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Wild Lavender along the  Camino de Santiago

One of our neighbours, Noelia, called to see us a few days ago, and I was a little taken aback when she pounced upon the lavender growing vigorously in our garden.

Noelia excitedly pointed at the plants and told me that she had tried growing lavender on many occasions, but without success and couldn’t understand why our plants were full of bloom and giving off a heady perfume, when after all, she only lived a few doors away.

I am no gardening expert, so didn’t really have a ready answer, but promised to try to grow some cuttings for her. It was a promise that I then immediately regretted, since I have never grown cuttings from lavender before.

Gardening and plants have always given me a lot of pleasure, and I have been working quite hard recently to improve our small garden. It has taken a few years to get around to developing it as I would like, mainly because I have been waiting to complete a long awaited extension, which would also mean digging up well established existing trees and shrubs, and a job that I have to admit to putting off.

However, the main work has now been done and I can concentrate on developing a garden that is easy to maintain, but also to reflect my love of a few special plants to remind me of our home in the UK, as well as Canarian plants that I know will grow well in the hot, often arid conditions of the south of Gran Canaria where I live.

One of the plants that I knew would grow easily in the Canary Islands and Spain is lavender. From my experience in the UK, I knew that once it is established it is relatively trouble free, its heady scent wards of some of the nasty insects and it would flower with ease until it grew too ‘woody’ and would have to be dug up.

It was during my research into how to successfully grow cuttings for Noelia, that I discovered that lavender is part of the mint family, and is actually native to the Canary Islands, as well as the South of France, so I am surprised that I do not see more plants growing in gardens and on patios.

Its beautiful purple blooms, silver foliage and heady perfume make it an ideal garden plant. Bees love it too, and although some regard it as a short-lived plant, I have had the same plants flowering freely for many years, albeit with the occasional dramatic prune when it starts to look too ‘woody’.

I also grow lavender in pots on our patio, as well as planted in the garden, and began to wonder why our plants have been so successful, whereas Noelia’s plants died. I suspect it is due to poor drainage, since these plants do best, and produce more scented oil, in dry soil.

I use a simple watering system beneath the soil that operates for only two minutes, twice a day, and so the plants never have too much water, and both garden and pot plants are planted in gritty soil to provide good drainage.

Noelia also told me that one of the reasons why she wanted to grow lavender was to collect the flower sprigs and to dry them for use in her home. In addition, Noelia wanted to add lavender to freshly made lemonade to add flavour, as well as adding it to home made biscuits.

I am not at all sure about this, because as much as I like the plant, and appreciate its perfume for warding of mosquitoes and other nasty insects, I don’t think I would appreciate too much of the perfume indoors, nor am I too keen on Noelia’s idea of drinking or eating the plant.

If anyone does try this, do please let me know the outcome, but do only use lavender that has not been treated with garden chemicals.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Expat Voice’ (ISBN: 9780992767174). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle.

iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.

© Barrie Mahoney

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