Get It Growing: Lavender on the peninsula

Master Gardeners share some growing basics on lavender.

Is it possible for you to successfully grow lavender in your landscape? In most locations on the Olympic Peninsula, the answer is “Yes” and probably without too much effort!

Lavender is a small aromatic shrub that originated in the poor, rocky soils and moderate coastal climates of the Mediterranean. Elevation, topography and the severity of winter weather also influence the successful growing of lavender.

Excellent drainage is essential to the survival of lavender plants. Like many herbs, lavender has few insect pests.

Typically lavender requires no fertilizer and rarely requires irrigation. Properly planted, lavender plants have a productive lifetime of 10-plus years.

Since lavender plants require excellent drainage, depending on where you live on the Olympic Peninsula, you may need to amend clay soil to improve drainage.

Soggy, poorly draining soil will kill plants, so it is better to err on the side of being overly porous than to have too much clay.

If you are in the higher elevations, it may be necessary to mulch plants to protect plant roots from cold winter temperatures. A consistent blanket of snow provides similar protection to the roots.

The flowers of the hybrid lavandin yield an oil called spike lavender oil.

While this oil has some similar properties to the oil obtained from English lavender, it has a different chemical composition and, therefore, different characteristics.

One significant difference between lavender and lavandin oils is their respective effect in treating burns. Both possess antimicrobial properties, however, lavender oil helps with burns while lavandin oil can actually make burns worse, most likely due to its high camphor content.

Lavandin however, yields a greater crop volume than English lavender, so if you are considering growing commercially, you should research both lavender and lavandin.

When did lavender become a part of the peninsula? In July 1996, the first harvest of the lavender planted in 1995 occurred in Sequim.

In 1997, the first lavender festival was celebrated.

Sequim lavender has produced “value-added” employment for tourist facilities, marketing firms, printers, web designers and others.

The harvest requires seasonal labor and some of these expert agricultural workers are employed year-round. Lavender plants, lavender-related products and agri-tourism associated with lavender continue to be a part of the economics of the Olympic Peninsula.

Sequim’s 19th-annual Lavender Weekend, July 17-19, is an ideal opportunity for you to visit local farms, see lavender plants in bloom and discuss the varieties that would be appropriate to your interests and location.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity!

 

 

Judy English is a Washington State University-certified, Clallam County Master Gardener.