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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lavender Topiaries -How to get started

This is a long term project that started in February 2008 with several bazillion lavender seeds and as of this writing is not completed. I found this picture on the 'net... to illustrate how minute these seeds are compared to one's fingers. If you are working with patients who can not sit still for any length of time, this is not the project for them as this will take time just to complete seeding. However, if you have patients with different skill levels, this project will accommodate several different patients doing different things if you plant many seeds. For example, you can have one individual writing out labels, one filling out seed pots with dirt and others seeding the pots.

Step 1: Plant 5-8 seeds in potting soil that has been moistened with water in large bedding trays. Some patients have the manual dexterity to drop individual seeds into the pots. Others will need to use a seed counter. I used this dispenser set on the smallest setting. Push the seeds down into the dirt so that they are just under the soil. Mist the seeded dirt so that seeds have moist environment. Cover soil with plastic. We use plastic leftover from the Flower shop rolls to make flower bunches. You need something that is going to create for the seeds a greenhouse environment. If you are working with one type of plant, there is no real need to label the plants. However, since my program also raises annuals and other plants for sale in the Flower shop, we labelled the plants. Additionally, I found it a point of interest to date the labels so the patients could see how many days had passed before the seeds germinated. This activity is good for patients who respond to aromatherapy or someone who enjoys the smell of lavender. The act of weeding, watering, and general tending to the plants will release of the oils of the lavender.

Step 2: Germinate seeds. Weed plants down to 3 plants per pot. Don't let lavender dry out but don't keep them soaking wet either. This is the part where we lost hundreds. This was an exercise in following directions, being diligent, being conscientious.Here is an actual photo of the lavender seeds in our greenhouse before we put the plastic over them... they stretched for yards, and yards, and yards!

Step 3: (About 3 months have gone by) Once the plants grew to be a couple inches tall in the trays, they were transplanted and combined with several other batches into large shallow 8 inch pots as the trays held too many dead plants. This happened at the beginning of the summer when we had to start landscaping. I left them in the greenhouse, however, if you have the space and the climate, you can move them outside.

Step 4: (About 4.5 months) Once the plants were about 4 inches in height, they were transplanted into 4 inch pots and staked up to small bamboo with twine. During each stage, plants were weeded out that were sickly. Unfortunately for us, an invasion of white flies invaded the greenhouse concurrent with my sprayer breaking. However, the sprayer got fixed and I started on a regime of Horticulture oil or Neem Oil ever 3 days for a week. Repeat spraying 3 weeks later. As you can see, the plants are very thick and unruly.

Step 5: (About 7.5 months) This step occurs when the longest shoot or the main shoot is approximately 9 -12 inches tall. You don't want the plant to grow much higher because you want it to grow fuller. Carefully, take the plant out of the pot. Separate the plants into plants with one sturdy trunk. Once you have one plant with a good sturdy trunk, you will carefully remove the lower third of the leaves and braid the branches leaving the top third untouched. Put some time release fertilizer on the top of the pot so that the lavender will grow strong quickly. Keep the plants moist and try not to let them dry out. After they have been trained, trim the lavender at the top to improve the shape of the topiary. It will also encourage growth. Trim growth from lower trunk area to maintain standard topiary shape.
Step 6: Keep Growing and Trimming until the plant reaches the desired fullness! We hope to sell this topiaries in the Flower shop.

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