I’ve always enjoyed gardening and plants, but I wouldn’t consider horticulture a hobby. Each year on Mother’s Day, my mom and I spend the day together filling planters and pots around our yards with an assortment of flowers: my mom explaining which ones trail, which need full-sun, which will last though the dead heat of the end of July, etc. She tells me about these details with ease, recalling a specific flower’s watering requirements that she hasn’t seen planted herself in years. Her knowledge feels so effortless for her to recall that I had mistaken it as instinctual.
One day early this spring I set out to prune the three lavender bushes we have around our back patio. I hadn’t done anything to winterize them last fall and so come the first warm day in March I was eager to thaw my green thumb and tend to my plants. Being that they were planted last spring from starters, I had not yet had a full season with these lavender bushes and wasn’t sure about the need or the method to prune them. Growing up we had large, beautiful lavender bushes that I didn’t recall specifically my mom pruning.
I reviewed a couple of google search results on the topic and got to it. I pruned back, to near ground level, the first two plants. It felt drastic. Even with the minimal growth of a couple sunny days in March, it felt like I had taken more from them than reasonable. For the third plant I decided I’d take a different approach, experiment a little. The third plant I trimmed only 1/4 of the bush size, and left the 3/4 of, what appeared to be, dead foliage.
A couple of weeks later as spring began to stand its ground, green buds started to display new growth. The two plants I had given a solid prune displayed fragile, delicate growth, comparative in size to when they were newly planted. The third plant, that I had experimented with, grew thick and robust new growth everywhere. It was clear, quickly, that I had in fact butchered back healthy lavender on the first two. I hoped with some consistent sunshine the first two bushes would bounce back.
All three bushes continued to grow through spring and in to summer, in proportion to how I trimmed them. This morning it was time to harvest the lavender flowers and the yield was proportionate as well.
How disheartened I was when I saw this yield. I had good intentions for my lavender, and still, because I wasn’t sure of the difference between dead and dormant, I stunted their growth. The understanding of horticulture can’t come from the internet, which is hard to believe in a time when “google it” is valid an answer to most questions. (Remember, google found me the perfect midwife.)
Next season, I won’t prune as readily and I will be sure to listen with more reverence to my mom’s mastery of the secret world of plants.