Home & Garden: Learn about lavender with expert advice at Palisade’s Lavender Festival | PostIndependent.com

Home & Garden: Learn about lavender with expert advice at Palisade’s Lavender Festival

Curt Swift
Free Press Gardening Columnist

Harvest season has begun for those of us growing lavender. And since different cultivars develop at different times, growers with multiple cultivars will be busy for several weeks harvesting, hanging, and drying bundles. Once dried, the buds can be rubbed off the flower stems for potpourri or culinary use. Most of us will keep a supply of dried flowers hanging for later. These can be sold as bundles, distilled for essential oil, or the buds (calyxes) rubbed off as the need arises.

Over 400 plants at the Mack site have been growing for four years, and even though they suffered minimal winter/spring frost injury, they are producing a bountiful crop of floral stems. Several hundred bundles have been harvested there and are drying in a cool dark garage where they will retain their deep purple color and fragrance. Once I have a sufficient number of dried bundles hanging, I will harvest the remainder of the Mack crop for distillation. The other 700 plants at this site were planted within the last year, and a half so will not come into full production for another one to two years.

The more than 800 Grosso plants at 2770 Unaweep, the site of the Leynse Lavender and High Altitude Lavender farm, were planted last September and even though they are less than a year old, we will be harvesting their flowers for distillation. An additional field at this site, currently covered with a spun-bonded polyester fabric, is planted with “Purple Bouquet” and “Maillette,” both of which are cultivars used for cooking. When the temperature cools later this summer, additional “Maillette” plants along with “Folgate” and “Munstead” will be added to this field. The latter cultivar is grown from seed so is not a true cultivar. “Purple Bouquet,” “Maillette,” “Grosso” and “Folgate” were asexually propagated from cuttings taken from mother plants and thus are true cultivars being genetically identical to their mother plants. Next year a partial harvest of these cultivars is expected with additional plants started from cuttings planned for another field. If you are interested in learning how to successfully propagate lavender or other plants from cuttings, be sure to attend the session I will be teaching this Saturday from 1-2 p.m. at the Lavender Festival in Palisade’s Memorial Park.

Keeping the new plants moist and alive in this heat has been a chore. Lavender is a low-water-requiring plant but still needs adequate soil moisture to develop its roots. We are currently watering the young plants daily (sometimes twice a day) in this heat. Since these were small plants (basically plugs with a 1-inch root system) it will take several more weeks for them to develop adequate roots to continue growth. Shade is critical to keep the soil and plants cool, hence the reason for the white fabric placed over the plants. You will notice this new field on the north side of Unaweep Avenue just behind the white fence. High temperatures shut down roots and even if the soil is moist, plants will die from lack of adequate water. When soil temps reach 90 degrees, the critical temperature for root shutdown and death occurs.

On Sunday, June 13, we will be available at the Unaweep Avenue field from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to answer your questions about growing lavender in western Colorado. Is it possible to make money from lavender? Do you need to fertilize? How drought tolerant is lavender? What cultivars are available and what are they used for? How do you distill to produce essential oil of lavender? What part of the plant do you distill? What stage of bud development is best for oil production?

You can also get the answers to these questions at this weekend’s Lavender Festival in Palisade. I hope to see you there.

GJ Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.

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