This spring I took a gamble which has paid off. We have some lavenders planted around pedestals at the Tower. Our soil, being heavy clay is far from ideal for lavender and these lavenders are planted (not by me! honest!) in a strip too narrow for them so they struggle onwards and then get bashed by the mower for their trouble. They were twiggy and disreputable looking, my yearly ministrations being insufficient to whip them into shape, and so I took a deep breath and hacked.
Yes, dear reader I cut into ‘dead wood’ in places (why do they call it that – it’s not dead, if it was there’d be nothing growing up the whole stem), and in others was somewhat reassured by the pinpricks of grey growth, virtually indistinguishable from bark.
This was what I call a ‘kill or cure’ treatment. And in this case it cured. Hurrah! Now they are in far better shape and can be cut back hard yearly to stop them from becoming twiggy again. I should have done it years ago. Mind you, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re unwilling to face the death of the plants in question.
I follow the directions of the Lavender-philes at Downderry nursery when it comes to trimming hardy lavenders. They seem to disagree with the RHS who recommend (or at least, my ancient A-Z tome recommends) deadheading after flowering and a trim in Spring. Downderry suggest a hearty chopping back in August and this does seem to work best to keep the plants bushy and attractive.
Although there’s no label accompanying the pictured plants I have strong suspicions they’re ‘Hidcote’.
Do you have a favourite lavender? My personal favourites are the varieties with long pointed flowerheads, such as ‘Old English’ and ‘Gros Bleu’. I planted ‘Old English’ in my new herb beds but it’s still a bit weedy to make good photo material. They seem to be bigger plants too, which I like. There are hundreds of places a petite lavender is perfect I will admit, but the larger ones have a languid elegance which is (for me) lacking in the compact varieties.