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Lavender and Roses from Seed
                    by guest author Alice Formiga        Print

Lavender and roses have been beloved garden plants throughout their long history of cultivation and their timeless beauty is easily adaptable to changing gardening fashions. In the formal gardens of the Romans, who bathed in lavender and rose-scented waters, in medieval apothecaries'

 gardens, Elizabethan knot gardens, Shaker Gardens and English cottage gardens, lavenders and roses have always had an important role.

Today they are an integral part of most contemporary garden designs, from historical revival gardens, formal perennial borders, cottage gardens, patio gardens and edible landscapes. Lavender and roses blend well together, both visually and in fragrance - the rich floral notes of roses anchored by the herbal tones of lavender. Both evoke nostalgia and romance, and are in high demand for use in perfumes, potpourri, wreaths and wedding bouquets. Whether planted together or apart, both are also highly addictive - you can never have enough lavender or roses in the garden!

Both lavender and roses can be grown successfully from seed. Like many perennials, they do take longer to germinate than annuals.  Lavender seeds do produce some variation in plant growth habit and flower spike length. Unless you are planning a formal hedge or growing lavender commercially, this can actually work to your advantage, as gradations between slightly paler and deeper shades of blue or occasional differences in height or flower shape can add interest and movement to a lavender planting.

a bed of lavender

Renee's Garden Seed
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"Angel Wings" Rose
"Perfume" Lavender
"White Ice" Lavender
"Hidcote" Lavender
Spanish Lavender
"Munstead" Lavender
"Fernleaf" Multifida Lavender

To purchase these and other Renee's Garden Seeds
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Because these plants look well with almost anything,  it is convenient to have enough seedlings on hand to fill in holes in the landscape, or to decorate a patio or entryway. Insert lavender between older bushes that are past their prime as eventual replacements, expand an existing lavender planting, and grow them as edging along a path, around a birdbath, or under a window. Growing lavender and miniature roses from seed is well worth a little extra effort because you will have an abundance of plants to use and enjoy for years. Extra seedlings also make wonderful gifts!

Choosing varieties

Renee's Garden offers different lavender cultivars for a variety of climate zones and landscaping needs, as well as our lovely and very hardy and low-maintenance miniature rose, Angel Wings.

Lavender angustifolia Hidcote: According to the website of Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire, England, the original Hidcote lavender was brought there in the 1920's by the proprietor and plant-hunter Lawrence Johnston. Since the seed stock contains more genetic diversity than a cutting of the original variety, some experts question whether its' name is legitimate.  However, it is now well established in the seed trade as a compact variety with dark purple, velvety flower spikes. With intense flower color and sweet scent, Hidcote is especially suited for wreaths and decorative bunches tied with white, pink or blue ribbons.

Lavender angustifolia Munstead: Named for the country estate of British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, who was influential in popularizing herbs including lavender as ornamental plants, Munstead produces lush drifts of fragrant pale blue, more elongated flower spikes than Hidcote. Faster to grow and earlier to bloom than Hidcote, it grows 1½ feet tall and is  hardy to zone 5.

Lavender stoecheas a.k.a. Spanish Lavender: With its butterfly-like reddishurple translucent flower bracts and grey-green foliage, Spanish lavender appears more exotic and less old-fashioned than English lavender. It blends well in the landscape with fiery colors, as well as with Mediterranean and tropical plants. Although it is hardy to zone 7, it can be grown as a container plant and brought indoors in colder areas. Tolerant of heat and drought, it often gives two flushes of bloom per season. The leaves possess a more medicinal, camphorous fragrance than English lavender so can be used in sachets to repel moths.

Lavender multifida a.k.a. Fernleaf Lavender: With its soft, lacy foliage and abundant blue-violet flowers, Fernleaf grows 2 feet tall and makes an unusual, elegant addition to a lavender collection or butterfly garden. In cold winter areas, grow it as a container plant and move it indoors under lights or to a protected area near a warm brick wall, since it is only hardy to zone 8.

