Friday, November 27, 2009


A tui comes several times a day to the orange abutilon (Chinese bells) outside the French doors. As the doors have been open for the last few days I’ve had fantastic views of the bird balancing on the slender branches as it tongues its nectar.

This November has been dry – about half the average monthly rainfall. Anne was keen to have some pots with flowers outside the doors, but she is finding the required daily watering a bother on top of all her other tasks – one big chore is looking after me. Wilting pansies are not a pleasant sight. I've suggested maybe a lavender bush to provide both colour and scent as well as requiring less maintenance.

If spring’s garden is best for colour, summer’s is best for scent – lavender, rosemary, catmint, rose, nicotiana, honeysuckle and sweet pea. In my previous existence, twice a week I’d pick a large bunch of sweet peas and their perfume would waft through the house.

One of the season's sensual delights is the sound of bees at lavender. As well as smelling wonderful and looking interesting, with their grey-green leaves and range of purple flowers, lavenders have the engaging quality of being hardy. They thrive on heavy pruning. Even neglect.

The name lavender comes from the Latin ‘lavare’ to wash. Lavatory comes from the same root. The Romans added lavender to their bath water and ever since its oil has been used in perfumes and toiletries.

In the previous garden we had several varieties. Cuttings from friend's plants, heeled in and nurtured, had flourished. In turn, when I pruned our bushes I often stuck several shoots into the veggie patch and usually they took root. Pinching out any flowerheads, nature's fling at ensuring that particular species’ survival, to ensure more root growth, I’d pot them up as presents for friends and neighbours. Over time the original plants become woody and scraggly, so my pots were also a source of replacement.

Not only are they easy to grow, lavenders need merely a dash of lime once a year to remind them of their Mediterranean origin. Also, reflecting their birthplace, they don't mind drought - indeed, they seem to flourish during one.

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