May 21, 2014
Lavender: Beat Stress and Embrace Spring - Photo courtesy Jason Swihart/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jason Swihart/Flickr

The 2013-14 winter season was long and cold—ask anyone. Now that we finally have warm breezes and sunny, warm days, we’re surveying our property for plant survivors. Although everything has been slow to leaf out, we are finding many of our favorite perennials have weathered the cruel cold.

One of the plants that didn’t make it on our farm was a big surprise to me. Our catnip (Nepeta cataria) died out. We had two 50-foot rows of lush growth in the fall—it was well-established. I didn’t think anything could kill catnip, and yet, it’s spring again and we’ve seen no sign of it. There’s still a possibility that it will come up from last year’s seed, but we will most likely have to replant before that happens. I don’t know who’s sadder, me or our cat, George, who makes this bed a part of his daily rounds.

Many of my friends are worried about their lavender. If you are a proper gardener you will have cut your lavender back before winter. I am not a proper gardener. I leave mine free to come back out on old wood in the spring each year. This year, because the weather has been slow to warm, the lavender has been slow to green up. As lavender’s life force rises anew from the ground, these beautiful plants will look a dead grey until a ghostly green subtly fills and plumps last year’s leaves and stems. I’ve advised my friends to be patient for this process and have hope.

Today, I spent some time among my lavender. There was an awful lot of dead grey that should have greened up by now. I was preparing to admit defeat, but as I began to pull away the weeds that have already grown up to surround the plants I was delighted to find a surprise. There at the base of each of the plants that appeared to have died was tender, new, green growth. If you look, you may see this happening in your lavender, as well. Simply clip away the dead growth to allow the new shoots to have access to light and air. If you’d like, take this dead growth into the house and burn small bits at a time in an incense burner.

What a gift to be reminded each day we garden of the most simple truths. It does not matter how harsh the conditions may be around us. We all have the opportunity to let go of old growth and come up renewed from our roots.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is well known for its abilities to help us with sleep and relaxation. If left to steep at least 10 minutes in a tea, there is a bitter component to lavender that is very good for the digestion. It is also specific for stress and anxiety. What an amazing lesson this plant has taught me about how it can help us to find our resiliency in the face of overwhelming stress. Lavender can support us as we choose to start anew rather than fighting to inhabit the space we were accustomed to holding. My gloves are scented with the bitter resin of lavender as a pleasant reminder. With any luck I can keep it in my head as I work to clear the rest of the beds.

Growing lavender this year? Put these recipes to use:

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