NEWBERG, Oregon—I was very surprised this year to see how my lavender farm reacted to the weather. Oregon enjoys relatively mild winters followed by wet, cool springs. This year, we had an especially wet May. I thought I had solved the problem by growing my lavender stock like potatoes in raised rows, which allowed the excess water to channel freely out at one end of the field. As the season progressed, I noticed some significant effects on various lavender species.
The Spanish lavender cultivars (Lavandula stoechas) bloomed with abandon and looked great. When the warm summer temperatures finally arrived, I noticed some English lavendar cultivars (L. angustifolia) were wilting. I believe this was caused by a type of fungal infection that develops just under the flower head, causing the stem to collapse and wilt. Although this was an eyesore, a quick snip of infected stems from the plants cured the problem. Occasionally, I had to prune out clusters of infected stems to prevent further infection.
Whether because of old age or the weather, some mature English lavenders and lavandins (L. ¥intermedia) had to be removed from my field this year. Many of these had shorter flower stalks than usual. An unexpected surprise was the L. lanata crosses (‘Ana Luisa’ and ‘Silver Frost’, among others), which all did extremely well, suffering no adverse effects from all the spring rain.
Perhaps this year’s lavender woes were just a freak result of my microclimate and high water table. Other lavender growers didn’t seem to have the same results.
A grower friend of mine not more than a 30-minute drive from me had no lavender ready for her lavender festival, so I was welcome when I arrived with buckets of fresh-cut stems for her. While enjoying the festival, I found some interesting lavender ideas. One person inserted fresh lavender stems into old toilet paper rolls, bent the stalks upward along the outside of the roll and wove through them with ribbons, as one does for a lavender wand. The result is a small bouquet for the top of the tank, serving as both a floral decoration and an air freshener. I also saw lavender woven together to form floral sconces to hang on a wall.
On another lavender note, this summer I visited a lavender garden at a public middle school for which I had supplied the plants the previous year. I wanted to see how the plants had fared. I was pleasantly surprised that all my lavenders were doing very well in raised beds of recycled pavement blocks. Someone had the clever design idea of intermingling purple tulips among the lavenders to echo the lavender flower colors. This gave me the idea of using a Siberian iris cultivar called ‘Chilled Wine’ to complement the purple of my lavenders.
Finally, on my lavender musing, I was interested to talk to a friend who had visited commercial lavender fields in France. In the United States, the dark-flowered cultivars of English lavender are the most popular for fresh and dried bouquets. But the French have a different mindset: they prefer the lighter, bluer lavender colors, perhaps because they are easier than the dark purples to implement in a garden color scheme.