Salisbury, MD. What grows in sandy, gravelly soil with minimal moisture, no mulch no fertilizer, repels insects, soothes the nerves and smells heavenly? There is only one plant that fits the bill and it's lavender!
It's true. Lavender originated in Europe in the sandy, hot Mediterranean regions. This shrubby perennial thrives in sandy, gravelly "soil" and gardeners often place white stones or pea gravel around it to provide additional heat to the roots and keep down the weeds. The big enemy of lavender is rot caused by poor drainage and/or lack of air circulation. If you can avoid that, you can expect to have few problems. Once established, you don't want to fertilize or coddle lavender by watering.
Most blossom times on Delmarva are in June, give or take a few weeks. The blooms range from white to pink to lavender to dark purple. They rise on tall stems above the green-gray foliage to attract every bee in the area. Obvious hint: don't plant lavenders near the front door where visitors have to dodge bees when they come to visit.
English lavenders are probably the most hardy, contain more oils and therefore often preferred for scent. The French types are darker and with more bloom to foliage contrast. Lavenders can be small, perhaps only a foot tall and as wide, or they can grow to two or three feet as with the hedge lavenders. There are a myriad of sizes in between. Because lavender pollinates easily and quite indiscriminately, there are countless variations of the named cultivars. The only way to get predictable new plants is rooting cuttings from the parent plant.
A natural insect repellant, lavender was once dried and packed away with clothes to keep away moths. A much nicer solution than moth balls, we think. Today, the Gardening Grannies love to use lavender in their bird baths. Yes, you heard it right. Just cut a small bundle of lavender blooms and tie the stems together with a long daylily leaf. Place it in your birdbath and it will keep away mosquitoes and reduce the need for frequent water changes. We don't know if the birds find it as soothing as we Grannies do in our bath water, but they certainly don't seem to object to it. As might be expected, the squirrels always show up early in the season and check It out, sometimes pulling the little bouquets out of the water. They soon decide it's not edible, however, and go on to making a nuisance of themselves in other ways.
When you cut lavender for the house, you can use it in several ways. The traditional way to treat flowers is to put them in a vase. With lavender, you don't need to add water. Just let it dry naturally while it looks pretty and smells good. You can bundle it, tie it with a bit of raffia or bit of ribbon and put it in a decorative spot. A word of caution would be to not lay it directly on a wood surface while still green. The oils and drying process has been known to effect the finish on furniture. Once the lavender has dried, that problem goes away.
Lavender is an old fashioned plant with a modern charm. So, off your rockers, Grannies, and explore the wonderful world of lavenders. The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.