Like any plant, lavender experiences good years, poor years and bountiful years. I’m thrilled to report that this summer has been one of those bountiful years as the first harvest completed with a brimming Carriage House full of drying bundles.
What contributes to a bountiful harvest? Lavender likes air, space, light and sun which were plentiful here at the farm in the critical months of May, June and July. We received just enough rainfall which meant that the plants didn’t get their “feet wet” or drown in puddles in the garden, which renders them more vulnerable.
Sunny and warm Summers also hold diseases at bay like Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV) and Phytophthora Nicotianae (Ppn) which plagued many lavender farms throughout America for the past two years. We’ve had our own tough seasons past with “winter kill” from prolonged days of sub-zero Winter temperatures.
A few years ago we lost about half of our lavender plants from “winter kill”. Many of those plants were 20+ years old and had been so well loved that we knew them by name. We also lost every one of our long stemmed “Provence”and “Grosso” plants during the brutal Winter of 2013-14. This was a heart break.
In trying to second guess the upcoming Winters we cautiously bet that there would be a return to “normal” which, for us, does not include months of sub-zero temperatures. So, we began replanting gingerly.
We replaced the Provence and Grosso gardens with “Phenomenal” which flourished this year. Phenomenal has stems as long as 2 feet; is very hardy in Growing Zone 5; and, offers a nice fragrance. It has a mid-bluish/purple color and is a nice all around plant to include in your garden. All in all, an improvement!
We’ve planted a test garden of “Big Time Blue”, a new angustifolia with exceptional color, good fragrance and a long flower head for 10″ bouquets. We found Big Time Blue at Burpee’s and I believe they have them in stock for Fall planting if you’d like to give this compact variety a try in your perennial garden.
The Gros Bleu with it’s vivid color, longish stems (18″) and nice fragrance was such a hardy Winter survivor and star that we planted another garden of them.
A garden miracle also occurred with our twenty year-old Munstead and Hidcote plants which produced “babies” through a natural layering process. The aging Mother plant produced five baby plants, encircling her last summer. While many of the rows are no longer “neat and orderly” the harvest from the year old babies has been surprisingly strong. Mother nature works in mysterious ways
Even though we haven’t experienced Ppn at Lavender Green Farm, we’re taking precautions by sending one plant from each new flat from the nursery to the Clemson Problem Plant Clinic to be tested. In the interim, the other newbies from the flat are quarantined until we get a disease free health report. This may seem overly cautious but we don’t want to introduce fungus- like oomycete* into the gardens as they destroy plants with symptoms that look like root rot. So far there have been no diseases present in nursery stock ordered this year.
A number of the gardeners who attended our tours last Summer reported that their plants died instantly after a rainfall, which is a another sign of Ppn. If this happens to you, pull and burn or put the sick plant into the trash bag and remove the surrounding soil by digging out the ground around the spot in your garden. If it was Ppn nothing will successfully grow there for an indeterminate number of years–it is that serious and it can spread through the soil infecting other plants. You can also notify your local Dept. of Agriculture office to find out where to send the plant for diagnosis.
So much for reflection on what we have learned over the past few years. Given this year’s harvest, our new mantra is to optimistically look forward with eyes wide open–taking nothing for granted.
I hope your garden is flourishing this Summer, too.
Fragrant Lavender Wishes,