Rosa chinensis, Angel Wings

roseRenee first saw this little beauty on a seed buying trip to the Netherlands about 15 years ago and immediately fell in love with it. A Dutch selection of Rosa chinensis, Angel Wings miniature rose behaves differently than other rose species you may already have in your garden. A small open bush covered with delicate shell pink, rose and white flowers, it grows fuller every season, reaching an eventual height of 24-36". In Renee's trial gardens, she grows Angel Wings both in containers and also in the borders around her house. It's a wonderful luxury to have a whole big bed of these plants with their dainty soft pastel flowers in bloom all season every summer.

Amazingly, Angel Wings often produces flower buds when the plants are still tiny- I've seen it start to bloom at only 8-12 weeks. Plants are small the first year, reaching just 12 inches, but they really form lovely small bushes in their second blooming season and grow to maturity to bloom nonstop for years. Although a high percentage of plants have semi-double and double blossoms, there is always interesting variation in flower form. Some plants have the scent of wild roses, others have little or no fragrance at all. Angel Wings makes an excellent and reliable landscape filler, and goes well with all old-fashioned flowers. Hardy to Zone 4.

Growing lavender seeds

Start lavender seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Space them " to 1" apart in a flat of well-drained sterile seed starting mix, and cover them only about 1/8", since light aids germination. Keep the flats in a warm place, about 70 degrees, and moist but not soggy-water in the morning so that the flats aren't too wet in cooler nighttime temperatures, causing the seedlings to damp off. Be patient; seeds can sometimes take a month to germinate, but I have often been pleasantly surprised to have seedlings germinate within the first two weeks. Although I haven't found it to be worth the trouble, some gardeners recommend cold-stratifying lavender seeds to improve the germination rate. The simplest way to do this is to place lavender seeds into a ziplock bag of moistened seed starting mix and leave it in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Then sow as above. When seedlings emerge, provide strong lights so that they don't grow weak and leggy.

When the seedlings have several sets of true leaves, gently loosen the soil around the plants and transfer them into a 2" pot or 2" apart in deeper flats of well-drained planting mix. Since nutrients quickly leach out of containers, add some granular slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Snip off the growing tip to encourage branching. When the plants have grown about 3 inches tall, the weather is warm, and all danger of frost is past, gradually expose the plants to outdoor conditions over the course of a week, being careful not to leave them in full sun right away. Finally, plant them outdoors 12-24" apart into well-drained garden soil. In particularly moist, humid areas, plant them at the wider spacing recommendation, so that air circulates freely around the plants.

In poorly drained, damp soil, lavender roots are highly susceptible to rotting. If you have heavy, soggy clay, or live in a rainy climate as I do here in Western Oregon, loosen your soil as deeply as possible, pile on well-drained compost (preferably without too much peat moss, which retains moisture), and plant the lavender on raised mounds. Adding lime to acid soils also helps improve its chances, since lavender prefers a soil pH of 6.0-8. Lavender often does not require additional nitrogen fertilizer; in fact, too much nitrogen can result in less fragrant flowers and plants that are more sensitive to frost and fungal infections.

Lavender will probably produce several flowering stems in the first season, but cut these off either when they appear or, if you really can't bring yourself to do that, just after the first buds start to open so that the plant can focus its energy on developing strong root and vegetative growth, rather than flowers and seeds. In subsequent years, cut back flowering stems after 1/3 of the buds have opened to about 1/3 of the new growth. Provide winter protection in cold areas. Mulch the plants with sand, gravel or bark, leaving 6" around the stem of the plant so air circulates at the base.

Growing roses from seed:

Although Angel Wings rose does not require stratification, germination can sometimes be erratic, extending over the course of one month. About 6 weeks before the last frost date, sow seeds 2" apart and " deep into well-drained seed starting mix. Keep the flats at 60-70 degrees and the soil moist, though not soggy. Provide strong lights as soon as seedlings emerge. When the plants are large enough to handle, transplant them into deeper flats or 4" pots. Feed the soil around the seedlings every 2 weeks with half-strength fertilizer solution. Flower buds may appear early, but it is not necessary to remove them. Harden the plants off by gradually acclimating them to outdoor conditions and plant them 18" apart into fertile, well-drained soil. If you are growing them in containers, use at least 2 gallon pots to make room for the roots to spread, and incorporate a balanced slow-release fertilizer into the planting soil. Unlike many roses, Angel Wings does not require being cut back in the winter; rather, it benefits only from an occasional light trimming and shaping after bloom to keep it productive, attractive and healthy.

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