Almost past bloom here, lavender is on my mind. I’d like to write about it. Horticulturally speaking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Note: All these photos, barring the one of Mia, are of our own lavender…here and there).