SEQUIM LAVENDER WEEKEND is upon us, and those of you traveling through the Sequim area this weekend would have seen flashing signs, slowed traffic and increased State Patrol presence as thousands and thousands of people flock to see the temperate climate of the beautiful North Olympic Peninsula, where it is neither too hot nor too cold.
We have become the region’s ideal, bigliest, most grand “Lavender Capital of North America,” where acres of bluish-purple, fragrant flowers move slightly in the breeze while women with hats and children running with scissors grin from ear to ear.
Yes, there are even a few men who brave the crowds, as a kiss on the cheek (and a get-out-of-jail-free card) is sure to await them for accompanying their lady friends to this huge event.
Lavender growers are making ice cream, oils, wands and an entire event around this fragrant plant, the lavender “lanvandula” which means “to wash.”
While the Romans might have found the fragrance in their bathwater ever so soothing, the Sequim Valley has found a way to propagate and make an entire business surrounding this Mediterranean herb, lavender.
Not quite the end-all to all gardeners (just ask the neighbors who are not venturing to the store this weekend), the numerous lavender varieties have some qualities I have touched on before: ease of growing, little watering needs, texture, fragrance and an abundance of purple-haze flowers.
One of my clients has two mounding areas where groupings of lavender are planted, and while their summertime botanical tasks are few, in the springtime, the lavender plant requires a good amount of pruning to keep it shaped and healthy for summer blossoms.
No running with scissors here, just hours upon hours of careful Felco pruning snips, interrupted with other tasks so as not to fatigue hands. They even tell stories of passers-by noticing their purple dancing yard, driving down to see whether their yard is on one of the lavender tours.
Speaking of your hands, they should be busy this time of year with cutting back (pinching) of annuals, sacrificing the near-ready buds for some October blossoms that will make the neighbors envious.
With the summer sun beating down upon us, and with Port Angeles- and Sequim-area winds drying things out, I’m hoping you’ve taken advantage of some of the summer sales on wands, such as the Dramm head, which blasts water down onto thirsty soil while not harming the delicate plants.
And wind will dry out your hanging baskets, so watering twice a day with once-weekly liquid fertilizer will help keep these bountiful baskets and blooming pots looking fabulous.
And crusty, dry soil still is no match for weeds that have a way of breaking through the soil and starting infestations of clover, snap cress weed (the ones that shoot you in the eye when you try to pull up their ripening bodies) and the ever-persistent Canada thistle (they can take those back home) and horsetail shoots.
And did I mention bugs? The aphids! Yes, these little buggers are a-plenty in late July.
It is time to go out and inspect your plants, looking for insects or disease.
This is a very critical crux in the season as it relates to your plants’ reproductive cycles, influenced by our weather and the sun setting earlier each day and dawn coming later.
Your plants are on an evolutionary clock geared on reproduction, and these hungry buggers are sucking the life out of your rose tips and dahlia buds.
Yes, you should grab your coffee cup and wander outside right now, looking for them.
What to do?
We can’t send the bugs back with all the gardeners flocked to Sequim this weekend, but we can pinch them off the plant, removing the entire tip. This will eliminate 95 percent to 98 percent of the problem, along with the newly laid eggs. By pinching them back, you can also cause new branches to form with even more flowers than before — a double bonus round.
Right now, today, there is plenty of time to recover from a severe pinch or cutback and produce better plants than before. It is also the time when bugs and disease run rampant through your plants, as they break out in newly hatched hordes to plunder the bounty.
Don’t let this happen.
If your plants have insects or pestilence of any sort, cutting that away now will extend your plant and overall yard, well into October. If you don’t attack them now (the bugs), they will cause a rapid decline in the plant and the surrounding area.
So if you want your wife or girlfriend to be happy, grab your wallet and your car keys and take her for a spin to Lavender Weekend, where you can send her through the booths in downtown Sequim while you listen to the band and eat ice cream. You can grab one of the buses from there and tour the farms, or find her a replacement plant for the ones the aphids are eating up at home.
Take it from me, a get-out-of-jail-free card can come in handy later in the year, when the football games come on and you’d rather stay home and watch TV.
Enjoy the weather and soak up the sun, for your summertime tasks will soon turn into football fantasies.
Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).