It recently occurred to me that I should probably come with a warning label. People and plants would all have the option of either running away screaming or at least feeling more informed about whatever madness and shenanigans I have planned. But it's too late for the lavender. They weren't given any warning at all.
While I may be successful at growing plants
that don't need my help, my true talent lies in torturing lavender. It's one of my least favorite skills, along with the tendency to end up in the wrong state on road trips, or buy the same book twice and then forget to read it.
In December I decided to sow 334 lavender seeds. Spending all day with twelve year olds and several hours at night grading is a proven recipe for teacher insanity. Sowing 334 seeds seemed less insane. But of course, in true Tammy-style, I couldn't just grab a pot of soil and throw in some seeds. That was way too easy. I had to create an experiment to determine if a piece of growing advice I'd read online was true or not.
Read questionable advice and decide to take it a step further. Because why be questionable when you can be completely batshitcrazy? Advice says to take lavender seeds, stratify them by soaking in a tablespoon of water and refrigerate for a month.
Buy three types of lavender (l. augustifolia English Tall 'Vera', l. augustifolia 'Hidcote Dwarf', and lavendula stoechas 'Purple Ribbon'), and and a grocery bag full of little cups. Place 16 seeds in one tablespoon of water in each cup for each type of lavender. Repeat the process with a second group of cups. Label all the cups, feeling very organized and scientific.
Lavandula stoechas 'Purple Ribbon' is also known as Spanish or French lavender, but I'm not sure if the Spanish or French are aware of this. This cup was in the fridge for six weeks.
Decide to discover the perfect time span for stratifying seeds by breaking experiment down into three time periods: six weeks, three weeks, and 10 days. Put half the cups outside during the worst winter in years and the other half in the fridge. Look proudly upon all 18 cups of seeds and feel smugly satisfied. Keep three seed packs at room temperature to use as a control group. Make a chart to document data and write reminders on the calender. Sleep soundly knowing you are about to unlock the mystery of growing lavender.
Lavender seeds in the fire pit waiting to spend the winter freezing and thawing. I do not recommend this stratification method, but love the irony of this photo.
After brutally freezing my seeds, it was finally time to plant them. Did I mention lavender seeds are microscopically small and need to be planted with tweezers? Of course not. I've already blocked that from my memory. I numbered each compartment on the seed trays and then labeled each grow light greenhouse.
I should never be left unsupervised.
Run down stairs like a five year old on Christmas every day to see if anything is growing. Wait for the basement to look like this:
instead of this:
The germination rates of English Tall 'Vera' and 'Hidcote Dwarf' were about 5%, most of which were so wretched I pulled them. My best 'Vera' seedling came from a seed I dropped that sprouted out the side of a coir pot.
By the time the grand experiment was over, I was the proud owner of a single 'Vera' seedling, a teensy 'Hidcote Dwarf' seedling, and half a tray of Spanish lavender. Even the control group, which spent the winter in a box at room temperature grew.
The lone lavendula augustifolia survivors.
'Vera' is on the left and 'Hidcote Dwarf' is on the right.
I transplanted the seedlings into little plastic cups and keep them in these baskets to make it easier to take them outside during the day.
I have 17 tiny Spanish lavender seedlings. The pathetic 'Hidcote Dwarf' is in the back. Since the Spanish lavender seeds are immune to subzero temperatures, I may try hot lava next.