Last week I harvested my lavender. Tidewater Virginia with its high humidity is not the ideal location to produce lavender beds, however, Provence lavender tends to be a workhorse in my garden. Despite having much wetter feet than it would like this season, my Provence provided a haven for the bees, wonderful fragrance for us, and about six weeks of spectacular indigo color for the garden this summer.
Everything you read tells you it is time to harvest your lavender when the lower flowers on the stems are opening, but I cannot do that to the hundred or more bees that visit daily. I wait until the bees abandon the plants, take out hedge clippers and cut the stems on an afternoon when the dew is off the plants. I bundle them and hang them upside down in the garage for two weeks. Afterward, the stems are easily stripped of dried flowers. The perfume of the lavender does not wane and everyone in the family seems happy to receive a lavender sachet in their stocking at Christmas.
Provence is a perennial in zones 6-11 and is grown in full sun in alkaline soil. Because our soil is acid, I add ground oyster shells to make the soil more alkaline but some gardeners work hydrated lime into the soil every few years. Good drainage is a requirement for healthy plants and the oyster shells help create a well-drained root zone. To promote good growth and blooming the next season, a rule of thumb is to prune approximately one-third the plant in the fall or sometime before spring warming.
You can experiment with different lavenders in your own gardens and enjoy these fragrant plants for years to come.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester