Lavender ‘Seal’ in Bloom and My First Rose Talk

July 21, 2013

 

It has been hot here in Southern Ontario.  30°C in the morning, so I’m enjoying coffee in my garden.  A breeze between the houses makes it bearable.  Bees are enjoying the lavender.  My L. angustifolias flowers have been cut off and plants pruned back.  L. x intermedia ‘Seal’ is in bloom.  It is the largest lavender I have in the garden with lovely long stems that are perfect for crafts.  I don’t think I’m going to do anything with the flowers, just let the bees enjoy them.

Monday night I gave my first rose talk.  My term as President of the Canadian Rose Society has just finished.  I forgot how long a talk takes to prepare!  It is not deciding what information to include, but finding all the pictures!  I have been working on it for 6 months and Woodbridge Horticulture Society was my first guinea pig.  At a local garden centre I found a “The Fairy” rose bush that I took to the meeting.  Most of my roses have finished but the climbing rose “Rosanna™” had some flowers, so I took some of those.  They received a lot of attention and people even commented on the light fragrance.

What a wonderful bunch of people.  They meet at the Woodbridge Arena, Islington and Hwy 7, just north of Toronto.  The meeting began with the singing of “Oh Canada”.  There was a piano in the room and one of the members accompanied us.  It has been too long since I sang our anthem with a group.

If you would like to join a garden society visit www.gardenontario.org

This is a great time of year to visit a lavender farm.  You can find a list of them at the Ontario Lavender Growers Association site. 

In Quebec – don’t miss Bleu Lavande.  It is south of Montreal, near the Vermont border.

In Prince Edward Island, visit the 5 Sisters of Lavender Lane.  Check their website for any special events.

Visiting Washington State – Lots of gorgeous farms near Sequim.

Lazy Days of Lavender

July 15, 2013

ImageMy L. angustifolias have been pruned and I’m hoping for another bloom from them this summer. L. x intermedia ‘Seal’ had a rough winter but the chunks of dea plant have not stopped the live sections from blooming. The buds are just starting to open and I plan to harvest them to make lavender wands as gifts.

If you need directions on how to make a lavender wand, visit my website www.growing-lavender.com.  It is out of date, but the directions are on the front page.  They are not hard to make but take a little practice and FRESH lavender, not dried.

Remember when you remove the finished blooms, this can be a good time to prune the plant. Try to cut it back at least 1/3 if you haven’t already done so.

Photo Contest sponsored by the Ontario Lavender Association

Visit our wonderful lavender farms and take some photos. The deadline for entries is midnight, September 1, 2013. For more information visit http://www.ontariolavenderassociation.org

Do try to visit a lavender farm this summer.

Have you tried growing watermelons?

March 6, 2013

2013 is the Year to Grow Watermelons

Every year, National Garden Bureau, an American organization, names one edible, one annual and one perennial as the featured crops for that year. 2013 is the Year of the Watermelon.

Watermelons (Citrillus lanatus) are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients. Watermelons probably originated almost 5,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert of Africa where botanists have found its wild ancestors still growing. Watermelon cultivation moved north through Egypt and during the Roman era they were cultivated and prized. Watermelons were documented in 1629 in Massachusetts. During the Civil War, the Confederate Army boiled watermelon to make molasses for cooking. It is in the Southern states such as the Carolinas and Georgia where watermelons flourished as commercial crops.

Watermelons can be classified in one of four ways: Picnic (larger melons ranging from 15-50 pounds) , Icebox (smaller melons ranging from 5-15 pounds), Seedless (usually mid-sized and can be round or oblong), Yellow/orange flesh types.

In the early 1990’s seedless or triploid melons came onto the market and it’s estimated that 50% of all watermelons grown commercially are now seedless. For the home gardener, seeds of a huge variety of heirloom and hybrids are readily available, allowing you to choose from rind colorations that range from light green to dark green and can be striped, solid or mottled. Flesh color ranges from almost white to bright red.

