Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lavender, Part 2

It’s lavender time in my garden.

The first parade of the season of royal-blue lavender blossoms has begun. Spanish lavender (
Lavandula stoechas) leads the way with a burst of sapphire-blue flowers.

(Actually there is a species of lavender that has blossoms in a prayer-like fashion during most of the year. It’s the French lavender (
L. dentata). In the Spring it begins to bloom more abundantly, but with a more subtle smokey-purple. Far from the drama of Spanish lavender during the warm-hot weather of spring.)

The amazing color of Spanish lavender comes not from the flowers them self, but rather from the bracts on top of the flower’s head that look like bunny ears. Or, flames of a royal-blue color. The true blossoms that hold the nectar so eagerly sought after by honey bees and bumble bees are found in four lines of deep blue, ever so tiny, on each of the four sides of the head. The later are the most frequent pollenizers in my garden.

Spanish lavenders cross pollinate in my garden to produce some amazing new plants

The photo on the left is a typical display of Spanish lavender as it is commonly expected. The photo on the right is a chance seedling that appeared along my pathway. The nearest Spanish plants were 12 feet way on the other side of the driveway. I don’t know of any crossing between Spanish lavender and other
Lavandula species. (The true flowers are the little white spots below the bracts.)

This plant has a moon-like, pale-yellow bracts and is not found anywhere in the trade. What a joy it was when it first appeared 12 years ago. A special variety just for me. (And anyone who wants to take cuttings.)

L. stoechas Viridis” has also begun to bloom prolifically and is my favorite species for grilling. This plant has none of the characteristics of what people think of a lavender. The foliage is decidedly yellow-green, rather than the darker green foliage English lavender (L. angustifolia). The bracts are yellow to the point of being somewhat chartreuse. This is my favorite foliage to grill with. The bracts and flower heads have no scent. Ah, but the foliage has is a rustic, resinous herbal, and seemingly wild flavor that is transformed in the process of grilling to a delightful seasoning with a hint of rosemary. (See my recipe on the blog for March 28th.)

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