FAQs

General Nursery Questions:

Are there barn owls living at the nursery?   Does the Nursery raise barn owls?
No,
but we do hear different owls at night.  They live in the neighboring barns and occasionally we see them fly over our nursery.
No real owls have made the gift shop their home.  We suspect they prefer their freedom and the easy access to our neighbors’ old barns.
Barn Owl Nursery got is name because Chris likes owls. In honor of owls, and to follow an owl theme, we chose a pair of barn owls for the nursery logo.  The gift shop at the nursery is a barn-like structure. There is an owl weathervane on top of the shop.  Chris has a growing collection of owl gifts from her family and friends.  Part of the owl gift collection does reside inside the gift shop.  We think this is a wise and fitting choice for our little herb nursery and lavender farm.

Does the Nursery give advice on what herbs to use for health?
Does the Nursery sell medicinal herb plants and products?
We do not give advise on how to use herbs medicinally.  We do not sell medicinal herb plants or products, or bulk medicinal herbs or supplements.  As an herb nursery, we do sell some culinary herb plants that can be used medicinally.
A good source for medicinal herb seeds and plants is Strictly Medicinal Seeds in Williams, OR. Website: www.strictlymedicinalseeds.com  Email:  custserv@strictlymedicinalseeds.com

For more information on herbs and how to use them, contact
The American College of Healthcare Sciences in Portland, OR.
Website:  www.achs.edu  Email: achs@herbed.com

HERB QUESTIONS:

What are the best conditions for growing herbs successfully?
There are three basic requirements for growing most herbs successfully.
First, it is important that you have soil that drains well. Most herbs will not tolerate soggy roots; so do not plant them in poorly drained areas or heavy clay soil.  Generally, once most herbs are established, they prefer a rather dry soil.  Water them as necessary, a little more during the first season, then sparingly, when they are mature plants.  If you do not have well-drained soil you will need to amend it by mixing 1 part sand and 1 part peat moss into your tilled garden soil. Consider planting your herbs in raised beds for added drainage. Mulching the soil surface after planting your herbs will maintain an even soil temperature and moisture content, it also discourages weed growth and will save time watering and weeding. If you are planting in the spring, wait until the soil warms and the rains decrease before mulching.  Don’t mulch around new plants until they are taller, otherwise the mulch might smother them.  If planting in the fall, apply mulch right after planting. Use a 3-7 inch layer of mulch to keep the weeds down. A winter mulch for new or tender plants is a good idea too. Organic mulches can harbor snails and slugs and promote rot when wet, so keep them away from the stems of the herbs. Some organic mulches that will decompose and add fiber and nutrients to the soil are:  chopped straw, leaves, hay or bark, grass clippings or peat moss. A light colored mulch like straw will keep the soil cooler. A dark colored mulch like black plastic, will keep the soil warmer for the heat loving herbs. A neutral pH range is best for most herbs, but some herbs prefer a soil on a slightly acid side, with a pH around 6. Heavy, dense clay soils are often more acid than desirable. Adding lime or dolomite will make a less acid soil, this can also improve the structure of the soil.  If the soil pH is high, you can lower it by adding sphagnum peat or sulfur to adjust the pH, make the changes at least 6 months before you plant, especially if you are adding lime.

Second, an average soil, suitable for vegetables, with a little lime and fertilizer added, is all most herbs need to thrive. Herbs usually require only a small amount of fertilizer and are sensitive to overfeeding.  In rich soils, herb plants may be larger and seem to grow faster, but they will probably be weak in flavor, fragrance, and growth. The best time to fertilize herbs is in the early spring, just as they are planted or when they start to put on new growth. If the herbs start yellowing and are sparse in growth later in the summer, they may need another shot of fertilizer.  You should use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Add a fresh batch of compost or well-rotted manure to the garden at the start of the season, before you plant your annual herbs. A 1-2  inch application will feed most herbs well, throughout the season. Herbs are rarely heavy feeders.  If sufficient amounts of trace elements are lacking, the plant may show symptoms such as yellowing between the leaf veins, brown and wilted shoot tips, or stunted growth. You can apply a spray of seaweed extract or a side dressing of kelp meal to provide adequate trace elements.  For more nitrogen, use blood meal as you plant.  You can broadcast dry, organic fertilizers by hand or with a spreader, till it in or leave it on the surface as a mulch.  To feed perennial herbs, add organic materials to the soil surface as a mulch.

Third, you should position your herb garden so that it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight during the day.  A southern exposure with a slight slope, is an ideal location. Most herbs need direct sunlight to achieve maximum oil production for the best flavor and fragrance in the leaves and flowers.  There are some herbs that will tolerate partial shade, but if the herb foliage and flowers are leaning toward the light, or they are not uniform in their growth over time, they probably need more direct sunlight.

