Living in Lavender.
A year (or two?) ago, I filled my mind with images of Provence in bloom and decided to plant lavender in a dead patch of wannabe “garden” soil behind our house. The rough rectangle of soil — approximately 9′ x 12′ encircled by the foundation on one side and a low, crumbling stone wall on the other three — was heavy with clay despite years of mulching. This patch of ground refused to grow anything other than weeds, alliums, and one persistent rose bush. Someone told me that lavender can grow in “crap” soil, so I hoped my freshly bought potted lavender plants would flourish there…
The first season (or second?) of lavender flowers yielded 30 bunches (each a “handful” of stalks), half of which we gave away dried or made into fragrant gifts for friends. The rest was put aside to make into soap during the winter, which never happened, so we had a head start this year. Somehow, in that dense, unwelcoming soil, each lavender plant had grown from its nursery-potted origins, spreading so wide that I came to understand why they said “plant lavender three feet apart” and regretted not doing so.
By springtime of season two (or three?), the lavender plants had become mature shrubs roughly two feet high, with shaggy, cedar-like bark on their sprawling branches. Thick clusters of dusty blue-green leaves sprouted along and at the end of every branch, as they prepared to flower. This year, the yield from these mature plants was doubled — 60 bunches — it would be a busy winter making soaps and sachets for loved ones!
But during the prime picking weeks of mid-July through mid-August, as I bent, crouched, squatted, reached, pulled, and clipped my way through the harvest, I became aware of an entire ecosystem living in, on, around, and under the lavender in my little patch of crappy soil! Most active around me were the honeybees, bumblebees, and butterflies — it was a pollinator feeding frenzy! So I was careful to only pick blossoms after they closed, with no more pollen to give. This slowed me down, but the picking process became my daily meditation and a calming communion with nature.
Here are a few of the creatures living in my patch of lavender, which I paused to photograph…
Dragonfly & Rabbit
The Praying Mantis were amazing to watch as they hunted among the lavender leaves which they resembled. At first, I counted four mantises — three green and one brown — and then there were three. Ooops – just two… Um…now there’s just one BIG green one?! No, wait, there’s a younger, smaller one crawling up from below… I’ll post more about them soon!
There were many more fauna and flora living in or passing through my lavender patch before and during those four “harvest” weeks. Some visited when I didn’t want to (or couldn’t) take a photo, others were only briefly visible and escaped my lens; a few were identifiable only by some clue they left behindunphotographed creatures included: chipmunks, owls, small birds (species unknown), snakes, numerous insects, and something (a spider?) that laid small, white, fibrous egg cases on some of the blossoms, deceptively similar in size to a lavender bud (all of which I removed during the harvest).
Camera: iPhone 13 Pro Max
Editing: Hipstamatic app
Photographer: Russ Murray aka “remages”
Location: somewhere in Stamford, CT
See you tomorrow…