Thursday 13 August 2015

A perfect time to trim the lavender

Work in someone else’s garden for any length of time, and you soon become familiar with the rhythms of your clients domestic life – part of them, in fact. So I took in my stride the arrival of a lorry to empty the septic tank. “He usually comes very early, even before you get here”, my client told me, almost apologetically. Whatever the reason for the tardy arrival of the night-soil porter, it was enough for me to know I’d be present for the duration of the fragrant operation. I planned my day accordingly, intending to be as far as possible from the area in question when the time came. Or at least upwind of it.

What a stroke of luck, then, that I should have returned after a week's break to find the lavender going over. In this exposed garden – windy, often sun-baked, with a thinnish layer of soil over flinty clay – Mediterranean plants like to grow leggy. To mitigate this I try my darndest to be ruthless in removing flowers as early as possible so the plants can concentrate on arranging themselves into pleasing, fat pebble shapes. I just have to be convincing when explaining to the client why this is necessary. Nothing convinces the bees – just the one sting today though, and that was only because I knelt on the poor thing.

The first lavender bed was a bit too close to the action. We planted Lavandula angustifolia 'Imperial Gem' – it reaches 40 to 50cm in height, with a deep purple colour to thumb-length flower spikes atop grey green foliage. It also has a good scent, but not that astringent note that you get from the hybrid L. x intermedia hybrids. Today, I think I would have been glad of that. Instead, I made a tactical retreat, and found something to do in another border.

There’s more spiraea to grow up to the right of the hedge at the back. A bit short just now.