How To Grow Watermelons
Watermelons need a long hot growing season. Gardeners in northern or cooler climates, choose an earlier-to-mature variety like AAS Winners ‘Shiny Boy’, ‘Golden Crown’ or ‘Yellow Baby’ that all mature in 70-75 days.
Watermelons need warm ground for seeds to germinate and grow. Soil should be 70 degrees F or warmer at planting time. Sow seeds 1-inch deep and keep well watered until germination. To get a jump start in cooler climates, cover the planting area with black plastic to warm up the soil or start seeds indoors two or three weeks before they are to be set out in the garden. Don’t start seeds any earlier, because large watermelon seedlings transplant poorly. Plant 3 seeds ½ inch deep in 3- or 4-inch peat pots or large cell packs and thin to the best plant. Place in a sunny south-facing window or under lights to germinate. Make sure the area is warm both day and night, ideally 80 degrees F.

Watermelon vines of some varieties can reach 20 feet in length so plan accordingly. Amend soil with organic matter such as compost or composted cow manure. Add a balanced fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Sow 8 to 10 watermelon seeds in a hill, and push seeds 1-inch into the soil. Space hills 3 to 4 feet apart, with at least 8 feet between rows. Thin plants to the 3 best in each hill. Keep soil free of weeds by shallow hoeing or with a layer of mulch.

When to Harvest
Watermelons mature rapidly during hot weather. Most are ripe about 32 days after blooming.
The surest sign of ripeness in most watermelon varieties is the color of the bottom spot where the melon sits on the ground. As the watermelon matures, the spot turns from almost white to a rich yellow. Also, all watermelons lose the powdery or slick appearance on the top and take on a dull look when fully ripe.

This article is edited from the National Garden Bureau. W. Atlee Burpee for providing the majority of the content in this article.
Founded in 1920, the National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners that will inspire them to spend more time gardening.
Let’s Go Garden!

The Garden Shows Begin!

February 20, 2013

lavender

February and the snow covers the ground, but gardeners are nothing if not optimistic. This Saturday, February 23, the Toronto Botanical Gardens holds Getting the Jump on Spring. Meet local garden societies and hear inspiring speakers. Admission is free, but a small donation is appreciated. They are located at the corner of Lawrence and Leslie in Toronto. Their website is: http://www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca

Near the Toronto International Airport is the International Centre. From Thursday Feb 21 through Sunday 24th is Sucessful Gardening along with a large home show. I’m planning to be there Friday and Sunday. There is a very good horticulture competition and some good speakers.

From March 15 – 24 at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto is the Canadian Queen of garden shows, Canada Blooms. You want speakers – they have speakers and some years I plan my visits around who I want to hear. This is a great chance to get inspired and see what is new for the year. Check out the details at http://www.canadablooms.com

There is a lot of interest in growing your own vegetables and I know some people are looking for heirloom varieties. If you go to Canada Blooms, look for Urban Harvest. They sell lots of different varieties and I’ve had good luck with their seeds.

Finally, there is a new lavender variety, an intermedia, called – ‘Phenomenal’. From the photo I’ve seen the flowers are like Grosso. It will be available in Ontario Canada and I am hoping to get a few of them!

Would you like to have a lavender farm?

October 4, 2012

Many of us dream of spending our days with lavender. The Ontario Lavender Association is hosting a conference November 14 -15 in Woodstock Ontario at the Quality Inn and Suites. The theme is “The Business of Lavender”.

Visit their website at http://www.ontariolavenderassociation.org/festivals.html and put your name on the list for more information. The details are just being finalised. What a good opportunity to find out if a lavender farm is in your future!

Lavender Cookies

September 3, 2012

Beautiful row of lavender at Bleu Lavande in the province of Quebec, Canada

Markham Horticulture Society

Last Tuesday night I had the pleasure of speaking about lavender at the Markham Horticulture Society. They had a full house and even brought in extra chairs. They also had a flower show that night and I was sorry that I didn’t have time to look at the entries because it looked like a very nice show. In the “What a small world” department, one of the members was a woman who used to show at the Arabian shows I used to exhibit at. Melody still looked so very young I couldn’t believe it had been so many years ago! Moyra gave me such a nice introduction I hoped I could live up to it!

I like to take some snacks with lavender in them for those that have never tasted lavender. This time I tried two new recipes and was pleased they turned out well. I will certainly make them again.

