Tag Archives: lavender

Late summer hair cuts for lavender, rosemary and box

First published by Rattan Direct on 26 August 2016.

Late summer is the time to cut back lavender, rosemary and box edges and hedges. Hair cuts all round as the autumn sets in!

Keeping things under control

Lavender, rosemary and box – whether you grow them as edging plants, hedges, topiary or in containers – all need a late summer clip to keep them under control. The rapid growth of spring has slowed and this year’s new growth has hardened off. This, and the opportunity to grow a little before the wet and cold of the winter set in, help minimise any plant damage. Giving your plants a good shape now means that they will look neat over the colder months and be ready when growth starts again next spring.

Remember to use some of those clippings as cuttings!

Lavender needs a severe hair cut

If lavender is not pruned every year it becomes woody and produces fewer leaves and flowers – and less wonderful fragrance as a result.

Lavender fields at Norfolk Lavender, Heacham, Norfolk. Late summer
Lavender fields at Norfolk Lavender, Heacham, Norfolk. Some plants are at least 60 years old and are cut back each year to allow new growth.
© Christine Matthews and licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.

If you didn’t harvest lavender for drying in June and your lavender has finished flowering, then it’s time to cut it back.

  • For ‘English’ lavender (L. angustifolia) such as Hidcote, that’s around mid-August.
  • For intermedia lavenders, such as the Grosso I have in my front garden – just under the bedroom window, that’s early September. It’s important to be quite severe with these.
  • And for others, such as French lavender and others with ‘ears’ on the flowers, it’s when the plants have finished flowering.

And if you did harvest your lavender, it’s time to tidy it up if it needs it.

Whichever type of lavender you have, the principles of pruning are the same.

  • Use clean and sharp secateurs so that the cut will heal nicely.
  • The harder you prune, the more rapidly the plant will regenerate – usually within four weeks.
  • When flowering is over, search down at the bottom of the plant for small shoots or nodules and cut back to these. They will grow to about 2cms/1 inch over the next month.
  • Don’t cut into woody growth, though, as lavender rarely shoots again. (If a plant is very leggy you can try to make it break lower down: cut it to within a hand’s span of the woody growth and if it does shoot, do it again next year and again until the legginess has gone.)

This Downderry video steps you through different types of lavender and how to prune in late summer.

The Royal Horticultural Society takes a slightly less hard approach. See their video here.

Finally, in colder and wetter areas, spring pruning might be better. Leaving the old flowers and growth on the plant will protect it through the winter and reduce dieback. Cut back to the first strong bud on each stem in March/April.

Just a trim for Rosemary, please

Rosemary only needs a late summer trim rather than the severe hair cut required by lavender.

  • To keep rosemary bushy, clip the plant to look neat.
  • If you’re shaping a plant or growing a hedge, you can cut it back by a third.
  • Once again, don’t cut into the bare woody part.
Rosmarinus officinalis grown as a hedge in Barlovento, La Palma, Canary Islands. Late summer
Rosmarinus officinalis grown as a hedge in Barlovento, La Palma, Canary Islands.
© Frank Vincentz and licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

Late summer box

August is the time to trim mature box hedges and topiary, and to tidy up younger plants so they stay neat during the winter months. And unlike lavender and rosemary, box will shoot again from bare wood.

Monty Don takes cuttings and gives some guidance about box here.

'Cloud pruned' box, beside the wall of Sharsted Court, Newnham, Kent. Late summer
‘Cloud pruned’ box, beside the wall of Sharsted Court, Newnham, Kent.
© David Anstiss and licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.

In good shape in late summer

Gardening is about looking forward and planning as well as enjoying the here and now. As night follows day, so autumn follows summer. Having an autumn garden in good shape is a lovely thing, and cheering when the weather turns nasty. I’m getting the secateurs out.



Enjoy the summer scent of lavender in winter

By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 24 July 2016.

Lavender is blooming in gardens all around me in the South West of England and, with a soundtrack of buzzing bees and a wonderful scent on warm evenings, summer really seems to be here.

Lavender is good for you
Lavender in full bloom, Somerset. Sarah Buchanan.

