Get down and dirty in the garden
Cynthia Meredith has been gardening with herbs, reading about herbs, gardening with herbs and discussing herb gardening in Texas for more than 20 years. She has owned The Herb Cottage (www.theherbcottage.com) for over 10 years, selling herb plants to people all over our state.
I was checking to see if there had been any comments on the blog post I wrote last week, and saw a link in the section Related Content called Lucious Lavender: A Guide to Growing and Using Lavender. What a wonderful article Kathleen Halloran wrote! Although the article was written in 1994 the content was as fresh and up-to-date as, well, a bouquet of lavender flowers. I could picture the areas she talked about in New York, Oregon and Hollywood, California where people had planted their lavender to beautify various locations. I was looking for information on growing lavender in Texas—of course—and there was a little bit at the end of the article. Kathleen referenced Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay, our beloved Texas herb gurus. Had the article been written about five years later I believe Kathleen would have also been writing about the Texas lavender industry.
Although it's still in its fledgling state, Texas now boasts the Blanco Lavender Festival in Blanco, Texas, and a Lavender Festival at Becker Vineyards in Stonewall, Texas. Also, there are numerous lavender growers in the Texas area who are both commercial and recreational.
Lavender Hills in Blanco, Texas
Lavender Field at Becker Vineyard in Stonewall, Texas
Growing lavender in Texas is a challenge, especially if you live close to the Gulf Coast where the summers stay humid, as well as hot, or in eastern Texas where the soil is very heavy "Texas Gumbo" soil. The summer atmosphere dries out a bit in the Hill Country and northern Texas, so growing lavender is a lot easier. If you love lavender as much as many of us herbies do, you must have lavender growing somewhere—in your herb garden, in your container garden or even in your house—no matter how difficult.
Spanish Lavender (L. Stoechas)
The variety you choose to grow should be determined by your location. If you live where it stays humid in the summer and rains a lot—most years, anyway—the lavandin lavenders do well. These are the hybirds such as 'Provense', 'Grosso' and 'Sweet'. Spanish lavender (L. stoechas) is another lavender variety that tends to do well for me.
There are many more choices if you live in the western or northern part of the state. Many of the L. angustifolia varieties do well in these locations and will even survive the winter, as long as you can protect them a little from the drying winds of winter.
Spanish lavender can be successfully grown from seed and will flower the first year. The others, the lavandin, must be purchased as transplants or propagated from cuttings taken from a friend's plant.
Here are some links to good lavender growing information for Texas:
• Back Yard Gardener- This website offers more general information, but it is very complete. It explains the most common diseases found in lavender plants.
Lavender Flower, courtesy of White Acres Farm
One thing I have learned about growing lavender in southern Texas is that a good gravel mulch goes a long way to helping your plants along. This is only practical, of course, in a smaller garden setting, or even in a container garden. The idea is that the gravel helps dry the air around the plant on humid mornings, which we usually have during the summer. The other benefit of the gravel mulch is that it keeps soil from splashing on the underside of the plant, which can help keep diseases down.
If you love lavender, don't despair, no matter where you live in Texas—there is a lavender that you can grow! Even if you have one pot on your deck or patio, you'll still be able to enjoy the aroma, pastel look and even, perhaps, be able to harvest a few flowers to make Lavender Lemonade.
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
—Marcus Tullius Cicero