Savory Cream Cheese Spread
1 package of cream cheese – softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 tablespoon of butter – softened to room temperature
1 – 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers. (These can be added as is or ground in the blender for a finer texture.)
1 tablespoon of “Herbs de Provence”. This is a blend of herb that can vary from store to store.
Optional – I put one finely chopped sun dried tomato into the mix but you could add more, or none.

Blend all the ingredients together, chill and serve with crackers.

Lavender Cookies
First – make lavender sugar by blending 1 cup of white granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of dried lavender. Put them in the blender until well mixed. Both the lavender and the sugar will be finer.
Set aside in a bowl to roll the cookies in.
Cookies
One cup of sugar
One cup of butter, softened to room temperature
One large egg
One and three quarter cups of All Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of Vanilla. Almond extract would also be nice as it goes well with lavender. Fresh lemon juice might work as well.
Mix the butter and sugar together until well blended.
Add the egg and Vanilla.
Next, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until everything is well blended.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. I put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Using a table spoon, scoop up some of the batter. Roll it into a ball in your hands, then put it into the lavender sugar and coat well. Put onto the parchment paper and press flat, but not too thin. Repeat until the batter is used up. Bake for 10 minutes but remove before the cookies begin to get dark. Remove them from the cookie sheet and let cool. Enjoy!

New Lavender at Canada Blooms

March 17, 2012

I would love to wear a pair of shoes like this.

Part of a gorgeous creation at Canada Blooms

Canada’s premier garden show, Canada Blooms started yesterday. It takes place for 10 days this time at the Direct Energy Center in downtown Toronto, Ontario. It is a feast to wander among the flowers and plants imagining what your own garden will look like this year.

Last June I visited one of the newer Ontario Lavender farms. It is located near Niagara-on-the-lake and called ‘Neob Lavender’.

They had a new variety of lavender for sale and it turns out it is their own development. Robert explained to us that it was a cross between English and ‘French’ lavender. I assume he meant between English and L x intermedia lavender and I leaned near him and whispered, “But french lavender is sterile”. He went on to explain that these were developed by tissue culture, but as I type this, I think he meant genetically modified. The purpose being to bring the best of the two families together. The name they have given this variety is “Massuet Niagara”. It is to be pruned like the angustifolias but will give off the scent more like the intermedia’s.

When I was in France a few years ago, they explained that the ‘True’ lavender, the angustifolia was the more preferred and went for a higher price. As the angustifolia plants are much smaller than the intermedia’s, the yeild is much less per acre, which also contributes to the increased cost. So – I will look forward to seeing how this lavender produces for them.

In the meantime, you can visit their website neoblavender.com
They have a lavender festival on July 14 and 15 this year.

About the photograph: I know it isn’t lavender, but what a beautiful color! Mums and cymbidium orchids!
Remember, you can subscribe to my blog and then you won’t miss an update. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them along. I’ll do my best to help.

All for now.

Lavender and Chocolate Treat

February 13, 2012

Easy to make chocolate treats

Last Minute Valentine’s Treat
I’m always on the lookout for simple recipes that can be tweaked with lavender. These chocolate treats could not be easier.
You will need:
– A double boiler
– 100 gms of semi-sweet or sweetened dark chocolate
– A tablespoon of dried lavender flowers
– Assortment of other toppings – slivered almonds, pistachio nuts, dried cranberries.

Makes about 12.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over boiling water.
Prepare your toppings by chopping the dried cranberries. I put the pistachio nuts in the blender and ended up with a mixture of very fine pistachio pieces and little chunks.
Prepare a cookie sheet that will be able to fit into your refrigerator by putting a piece of parchment paper on it.
Once the chocolate has melted, pour a tablespoon onto the parchment. It should settle into a round/oval shape. Top it off with a combination of toppings:
– a pinch of dried lavender flowers and almonds
– Pistachio nuts and cranberries
– Pistachio nuts and slivered almonds
– A little of everything!
Place the cookie tray in the fridge. It will take about 6 hours for the chocolate to harden.
If you are giving them as a gift, you can wrap them in parchment paper and put into a pretty bag or look for a Valentine’s themed box at a gift or ‘dollar store’.

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.