
Housework has never been my forte but I do enjoy laundry. I find it a rewarding task. You end up with nice clean clothes and any ironing makes things crisp and new. I love ironing pillow cases and dish towels. With the help of my precious cat, Katie, who loves leaping on the bed when sheets are being changed, the bedding went into the machine. The powdered detergent I added was a gift from a friend that came from “Williams Somona” and is lavender scented. I don’t know if they make it any more because I’ve had this for a few years – it takes so little and I’m not usually washing anything that is really dirty.

One of my other favorites is from Bleu Lavande in Quebec. They make a lovely liquid lavender laundry soap. I have had trouble with some detergents giving me terrible rashes, so I have to be careful what I use if it is for washing clothing, but this has not given me any trouble. Again, you don’t need to use very much so the bottle lasts a long time.

Lavender essenial oil has some antibacterial and antifungal effects and can be put right into the washing machine but there are a few precautions to take. If you put it into the machine onto dry clothes, it may discolor the fabric. It is better added into water already in the machine. You will not neccessarily have any lasting scent but it will help get rid of bacteria. Tea tree oil is better for dust mite control.

What about the dryer? You can purchase lavender scented sheets or even pouches containing dried lavender flowers. You can make your own dryer sachets with dried lavender flowers from your garden enhanced with at little lavender oil. Not owning a dryer I have never done this, but I understand if you put a few drops of lavender oil on a scrap of fabric and put into the dryer this makes a simple dryer sheet.

Lavender Sprays.
You can make a very simple spray using approx 10 drops of lavender essential oil to one cup of distilled water. Use a glass botte as essential oils can discolor plastic bottles and metal spray bottles are not recommended for use with essential oils. Shake well before use and spray. The commercial clothing sprays seem to have a chemical fixative which helps the scent last longer on your fabrics.

Finally – Cats and Lavender Oil
I love the scent of lavender in the house, but it can be toxic to cats, so use it sparingly. Unless recommended by a health professional do not use lavender oil to treat any injuries on your cat or dog.

More about lavender in the house next time.