Once a month, Christina at My Hesperides Garden, encourages us to take a look at the effects of foliage in the garden. For this Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day, I decided to take a closer look at my small collection of lavenders. They would be splendid garden plants even if they never bloomed. And here in the desert, where they grow robustly despite heat, alkaline soils, and drought, they are particularly valuable as structural plants. There is, of course, the marvelous fragrance of both foliage and flowers, with many variations among species. But beyond that, the growth habits are often beautifully formal, and foliage is striking, running a significant range of colors, textures, and even leaf shapes.
In addition, they can grow quite large! Originally I made a miscalculation: I thought that extreme heat would have the same effect as extreme cold, e.g. would keep plants on the smaller end of their expected ultimate size. Not so!
Here is Lavandula "Goodwin's Creek Gray". Yes, I anticipated having it spill over the pavers a bit; that was in the design plan and is one reason I have used twelve inch wide pavers. But GCG is clambering well past them.
I am very grateful for Christina's advice, in her GBFD post this month, that it is feasible to cut lavenders back hard in warm, sunny climates. I have been wondering whether I could get away with it!
Meantime, they have filled their spots in the garden with lovely dense foliage and, in season, bloom. Some species and hybrids, such as "Goodwin's Creek Gray", can bloom nearly year-round in warm-winter climates; others -- L. stoechas, for instance -- are distinctly seasonal.
The most recommended species for the low desert seems to be L. stoechas, commonly known here as Spanish lavender, though sometimes also referred to as French lavender, a name more often reserved for the L. x intermedia types! "Madrid" has been a most reliable stoechas variety, growing with a dense, dome-shaped habit invaluable among softer plants. Here it is filling the area between Pennisetum setaceum rubrum and a rather large miniature rose, another plant whose ultimate size remains unknown. Does a happy miniature rose ever stop growing?
In the North Border I have a noID lavender which is probably another form of L. stoechas. This one was grown from a rooted offset given me by my cousin. An early addition to the border, it suffered from the intense heat this last summer but is recovering well and putting on size rapidly now. Some chlorosis remains as evidence of just how difficult this last summer was, especially in the less developed parts of the garden, such as this.
As I am finally filling out the North Border, I have just added my first L. x intermedia as well, a young "Grosso". This time I am giving it plenty of room, though it should be a narrower plant.
Its soft, silvery foliage seems a looser version of the robust "Goodwin's Creek Gray". The latter is a hybrid of unknown origin, though it is believed to have derived partly from L. dentata. Its silver tones are matched only by Artemisia x "Powis Castle" in the far corner behind it.
Curiously, so far as I know there are no lavenders native here -- many native Salvias but no lavenders. Does anyone know otherwise? For all that, the native wildlife find them very satisfactory; bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds feed from them.
I think that if I could grow only one non-native genus here, it would be the lavenders -- with roses!
Weather Diary: Fair; High: 96 F (36 C)/Low: 62 F (17 C); Humidity: 16%-47%
Diana Studer (Sunday, 23 October 2016 18:02)
the horticulturalist at the wine estate suggested cutting lavender back in 3 stages (front, back then top sort of thing) So there are always some leaves to keep the plant alive. I wonder if one tried the rose style pruning, one third of the old wood - if that would work.
I take cuttings ... then cut back hard, but leave a few branches in reserve.
Kris P (Sunday, 23 October 2016 22:16)
I have to try pruning a couple of my lavenders back hard too - they're already out of control. And I must find myself a miniature rose to try in this garden! I remember being impressed by one I grew in my former garden but, until I viewed your success with them, I thought my current garden would be too inhospitable for them.
Amy@Smallsunnygarden (Monday, 24 October 2016 02:18)
Diana - That sounds like excellent advice. I love them in their big, billowy beauty, so I'm sure I will put off the process as long as I can, but it will have to be attempted at some point! I just wish I were better at rooting cuttings as there would be less concern over losing favorites...
Amy@Smallsunnygarden (Monday, 24 October 2016 02:23)
Kris - The lavenders do get to that point, don't they? There was a reason my cousin had extras to give away too... ;-) The miniature roses have impressed me quite a bit; my favorites so far are the ones developed by Kordes. I find it's good to keep a sharp lookout for spider mites right at first; otherwise they've been disease-free here.
rusty duck (Monday, 24 October 2016 08:33)
Oh, for an out of control lavender! Your experience does seem to prove that hot and dry are the best conditions for it. They do look good.
Amy@Smallsunnygarden (Monday, 24 October 2016 11:15)
I sympathize completely, Jessica, since in my earlier garden only Munstead proved dependable and it remained quite small. All the more frustrating as Stachys byzantina spread happily there, though the two should, in theory, have required about the same conditions. Here I do have the advantage of testing a much wider range of species and cultivars, but I think it's mostly the hot, dry climate...
Christina (Tuesday, 25 October 2016 02:45)
Hi Amy, thank you for this excellent contribution to GBFD. I think Diana's suggestion to cut 'front, back, top is an excellent idea. the best option of course is to always prune as soon as flowering is complete (here that is usually July) but with the varieties that flower for a much longer period it can be difficult to decide the best time, maybe just before the cooler season when you can expect new growth.
Amy@Smallsunnygarden (Friday, 28 October 2016 11:00)
Christina - So sorry for my very late reply! Looking at the way the plants have grown this year, I think that pruning in early autumn might indeed be a very good option. I hope you're feeling much better now!