Lavender grows well in Georgia if you get a few things right. It seems wicked to tell you about it now when French lavender buds are fat in a picaresque tease of soon-to-be fragrantly opening flowers. What is your personality about plant education? Is it better to tell you about the joys of French lavender in fall, when the plant is boring and leaning toward ugly, or now when the excitement about fragrance and blooms is palpable? Knowing the gardening archetypes keeps me writing about plants when the excitement is at hand. Experiencing blooms and fragrance is the emotional push to open the checkbook and buy, buy, buy.
I was told, an era ago, "lavender will not grow in Georgia." For more than a decade I've grown beautiful lavender. I paid attention to where it did do well, France. What were they doing that I could copy, culturally, here?
Lavender thrives in the alkaline soil of France. Our soil is acidic. Adding lime to acidic soil makes it more alkaline. Use dolomitic lime, as it reacts more quickly with soil than powdered lime. Lime is a rock, limestone, and the dolomitic lime you will use is crushed limestone. Unlike manure and compost, which are used completely up, limestone is a rock that will not disappear once mixed with your soil.
It's best to choose a 4-inch pot of French lavender. Lavender is tough, but with quirks. Once established it doesn't like to be moved and that is why you want a young plant. Site lavender to get the maximum amount of sunlight. The minimum it can receive is six hours each day, but your greatest success with lavender will be with more than six hours of sunlight. In France, you'll see lavender fields in brutally sunny situations with gravelly land surrounding it.
To get brutal sunshine for my lavender I planted it at the front curb of my property where it receives morning sun, afternoon sun, setting sun and reflected sun from the street. Once established your lavender will thrive in this brutal situation without irrigation.
The planting holes for your 4-inch pots of lavender should be filled with almost 11/2 cups of dolomitic lime in the bottom. I've never measured the exact amount. More accurately, it's how much lime I can grab in one hand. Once in the hole, do not mix the lime with the soil. Place the lavender roots directly atop the lime. Shocking, I know, but just do it. The top of your lavender rootball should be about 1/4 inch above the planting area. Lavender needs to be well drained.
With age French lavender becomes woody. It doesn't like to be pruned into the wood, only new growth, if needed. Planted properly, expect your French lavender to grow 3 feet in diameter.
Don't you want to smell the lavender fields of France in Georgia? I do.
Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.agardenview.biz.