Longer lasting lavender…

LavenderBiscuitsI adore lavender. I love the scent and the colour, I have it in dried arrangements around the house and I also use it in cooking – lavender shortbread is delicious. However, it can be a surprisingly tricky plant to grow successfully. When the plants are first established they look wonderful and give off their gorgeous smell as you brush past. But I always struggle to keep lavender for more than three or four years as it becomes woody, gappy and just plain tatty and I end up digging it up and replanting.

Early September is the time I usually give my lavender its summer trim. The flowers have lost their colour and the bees have lost interest. So I thought I’d look for advice on pruning English lavender (the French variety has the little tufty ears and needs different pruning), to ensure I was doing it correctly.

LavenderPruneI always prune my lavender rather timidly having been told that if you cut into the wood it won’t regrow. However, looking online, I have found that specialist lavender growers say that English lavender needs hard pruning and you should cut right down into the brown part, where little lavender shoots can just be seen. They suggest cutting back as much as 9” just after the plants finish flowering.

A neighbour (with enviable lavender plants!) says he cuts it right back to the brown, especially in particularly spindly areas of a plant, and it shapes up well again before Christmas. In fact, you can prune lavender into a sculptural shape for winter – it looks lovely in the frost. So, this year, I am taking the bit between my teeth and will be chopping back the lavender plants a good 6” and see what happens… if it’s a success I may be bolder next year!

Top Tip
LavenderChair
The experts say you should use good secateurs for cutting lavender. This makes the job a lot longer than using shears, but it seems to give a tighter, more sculptural finish. And you need to not go mad and chop at it willy–nilly or you will kill it. Secateurs mean you can see what you’re doing. You need to be careful and cut just above the tiny shoots at the bottom of the stem – if you cut the lavender down below them, it won’t regenerate and it will die… So wear your reading glasses!

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It’s a tiring business…

Tablet“Goodness, I am tired!” I hear myself and my friends say this on a regular basis. While I tend to laugh and put it down to advancing years, today’s world is actually much busier than it used to be with technology sneakily eating into our leisure time making us more stressed and tired. Many of the things we think are pick me ups, or relaxers actually have the reverse effect! But don’t despair… there are all sort goods of small things we can do to help improve our energy levels.

TVs and tablets
I don’t think anyone will be surprised by this appearing at the top of the list as it’s had a lot of publicity of late. Both TVs and tablets give off blue wavelengths that suppress your brain’s production of melatonin (the chemical that makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep), so you’re more likely to have shorter, disrupted sleep, causing you to be tired the next day. I, for one, am very naughty about putting my iPad down at bedtime – grr!

TiredMessySort it out
A messy unorganised environment means you expend mental energy on stress, which increases your exhaustion. I know when I have had a really good sort out in my craft room and got everything properly ordered and stored, I feel so much happier and my mind less muddled.

The coffee kick

Even though many people find the kick of coffee essential in the mornings, come the afternoon or evening it might be the reason you’re nodding off. While caffeine is a stimulant and increases your energy, the effect wears off over time and leaves you feeling worse later.

TiredCoffeeCheers – not!
While a nightcap might help you fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep you’ll get after a glass of red wine is not good. You can expect a restless night and to wake up more often, leaving you tired the next day.

Let in the light
A study of workers with offices with windows, verses those without, found that people who enjoyed natural light all day long on average slept 46 minutes more at night. The same goes for your home – the more natural light you have will help you sleep better at night and feel more rested the next day.

Feeling blue…
This is a bit of an odd one, but a study by Travelodge (the motel people) investigated bedroom colours in 2,000 homes and found that blue walls help slow down your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, and make you feel sleepy. So while this is great news in your bedroom, it isn’t ideal anywhere else in your house!

Naughty snacks!
Foods loaded with simple carbs and sugars result in frequent blood sugar spikes, followed by sharp drops that will make you feel tired over time. This is something I can certainly identify with and I am feeling a great deal better following my healthy eating and veg growing regime! I’m not saying I never hanker after a handful of crisps, but…!

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