We still have the pruning clippers out and today I want to prune the Lavender bushes. Like all shrubs and bushes, this is one that produces far more flower the following season when it has been really cut back. A mature Lavender bush will eventually make really hard wood and one can cut right back to this hard wood to encourage new growth. I have seen healthy new growth within just a few weeks of pruning.
Now what do we do with all these fragrant trimmings that are making an increasingly large pile? I admit that I am in love with handycrafts and ‘lockdown’ has encouraged me to get needle and thread out so I am turning all these Lavender cuttings into useful little items like Lavender bags and wands. Lavender leaves are every bit as fragrant as the flowers so any part of the cuttings can be used. To make a wand you will need an uneven number of sprigs, say 13 or 15 of fairly equal size, trim off all the leaves up to the top two inches and tie this little bunch together just below these top leaves with a long piece of narrow ribbon.
Now carefully bend the stalks outwards over the leaves and begin to weave the ribbon under and over the stalks until the leaves are all hidden under this little bit of neat basket work , then tie all the stalks together with the ribbon and there you have the Lavender Wand, a fragrant little detail to pop in the linen cupboard or any other drawer to keep the clothes smelling of the fragrance of Lavender. The leaves can be dried out for a few days and tied into little balls or put into the traditional Lavender bags and these will once again never smell any different to the flowers. The little ball will need a piece of soft material cut into a circle about the size of a tea plate, the edge can be finished off with some bias binding then a few leaves tied up in the middle leaving a frilly edge. These handicrafts are so simple to do whilst watching the boring repetative new channels!
But this is supposed to be a gardening column so we had better pick up the secateurs and get back out into the garden whilst the weather is still good.
A letter this week from Jill Carter asks what she should be doing with her Plumbago that she has in a pot and in fact is quite old.
To answer this I would suggest pretty drastic pruning. When the flowers have died back cut the growth back to about 10 inches above the soil just above a leaf joint from which you will want to encourage next years growth. This is a shrub that makes lots of new leafy growth every year and can become rather long and leggy so looks better kept a little more compact and like many of these flowering shrubs, pops out far more flowers after a good cutting back. I do admit that I frequently find it difficult to cut healthy looking shrubs back to within a few inches of their life but the following flowering season always seems to say a big ‘thank you’ by way of an abundant show of fresh flowers.
By way of including a tree this week I want to mention the Loquat (Nispero), along with the Orange family one of the early ripening fruit trees we have in our gardens. This must surely be the tree that appeals to all our senses, see, hear, smell and taste. At the moment the flowers are just beginning to open and have the most wonderful fragrance. The bunches of tiny flowers attract more bees than any tree which means all we can hear is the buzz of the bees busy at work. The little brown clusters of flowers are just opening into the white flower , and the taste, well we have to wait a month or two more for that, but waiting for one of the Mediterraneans early fruits is no great difficulty and this is a tree that grows easily from one of the pips of its own fruit and to date I have never heard of any one needing to graft this tree to encourage it to have fruit. Seedlings grow all over the place so you will continually be needing to pull them up if you have no room for another Nispero.
The Citrus family are already on their way to ripening, there are so many to choose from even though a mature tree needs about eight years to fruit. The Manderine/Tangerine variety is probably about the first to be ready for picking, there are some very early ones available on the market stalls. Lemons can be perpetual so if you are lucky enough to have one of those there will be flowers, green fruit and ripening fruit all year round. Lemon trees are known to grow in pots so city dweller with a balcony can have their own Lemon tree but it must be kept well cut back to be happy in a pot.
I apologise for drifting off into handicrafts this week but a garden isn’t always just hard work out in the garden or collecting vegetables for the kitchen, there are other persuits so be sure to enjoy them all.