Losing the lavender

After my original lavender plant overwintered successfully from Garden Year One to Garden Year Two, I decided to see if I could go for three years in a row. At the end of the season last year, I buried it (as I had the year before) in a larger pot and sat back for the winter.

Dead lavenderAfter the snow finally melted, the lavender sat there, looking as dead as it did post-winter the year before. By the time the snow began to melt, I’d already started poking around at options in California and back in D.C.—the winter had something to do with it, for sure, but there were other reasons driving my decision to leave Iowa City—and I’d given some thought to the fact that I probably wouldn’t move any plants.

The lavender plant, though, was different. It was left over from my very first summer of gardening, and I decided that, no matter what, I’d figure out a way to bring it along if it survived the winter.

I watched it pretty closely, checking it about every other day for signs of life, but nothing happened. The thing just sat there, grey and lifeless as it had been when the snow dropped away from it. Finally, I relegated it to the compost pile.

I won’t ever know, probably, what killed the plant. It could have been the awful winter, or it could have been rootbound in the pot, or it could have just reached the end of its lifespan. Plants die, after all, and I’ll admit I know very little about the standard lifespan of a potted lavender plant.

As I get my California growing ventures underway (and I’m still working on exactly how that’s going to play out), I may, for sentimental reasons, locate another lavender plant. It won’t be the same as my first one, but it’ll do the trick of keeping the memories alive.

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14 Responses to “Losing the lavender”


  1. 1 chzplz May 29, 2008 at 4:16 am

    Mine didn’t make it through the winter either. :(

  2. 2 Nancy Bond May 29, 2008 at 6:26 am

    It seems last winter was hard on a lot of plants. You’ll have to get another special plant, in honor of your move. :)

  3. 3 Heather's Garden May 29, 2008 at 7:12 am

    And I thought of you all spring as I watched my lavender wake up after it’s first winter. At least you won’t have winter worries in CA!

  4. 4 Jane May 29, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I have overwintered lavender successfully for many years here in zone 3a. Lost one of my three this past winter, but I moved it late in the year so probably my fault. I have them in a sheltered area on the south side of the house, but otherwise I don’t try to protect them. I’ve bought a replacement for the one that died and hope that if I plant it soon and baby it this summer it will be well-established by fall and will give me years of pleasure. I love lavendar.

    Now, if only I could overwinter rosemary… I bring it in in the fall, but that’s almost as sure a kiss of death as leaving it outside. I’m a good gardener but houseplants mostly get neglected and die.

  5. 5 Curmudgeon May 29, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Poor lavender. I had no idea you could grow it in IA! I did my first bit of gardening in Decora IA. Just some pots and the most gorgeous fuschia. When we left the midwest and drove west our back seat contained 3 cat carriers and all the plants we couldn’t stand to leave behind due to sentimental attachments. This included an orchid–the most exotic thing we’d managed to not kill. Orchid bit the dust soon after we settled in–fell off the fridge with some kitty help. But the friendship pothos–all our friends have cuttings–is now 8 years old.

  6. 6 Zannie May 29, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Lavender does great here (I’m in San Francisco). I got a scraggly little plant last spring from someone who was moving to Switzerland–I dug it out of their planter, put it in my yard and threw a little bit of water at it now and then while it was getting established. It put out one bloom that year. This year it’s three or four times the original size and covered in blooms. And I see huge, almost out of control lavender bushes all over the peninsula. Seriously, these things are three feet tall and just as wide.

    It’s a shame your plant didn’t make it; if it handled the trip and the transplanting, it would have thought it had died and gone to heaven.

  7. 7 nezza May 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    My lavender does okay here too (UK). I have a nice hedge in the front garden. Well….it was doing well until a baby elephant sat on part of it. Needless to say I think it was a drunk baby elephant in the middle of the night. I love lavender in the summer when it’s full of bees and butterflies. I’m sure it will love the Californian climate.

    I wish I could move to CA! Maybe one day.

  8. 8 Michelle May 30, 2008 at 4:03 am

    Aw man, I remember that lavender when it was resurrected. Even if it won’t be the same it will be a great excuse to go plant shopping and check out the local digs!

  9. 9 Mme. Meow May 30, 2008 at 10:33 am

    I don’t know what it was about this post, but it touched me. Losing a plant is hard in an inexplicable way, and I remember some losses very acutely.

    I hope you find some glorious lavender in California.

  10. 10 pomona belvedere May 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Oakland is a great place for lavender. (Just so everyone knows, not all of California is a warm-winter haven. There is still snow in some spots in the mountains.) I’m sorry your old one bit the dust. I think whacking them back might be helpful, I hate to do it but they always look better when I do. But I garden in zone 8 (more or less), so that might not work in colder areas.

    And if you want to take a trip to Richmond (about 15 minutes), check out Annie’s Annuals, a very fun selection. You’re in a botanical haven there in the East Bay, your dead lavender has sacrificed itself for the greater gardening glory.

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener June 4, 2008 at 7:19 am

    chzplz, I think this was a tough winter for a lot of plants.

    Nancy Bond, yes — something else special is in order!

    Heather, that was part of CA’s appeal, for sure…

    Jane, I have been meaning to buy an indoor rosemary plant, but yes — I suspect it needs to start indoors and stay indoors rather than be moved indoors.

    Curmudgeon, you can definitely grow it in Iowa — that friend who told me originally about overwintering it had HUGE plants in her yard. How cool that you were able to get some of your plants to your new home.

    Zannie, glad to hear it does great here! I’m going to have to give it a whirl…

    Nezza, a baby elephant? Really?

    Michelle, yes — an excuse for plant shopping is never a bad thing…

    Mme. Meow, it is surprisingly hard, isn’t it? Especially with certain plants.

    Pomona Belvedere, thanks for that tip on Annie’s Annuals — I will definitely go check that place out!

  12. 12 Annie in Austin June 4, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Sometimes lavender lived through the winter in my Illinois garden, and sometimes it dies over winter here in Texas so I’ve decided it can’t be just cold. In my limited experience lavender needs extremely good drainage, and if there’s water around the roots when the temperatures drop that plant is usually a goner. I’ve planted 3 different varieties in a gravelly new bed so this winter will be another experiment.

    Sorry you lost your special plant, Genie – I have a lavender in a big terracotta pot that’s about 7-years old so know how you feel!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener June 4, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Annie, do you realize your lavender is a second-grader? Or could be? That’s amazing! Good tip about the drainage — I bet you’re right.

  14. 14 maria mm August 1, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    My sister has a long row of lavender growing in her yard and whenever I go to visit, I want to throw myself in it because it smells so good. But, I don’t lay down in her lavender for a few reasons. First, it’s pinchy and I would get scratched up. Second, because my sister would smack me! She loves her lavender plants…

    When I saw the Made from Earth “Lavender Calm” Body lotion, I wanted it right away!! I found it on the internet at http://www.madefromearth.com/.

    It has a beautiful scent. It smells so fresh and clean – and organic! I love that it is chemical free because I love living a holistic lifestyle.

    A very nice gift for a lavender lover.


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