Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lavender on the lake

I am forever guilty of wanting what I cannot have, plant-wise, that is.  In Atlanta, with our heavy red clay and high humidity, growing lavender in the ground is not that easy.  I did go to a neighborhood party a few years ago, and the homeowner actually had what I call Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas), with its silvery foliage and showy purple flowers, growing in a bed in front of her house.  She said the plants had come back for the second year in a row.

My local Publix grocery store sells these plants pretty often.  They are so tempting, and I've fallen victim a couple of times, only to watch the plants bloom out and eventually succumb to the humidity.  But my heart leapt when I saw the above Provence lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) growing merrily on Lake Martin in central Alabama.  If you look at a road atlas, you can see that the location is even further south than Atlanta.  So, given the right planting medium (excellent drainage, for sure) and full sun, one might be able to pull this same look off here.  There's nothing more satisfying than pinching off a stem or leaf and savoring that special fragrance.

I have read that Provence lavender can tolerate more humidity than other lavenders.  Back in the 1980's when I thought I could have an English garden a la Jekyll here in Atlanta, I ordered some 'Munstead Wood' plants.  My idea of copying a planting at an English manor house where the dark purple lavender grew on a terrace overlooking an expansive lawn didn't work out so well.  I seem to remember the tiny plants just sitting there for a while and then literally melting.

I'm getting a late start this year with any summer annuals for the back terrace.  I've had good luck with petunias out there.  For some reason the chipmunks don't dig those up like they do everything else.  If I can find some Provence lavender, I'd like to give it a try.  If I succeed, I'll post the results.  If not, I'll not talk about another lavender failure and quietly settle for some nice bars of soap instead.