Lavender Fool

Almost past bloom here, lavender is on my mind. I’d like to write about it. Horticulturally speaking.

honey bee in lavender

But I am momentarily distracted by a remembrance of Mia Farrow’s wardrobe as Daisy in “The Great Gatsby” (1974).  Flowing chiffon. Tantalizing hats. A hopeless scene in angelic, gauzy lavender.   There’s also that sad moment where Daisy calls her daughter  a “poor little fool”.  I watched this movie with my Maurya before she left for her mission; a bonding experience.  We saw it all the way through, occasionally sharing horrified glances.  Aghast.  We agreed, when it finally ended, that it was a really, really awful movie.   Though I  will always love Sam Waterston in it (I think he’s fascinating in Law and Order; but in Gatsby, he’s on the cusp of sagacity rather than arrived and settled).  I do wish someone would have wiped his face, now and again.  The obvious stifling heat in Gatsby’s man world coated everyone but Daisy, who always looked cool.  But this is a tangent.

Daisy in lavender chiffon
(misstoptenimage.blogspot.com)

Or is it? Perhaps there’s a correlation. Aside from the pale purple chiffon?

Because I do have something in common with Daisy.  If you’ve seen the movie (or read the book), it’s obvious that Daisy (and not necessarily her daughter) is the poor little fool. And there you go. Connection. I’m little (for obvious reasons, having to do with length of leg and height of head). And I’m a fool–for lavender.

lavender fool

Notice I’m not poor though. No need to pity me; I’m perfectly content in my irrational lavender fixation.

How do I love lavender? Let me count the ways (counting helps me feel balanced, less right brain dominant):

A) I love the plant for its fragrance. Clean, fresh, happy. From the moment, the moment, a lavender seed germinates, sending those first two baby leaves (uncharacteristically chubby for lavender, and cute, those baby leaves) up out of the dirt, lavender is intensely aromatic.   So that handling lavender, no matter its age or stage, will always be pleasurable, if not downright aroma-therapeutic.   Needing therapy (as all fools occasionally do), I’m addicted.  I must have lavender. And it’s not just in my head; it’s in my nose. I’m a special case; I have a large, adept one. Plus my olfactory powers are extraordinarily refined, since exposure to noisy power tools has taken a toll on my hearing and time has ravaged my sight (but I’m not old!  I’m not!).

2) I love lavender’s beauty. Scent aside, lavender is a looker, whether in bloom or not. The plant grows in neat, tight mounds of grey-green foliage. Pruned after flowering, it lends a neat, graphic shape to a border (and sometimes borders need something neat and graphic to offset their chaotic profusion). And the blooms are magical.  While each individual flowering stem is fairy-dainty (Mia Farrow dainty), lavender packs a showy wallop en masse (easy enough to see with my time-ravaged eyes).  Think lavender fields in Provence.  Even just one plant in full bloom demands my glance linger  for a long, sweet moment.

3) I love how tough lavender is. As sturdy as it is lovely, built to grow on windblown, arid, sun-soaked hillsides.  It has downy, almost microscopic hairs on its leaves, to protect it from the dessicating sun (this is what gives the foliage a sometimes silvery hue).  Imagine that.  What a clever plant.  Pretty and smart. And yet, it grows lush and natural as a native in more humid (but well drained) English gardens.

D) Final proof:  I cannot stop with one, or two, or three plants of lavender.  I keep reaching for fields of it.

Washington lavender field

field of lavender

Whether a field is reasonable or not. My first hause was surrounded with it. I grew it from seed; I planted every one that germinated. A couple of seed packets. Lavender became foundational to my gardens. Roses were second thoughts, nasturtiums and poppies companions.

And then, at our Next Place, I planted nearly an acre of lavender (we had 3 acres; why not?).  I kept planting more and more…in a field, in a circle, in a patch, and finally, dotted through a long, lovely, senseless double border.  Which led straight to the side of our neighbor’s school bus, parked at the utmost edge of his property, next to ours.  People thought it belonged to us; the double border only reinforced that illusion.  All this, even though our irrigation was very limited (we dripped everything from our well), and messing with the soil woke up hordes of weeds.  We couldn’t harvest it all, though we tried, and we couldn’t sell all we harvested (though we tried…we still have pleasant memories of a local farmer’s market).  But that didn’t matter.  I weeded and sweated and sucked out clogged drip emitters with my own mouth because my lavender field was lovely and I was desperate to keep it.

lavender farm in Washington

Now, in Utah, we inhabit a desert swamp (swamp in winter and spring, desert in summer).  Clay soil, both wet and dry.  So clayey and non-draining that at first, it stunk. Lavender needs fast draining, light soil to flourish.  Sand (with porous bitsy gravel) is ideal.  Wet clay kills it.  Dry clay chokes it.  I shouldn’t be growing rows of lavender here.  But I am.  We hauled in nice dirt, built up subtle berms for borders. And I planted lavender in them, praying against swamp feet.  Provence,  English from seed, Buena Vista (my favorite). It’s been about four years now since I first planted baby lavender here. The blooms this year were glorious—still are, as a matter of fact, even as they wane. Reinforcing my pleasant lavender delusions—including this one: I can grow lavender anywhere.