Hold onto summer!

Summer goes too fast. Enjoy the summer scent of lavender in winter with dried lavender – and provide a school holiday project too.

Make a fresh lavender wand

Making a fresh lavender ‘wand’ is a lovely school holiday project – for parents and children alike!

You will need: 11 or 13 (it must be an odd number) fresh, long (at least 30 cm long) and bendy stems of lavender in full bloom; about 3 metres of narrow (quarter inch) satin ribbon, a little patience. This website shows you how to do it.

  1. Cut the lavender stems early in the day, making sure they are not damp with dew or rain, and strip off all the leaves.
  2. Line up the flower heads so they are all together, use one end of the ribbon to tie the stems together about 3-5 cm below the bottom of the flower heads and turn this bunch upside down (flowers to the floor).
  3. Gently bend each stem over its flower head and hold the stems carefully to create a cage around the flower heads and the ribbon tie. Pull the long length of ribbon to the outside of the cage at the top.
  4. Hold the cage gently and weave the ribbon under and over the stems. Do this quite firmly so that the ribbon makes a basket enclosing the flower heads. The first two rows are the hardest, but the scent of lavender will calm you!
  5. As you weave, pull the stems closer together to create a sort of stick and keep weaving until all the heads are covered.
  6. Knot the ribbon around the bottom of the cage, making a bow with any left over, and trim the ends of the stems to the same length.

Dry lavender

To dry lavender for bunches of dried flowers, bowls or bags of dried flower heads, you need to cut the flower stems before all the flowers are in full bloom. That’s NOW in some areas and for some plants. When the first few flowers on a stem are showing colour, cut some of the stems as near to the plant as you can. Hang the stems upside down somewhere cool and dark where the air can reach them.

When the stems are dry and brittle (how long this takes depends on the weather, but it is at least a couple of weeks – ready for the end of the school holidays!), spread them on a tray or clean paper. You can use them as they are in bunches. Or gently rub the flower heads off (breathe in the scent!) to make the filling for lavender bags or bowls. Store these flower heads somewhere cool and dark (a screw top jar is good) until you want to use them. Making a lavender bag is a perfect job for a wet afternoon.

Lavender is good for you! Make a lavender bag to keep the scent of summer through the winter. Sarah Buchanan
Lavender is good for you! Make a lavender bag to enjoy the scent of summer in winter. Sarah Buchanan

Make a lavender bag

You will need: thin cotton fabric measuring about 18x15cm (7x6inches); about 30cm (10inches) length of narrow ribbon; needle and thread.

  1. Fold the fabric in half widthways, wrong side outside. Pin and stitch the two sides together about 1cm (1/3in) from the edge. This creates a small bag.
  2. Diagonally snip the bottom corners of the bag then turn it the right side out.
  3. Fold the ribbon in half to find the centre point and stitch that to one side of the bag about 3cm (1¼in) from the top (not stitched) edge.
  4. Fill the bag with dried lavender heads until they reach the ribbon. Don’t overstuff the bag.
  5. Stitch along the top of the bag to hold the lavender in.
  6. Tie the ribbon around to look pretty.

Make your lavender bags personal: cut fabric into the shape of a heart; decorate the fabric before you start; use favourite fabrics; or make larger or smaller bags.

Eat it

With flowers filling our gardens with scent – try eating it. My sister sprinkles fresh lavender flowers in her shortbread. At this time of year I use sprigs of the leaves in roast lamb joints (makes a change from rosemary), and mix a few small drops of lavender oil with the garden gooseberries that are heading for the fruit crumble this Sunday.


Lavender in winter
Grow lavender for bees and enjoy lavender honey. Embroidered picture. Sarah Buchanan

Enjoy it

The antiseptic and healing qualities of lavender oil have been known for centuries, and it’s well known as a remedy for feeling good all round (and see our blog about how to use it in times of stress).

Sitting in a garden, enjoying the sight, sound and scent of lavender has just got to be good for you. Take a break, find a seat and sit back…..

Lavender and alstromeria, Rousham Gardens. Sarah Buchanan.