taming the giant lavender

Look at this monster! It’s like a gigantic plant amoeba, slowly oozing out across the landscape. Beautiful in its own way but just a bit too aggressive. Let’s see if we can tame it.

Here is a basic principle of ecosystem gardening: even though the garden is managed by a human, we want it to have a natural look, as if all the plants sprouted and grew right where they are. So the challenge in pruning is to make the resulting pruned plant look like it has not been pruned. Can it be done here? Let’s find out…

For this task, I’ll be using a method I call “edge undercut” pruning. The idea is that we want the plant to look as natural as possible, through the entire pruning process.

Edge undercut is accomplished by reaching in under the lowermost, outer edge of the plant and clipping as far as possible in the depths of the stems. The primary factor is whether or not the cut ends of the stems are visible. A secondary factor is whether there is an obvious notch or gap in the plant’s overall shape.

With sturdy shears in hand, I began with round 1. It took about 15 minutes. All around the outer edge, just a few stems at a time, frequently stepping back for a look. This is art, people!

Here’s how it looked after round 1. See how it still looks fairly natural. All I’ve done is elevate the lower edge a bit, giving the whole plant a smaller “footprint”:

…and here is the pile of clippings at this point:

The clippings will be added to the compost pile, which has just been started at the back of the yard.

I’m not done yet! The bush is smaller, but it still takes up too much space. For round 2, I have to start watching the flower balance. The bees LOVE the lavender flowers, so I want to be careful to keep as many as possible. Fortunately, the flowers are mostly on the upper section of the bush.

Around once more, this time clipping into the actual main mass of the bush, still stepping back frequently for an artistic evaluation. Here is how it looks after round 2:

It’s definitely smaller. I have not yet decided whether to remove the catnip plant on the right side. It’s the only medium size catnip left in the garden, but it’s a bit bedraggled.

I’ve clipped much more off on the east side (the far side of the picture above), giving the bush a bit of a “windswept” look and making more room for new plantings on that side. The main stems are now visible (but still no obvious cut stem ends!) and the open space created there will fill in over the next few months as the lavender bush adjusts itself, growing out new shoots to meet the light:

…and here is the second pile of clippings, more compost food:

Thanks to careful pruning, the giant lavender monster is now tamer, and the bees still have a bounteous source of nectar and pollen:

This post is part of the new ecogarden project at Elizabeth’s place

also part of this project:

putting in a redwood walkway

in the company of chickens

Your comments are welcome!

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