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With the right conditions lavender can thrive for years

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

A plant which is synonymous with long, hot summers, is lavender.

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A Mediterranean plant, it can be tricky to grow, indeed, impossible for some of us! Before spending too much on these plants, it is worth remembering that this plant hails from hot, dry countries, and therefore some gardens with wet, clay or dark conditions, will not suit it at all. It prefers slightly alkaline, well-drained conditions. Plant in full sun, south facing is best. If your soil is wet, or clay, mix plenty of organic matter and sand in with it, and even then, planting on a mound or ridge is preferable. If the soil is very acidic, adding lime can greatly improve growth. Lavender can be grown very successfully in pots, as they do not like soil to be too fertile, or wet. Keeping them quite dry over winter improves their resistance to cold.

When happy, lavender can thrive for years. It tends to become woody after a few years, and pruning is essential. Many books recommend pruning in spring, but I find cutting back immediately after flowering, in late summer, is best. Lavender does not ‘break’ easily from old wood, that is, buds do not easily come from old wood, therefore if plants have become lanky and woody, it is usually better to replace them.

CUTTINGS

Cuttings can be taken in early autumn, or spring. They are quite easy to root, but anticipate a 50 percent failure/success rate, as the cuttings often rot just after rooting. Good ventilation is necessary for a better success rate, as well as fungicide which is unavailable to the amateur gardener!

Lavender can be grown in many situations, they are popular in a formal garden, both as a filler plant behind buxus hedges, or as hedging in their own right. It has long been associated with roses, and is often used as under planting or companion planting in rose gardens. In the border, it is beautiful planted with bright green alchemilla mollis, or ladies mantle, peonies, phlox or penstemon. A contemporary way of using it is with Verbena bonariensis and Agapanthus. Blue/silver gardens are very trendy currently, and it is used extensively with rosemary, salvias, veronica, eryngium, caryopteris and perovskia.

There are many varieties of lavender to choose from, but there are basically three types: French (or Spanish), English and a hybrid of the two called Lavendin. The ones we see in garden centres are usually the first two. French lavender has flowers with ‘ears’, two long petals at the top. English lavender is the traditional variety, which, it must be said, grows better in our wet climate. It has the stronger scent, a bushier, more compact growing habit, and, in my opinion, better colour. ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ are the hardiest and oldest English lavenders. French lavender is available in so many varieties it is often difficult to see the difference between them, but a tall one to look out for is ‘Vera’, and there is a whole ‘wings’ range which grows well.

ONE LAST TIP

A fantastic alternative to lavender is catmint, or Nepeta, in particular ‘Six Hills Giant’. It also has mauve coloured spikes of flowers, but is an exceptionally easy plant to grow in most adverse conditions!

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30 years of Innisfallen Island MassThe annual special concelebrated Mass on Innisfallen Island takes place next week.

Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm. Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by […]

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Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm.

Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by Geoffrey O’Donoghue who sadly died four years after it began.

“There was an Augustinian Monastery on Innisfallen Island and the people, including priests and monks and they say Brian Boro, went out there to study. The lake, Lough Lein is called ‘The Lake of Learning’,” said his wife Mary who carries on the tradition in his memory.

“My husband Geoffrey was a descendent of the O’Donoghues and he wanted to have Mass on the island. The O’Donoghues built Ross Castle and owned the lands and the lake surrounding it which was later donated by John McShane to the people of Killarney. He [Geoffrey] asked one of the friars and one day he got a call from the OPW that there would be a plaque unveiled to John McShane and they asked if the Mass could coincide with it. It was attended by Sr Pauline, John McShane’s daughter.”

She added that all the public are welcome to attend. Boats, which will have a nominal fee to cover their costs, will be carrying passengers out from 4pm onwards.

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Photo of “hidden gem” wins Camera Club’s latest competition

A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition. Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the […]

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A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition.

Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the Novice category, Iryna Halaieva’s photograph of O’Sullivan’s Cascade was deemed the winner.

“A waterfall is my favourite waterbody and long exposure is my favourite photographic technique,” she said. “I do my best to have as many waterfalls as possible in my photo collection. I heard a lot about O’Sullivan’s Cascade and wanted to visit that hidden gem of Kerry. So, shortly before our club competition I went with a friend to Tomies Wood to photograph it. It was a dream come true for me.”

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