What herbs can be grown in containers?
In general, those herbs that are grown for their leaves, rather than for their seeds or flowers, may be grown successfully in pots. However, because their roots are contained, container grown herbs do not produce as much to harvest.  When you plant several herbs in one container, it is best to plant together only those that require similar amounts of water, sun, and soil conditions.  They should be in a container that is big enough to allow good air circulation around each plant. You will need to prune them more often.

Most herbs are going to grow better if they are given their own pots. Mints, or herbs in the mint family, are a good example. They will quickly take over a pot on their own. Each type of mint should be given its own pot so it will not cross with other mints. Herbs with tap roots need pots that are deep enough for the full grown root. Parsley, or herbs in the same family, are best grown in their own deep pots.

Provide container herbs with as much light as possible, 6-8 hours of full sun if growing them outside, 14-16 hours under fluorescent lights if growing indoors. If growing them in a window, rotate the pot once a week. Most herbs prefer temperatures of 55-60 degrees F at night and 65-70 degrees F during the day. Humidity should be around 50%, or as high as possible indoors. Set pots on a tray of pebbles with the water line below the bottom of the pots to provide more humidity indoors. It is best to use a sterile, commercial potting mix and amend it with pumice or perlite to achieve greater aeration and drainage. Clay pots also provide good drainage because they are porous. If you use a plastic pot you will need a very light potting soil with sand and perlite, you probably will not need to water it as often. Water the herbs when the top soil is dry. If you have good drainage and a warm house this could be once a day or every other day.

Water all herbs from the top — not the bottom. Do not let them sit directly in the water. Avoid getting the foliage wet. Water the plants early in the day, avoid watering at night. Herbs grown in containers outside in full sun, during hot weather, may need to be watered twice a day. Fertilize container herbs every two weeks with a low nitrogen, liquid fertilizer, about half the recommended amount.

When you plant your herbs in the desired containers, fill the pots half way with the soil mix, place the herbs in the pots and pack soil around them, leaving 1 inch head room. It helps to trim container herbs often to keep them healthy and within bounds. By doing so you will encourage new growth with more to harvest and use. You should remove old flower stems to encourage the herbs to flower again. Keep the plants well groomed and dead leaves cleaned out of the pots. Weeds are easily kept to a minimum if you carefully select weed-free potting soil. When plants have reached their maximum or desired size, they should be repotted yearly to renew the soil, or transplant the herbs to larger pots that will accommodate a larger root system and allow the plant to grow larger, if desired.

It is easier to grow herbs in containers outdoors in the spring and summer, then in early fall, start to gradually acclimate the tender perennials to an indoor environment. Tender perennial and annual herbs usually make the most cooperative houseplants. Hardy perennial herbs that die back in the winter, usually benefit from a freezing period outdoors and don’t grow very well indoors. Watch for white fly, aphid, and red spider mites on your highly scented herbs, particularly on scented-leaf geraniums, and when growing herbs indoors. If you find bugs, separate infected plants from the others, cut them back, use a mild, soap spray on the leaves, or a commercial spray like Safer’s. You may have to apply the spray several times, over a few weeks. Container grown herbs require a little more care than those that are grown in a garden.

What culinary herbs grow in shade or partial shade?
Here are a few culinary herbs that will grow well in shade or partial shade:
Bay, Burnet, Chives, Lovage, Mints, Parsley, Sweet Cicely, Sweet Woodruff, Tarragon,  Violets.

What culinary herbs are very invasive in the garden?
These herbs are probably the most notorious for being very invasive and could easily take over a garden:  Fennel, Lemon Balm, all Mints, Oregano, Sweet Woodruff and Violets.

What culinary herbs can I grow that the deer will not eat?
Usually, deer stay away from strong scented herbs like:
Chives (most plants in the onion family), all Lavenders, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

LAVENDER QUESTIONS:

What lavenders are the most fragrant?
All lavender flowers are fragrant, but there are certain cultivars that are suppose to be more fragrant, and some cultivars that produce better essential oil. The fragrance and the quality and quantity of the oil the plants produce can vary each year.  A lot depends on the weather, how much sun and water the plants receive, the type of soil that the plants are grown in, when the flowers are harvested from the plants and how quickly they are processed and stored before they are used.

English Lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia cv.) The most fragrant cultivars are suppose to be:  Backhouse Nana, Brabrant Lust, Buena Vista, Dark Supreme, De Lavande, Delphinensis, Egerton Blue, Eola, Fiona English, Folgate, French Fields, Maillette, Middachten, Munstead, Norfolk J-2, Pastor’s Pride, Royal Velvet, Sharon Roberts, Tucker’s Early Purple, Two Seasons, Victorian Amethyst, Violet Intrigue, Wyckoff.
Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia cv.)  The most fragrant cultivars are suppose to be: Abrialis, Dutch, Fat Spike Grosso, Fragrant Memories, Grappenhall, Grosso, Old English, Scottish Cottage, Sumian, Super, Sussex

Which lavenders have the darkest flowers?
English lavender cultivars 
(Lavandula angustifolia cv.) have the darkest flowers. Most of them dry very well on the stem when they are picked in the bud stage.  Among them, there are some cultivars that have especially dark blue/purple flowers:  Baby Blue, Betty’s Blue, Blue Mountain, Cynthia Johnson, Elizabeth, Hidcote, Imperial Gem, Loddon Blue, Mitcham Grey, Pastor’s Pride,  Peter Pan, Purple Bouquet, Rebecca Kay, Royal Purple, Royal Velvet, Sharon Roberts, Skylark, Summerland Supreme, Super Bleu, Thumbelina Leigh, Tucker’s Early Purple, Two Amy’s, Violet Intrigue

Lavandin, (Lavandula x intermedia), do not produce dark flowers, compared to the English lavender cultivars mentioned, but there are some darker flowering cultivars that produce dark blue flowers: Bleu de Collines, Fat Spike Grosso, Gros Bleu, Grosso, Impress Purple, Riverina Alan and Sumian.

How are English lavender plants different from lavandin (French) plants?
English lavender plants, (Lavandula angustifolia), produce seeds and are the largest group of lavenders. We sell around 100 recognized cultivars that are grown in the Pacific Northwest.  The average size of a mature English lavender plant is between 20-24 inches.  However, there is quite a range in sizes, from the smallest dwarf that grows 5-8 inches, to the largest plants that grow around 24-36 inches. The fragrant foliage of English lavender is generally a green/gray, with shorter leaves on the stems. The flower stems themselves are an average of 12 inches long.   The fragrance of the flowers is generally a sweet lavender scent. There is quite a selection among the flower colors of the different English lavender cultivars.  They range from light blue to different shades of purple/blue, to dark blue/purple. There are light pink and white flowering varieties, too. English lavenders make nice, low hedges in the landscape, but they do require more pruning.  The different cultivars start blooming in Western Oregon, around the 2nd-3rd week in June, usually finishing around mid-July.  Some of these cultivars bloom again in the fall, especially if the first flowers are harvested off the plants early in the season and the plants receive some water during the summer.

Lavandins, as they are called in France, (Lavandula x intermedia), is a smaller group of lavenders because they do not produce seed and they must be propagated from cuttings.  This group of lavenders are a cross between an English lavender, (L. angustifolia), and (Lavandula latifolia).  We sell around 30 recognized cultivars that are grown in Oregon.  This hybrid, and its cultivars, are larger, rounder plants, they need less pruning to maintain their shape, than their English cousins.  The size of the plants average from 18-20 inches to 36-48 inches. The leaves are wider, longer and grayer. The different varieties start blooming 2-4 weeks later than most English lavenders. In Western Oregon, they can start blooming the end of June, but most lavandins bloom throughout July, and some cultivars in August. Their flowers are a lighter, lavender/blue color.  There are several white flowering varieties, too.  The white flowering cultivars have longer stems, reaching 3 feet in length.  All lavandin plants have long straight flower stems that grow in a fan-like shape from the plant.  They need to be planted further apart and have more space to grow well in the garden. These plants are vigorous growers, they will grow faster than English lavender plants. They hold their shape and retain more leaves in the winter months. The scent of the flowers is more pungent because there is more camphor in the oil produced by lavandin plants.

When is the best time to prune lavender plants?
In my experience, I have found that pruning lavender plants in the spring and summer, and lightly in September, helps them to look and grow better over a longer period of time.  This has worked well for me in my location, but not everyone growing lavender in different states, or in different regions and climates in Oregon, will prune their lavender plants that often.

Pruning should begin early, when lavender plants are still young.  Younger plants grown in pots would have a better start if they were not allowed to flower the first year!  Then all the new growth would go into the foliage, not the flowers, to produce less woody looking shrubs that have more growth at the base of the plants.

The English lavender cultivars, (L. angustifolia cv) usually require more pruning to hold their shape than the French lavandin cultivars,
(L. x intermedia cv) while the Spanish lavender culitvars, (L. stoechas cv) require even more pruning.  Tender species of lavender usually do not survive a winter outside in Oregon, so they do not need to be pruned as often since they are usually only growing outside for less than a year.

Lavender and lavandin plants will live for many years if they are pruned well.  In a home garden, most lavenders will hold their shape at least 10 years, if you start pruning them when they are young plants and you prune them hard at least once a year.  I have found that all the cultivars I grow will look nicer if they are pruned well after flowering in the summer, and/or early in the fall.