I’m a little lavender fool.

lavender in Utah

(Note: All these photos, barring the one of Mia, are of our own lavender…here and there).

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BiTi July 9, 2013, 3:15 pm

    Your lavender field is awesome, I am thinking about putting some around our rose garden, now I am convinced :). Thank you also for visiting our blog and leaving the comment. In a couple of weeks we’ll share the … lavender field of Provence.

    • Lynaea July 20, 2013, 1:48 pm

      I’m looking forward to Provence lavender fields! And I’m loving the snapshots of your travels. Feeling slightly envious. Lavender and roses do look beautiful together, if they happen to bloom at the same time…English lavender blooms sooner, and so would be more likely to be in bloom when the roses are. This year, my lavender and roses missed each other, which is too bad because both are wonderfully fragrant. Still, a garden that blooms in stages is always interesting. And there are roses that bloom longer (almost constantly) than mine did.

      Thank you for visiting!

  • Jan Graham-McMillen July 9, 2013, 1:29 pm

    This will sound strange, but I’m so envious that you can love lavender so much! I’ve always wanted to, but just can’t. You’re quite right about all it’s apparent virtues. And I love that deep to pale purple. But when I smell it all I get is astringency, woodiness and peppery stuff. Nice enough, but not how I hear it described.
    Lovely article though! Keep writing!
    Jan Graham-McMillen recently posted…Inspired by New Shoes and Old PerfumeMy Profile

    • Lynaea July 20, 2013, 1:42 pm

      No, it doesn’t sound strange at all. I fell in love with the concept of lavender long before I smelled it, and to be honest, my first whiff was disappointing. I’d read so much about lavender’s wonderful fragrance that my expectations were in an entirely different dimension (more romantic? sweeter?). But I’d already planned my first garden around lavender, so I went ahead and planted lots of it. And acquired a taste (nose?) for it in less than a season. It smells so clean to me.

      Thanks for visiting, Jan. You have a lovely blog…always fun to see what you’re up to lately.

  • Diane | An Extraordinary Day July 8, 2013, 7:52 pm

    I had a bit of lavender in my sandy soil garden in Michigan. But, when I moved to NY it either had wet feet or sat in dry concrete. Maybe your soil is similar. Needless to say…my lavender was pretty pitiful. Thanks for sharing all your lovely lavender thoughts.
    Diane | An Extraordinary Day recently posted…Pleated Medallion TutorialMy Profile

    • Lynaea July 20, 2013, 1:34 pm

      Yes, that sounds like my soil. Squishy slimy wet, hard concrete dry. I believe in composting though, and mulching (though lavender typically doesn’t want it). I’ve seen soil evolve in beautiful ways with compost and mulch. Over time. Thanks for visiting again, Diane. (=

  • Andie July 8, 2013, 7:41 pm

    I don’t know if I would have fallen in love with lavenders if it hadn’t been for you, Lynaea. 🙂 I’v decided I need lavender in my home, whenever I finally arrive there.

    • Lynaea July 20, 2013, 1:32 pm

      I hope you live somewhere where you can have it. And I hope you find your own home soon. Love you Sistah.

  • Lulu July 7, 2013, 6:25 pm

    Love these pictures of the lavendar – it’s so peaceful, just looking at it!

    xo Lulu
    simplylulustyle.com
    Lulu recently posted…Simply Lulu Style & J.CrewMy Profile

    • Lynaea July 8, 2013, 4:39 pm

      I know! Imagine standing there, brushing lavender flowers between your fingertips. Mmmm. Thanks for visiting.

  • Merribeth July 7, 2013, 6:14 pm

    Lynaea lavender will always make me think of you.

    • Lynaea July 8, 2013, 4:38 pm

      Thank you Merribeth. I planned it that way… (= Just kidding. Or maybe not…

  • Shari Woodbury July 7, 2013, 10:48 am

    Ah, you I agree with all your reasons to love lavender and must add another. I love to cook with it. Lavender lemon scones, a lavender mint ice cream, I have only one lavender plant. I was told I couldn’t grow it in southern Texas. Fools! It is a monster (obviously I haven’t pruned it enough-I was just so excited to have it growing!). So now I dream of tasty treats for when it blooms here, which is more like in winter. Can’t wait.

    • Lynaea July 8, 2013, 4:37 pm

      I know! Not to mention lavender stems are great to add to the bbq for an amazing smoked flavor. You should share recipes with me… lavender lemon scones sound divine.

  • Elaine July 7, 2013, 8:34 am

    Wow! Home run on lavender piece!!!

    • Lynaea July 8, 2013, 4:36 pm

      Thanks Elaine!!! Love you.

  • Maya July 7, 2013, 7:48 am

    I am smitten! And I found a soul mate because I am a lavender fool myself, only I do not have a space to grow it.
    Maya recently posted…Crocheted Collar NecklaceMy Profile

    • Lynaea July 8, 2013, 4:36 pm

      Thank you Maya! I am sorry you don’t have space to grow lavender…but there are little farms here and there all over the place. Hopefully you’re within driving distance of one of them. (Could you possibly grow lavender in a container on a patio or balcony?)

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