In late June and throughout July, I am harvesting my lavender flowers for fresh and dried bouquets.  I cut the flowers with as long a stem as possible so the stems have a few sets of leaves on them.  At this time, I am lightly pruning the plants to encourage new growth.  Some of the English lavenders will bloom again in the fall and I have more flowers to cut and to enjoy fresh, later in the season.

Lavender hedges need pruning twice a year. The first trim is best in the spring. Only the sides should be cut to allow for the top to flower. The second pruning should be in the early fall, before any frost. Both the sides and the top should be cut back hard to maintain the shape of the hedge.  Established plants may be pruned back by 1/3 to 1/2 their size.  If necessary, they can be cut back to three sets of leaves from the base. This drastic pruning can help revive some older lavender bushes.  They may look healthier for a longer period of time if you can force new growth on the old woody stems of the plants.

Lavender plants that have not been pruned become woody looking sooner. If you already have old woody bushes, it may too late to revive them. If they have reached three years of age or older and have never been pruned, then pruning at this stage may not help.  You might be better off replacing the plants.  If you can see new, green growth just above the woody part, the plant may be pruned back to within 2 inches of the new growth. But if you cut them back too far, they might die. There are some lavender cultivars that may look woody faster than others, so this approach may not work with some of your lavender plants.

Spanish lavender, (Lavandula stoechas cv.), cultivars have a life span of 3-10 years depending on how they have been cared for. They are prone to splitting open, and will need to be replaced if they are not pruned well.  If they are pruned hard once a year, you can prevent the splitting and prolong the life of the plant. You can cut back as much as ½ of a larger plant.  This is usually best done in early fall, before the chance of frost. These lavenders usually start blooming in April and May. Pruning in the spring may prevent an early spring flowering and promote a late spring/early summer flowering.  Plants pruned in the spring will need to be pruned again before fall, since they will be top-heavy with the long, flowering stems.  They may bloom again later in the summer.  It is also beneficial to lightly prune the plants that have bloomed again, in the early fall, to keep them compact for the winter months.

In general, lavenders should be pruned once a year for the whole life of the plant.  If you start early and prune regularly you should have nicer looking lavender plants for a longer period of time in your garden.

When is best time to pick lavender flowers to dry them?
The English lavenders, (L. angustifolia), and the French lavandins, (L. x intermedia), are best lavenders for drying on the stem. There are certain cultivars that dry better than others, which means that more of the buds (calyces) will stay on the stem when dried. On mature plants, it is hard to cut all the flowering stems at the perfect stage without sacrificing some that are not ready, and others that are too far gone.  However, it is easier to cut all the flowers on a plant all at once, instead of individually.  You will have to watch closely as the plants begin to show more color.  A few of the little flowers (corollas) will start to open on most of the flower stems on a plant.  Usually, they are ready to pick at this stage.  A good indication is when the bees begin to start working the plants.  The colors are dark or bright and most of the flowering stems are in the bud stage, the buds (calyces) are plump, and just a few of the flowers (corollas) have opened on each stem.  For the best color, fragrance, and dried product, you will want to pick most of the lavender and lavandin flowers at this stage.

In Western Oregon, sometimes it is hard to find the right days to harvest lavender flowers. Different cultivars will be ready at different times in June and July depending on the weather conditions.  It is best to harvest the flowers after the dew has dried, but before noon.  Sometimes that is difficult when we have fog or rain at bloom time. You will want to pick the lavender flowers at least one day after it has rained, if possible.  To hasten the drying process, you may need to strip the leaves off the stems so the flowers will dry more quickly.  Hang them upside down in small bunches held together with rubber bands. Choose a drying area that is warm, with good air circulation and low humidity.  Find an area where they will not receive direct sunlight.  The lavender flower bunches should be dried quickly within 3 to 7 days. Remove them from the drying room and store the small bundles loosely in a covered cardboard box, in a cooler area, until you are ready to use them. You can also dry a small bunch upright and loose, in a large vase without water.  (Caution: Do not pack too many stems in a vase at a time or they might mold!)  If you dry a few bouquets upright, you will notice that the flowering stems will have a more natural appearance.  They will droop a little and not be perfectly straight when dried in this manner.

No matter how you dry your lavender, you can expect that a certain amount of the buds will fall off.  Be careful when you are moving the dried bunches and when you are making them into dried bouquets.  Collect the clean, dried buds that have fallen off.  Store the buds in glass jars with lids.   The dried buds can be used later for crafts, potpourris and to fill a variety of sachet bags for gifts. Place dried lavender buds in small bowls to scent a room in your home.

When do I need to think about replacing my lavender plants?
If you are willing to prune and care for your lavender plants, than you can expect the lavenders and the lavandins to last up to 10 years or longer in your garden. They will be woody, but as long as the foliage and the shape of the plants still look attractive and the plants are producing enough flowers, they are worth keeping in your garden. Spanish lavenders will probably need to be replaced before 10 years.