Living in Lavender.

Russ Murray
4 min readAug 16, 2022

Day 173 / 2022 Photo Project365

A year (or two?) ago, I filled my mind with images of Provence in bloom and decided to plant a dead patch of wannabe “garden” soil behind our house with lavender. The rough rectangle of soil — roughly 9′ x 12′ encircled by the foundation on one side and a low, crumbling stone wall on the other three — was heavy with clay despite years of mulching. This patch of ground refused to grow anything other than weeds, alliums, and one persistent rose bush. Someone told me that lavender can grow in “crap” soil, so I hoped my freshly bought potted lavender plants would flourish there.

The first season (or second?) of lavender flowers yielded 30 bunches (each a “handful” of stalks), half of which we gave away dried or made into fragrant sachets as gifts for friends and visitors. The rest was put aside to make into soap during the winter, which never happened, so we had a head start for this year. Somehow, in that dense, unwelcoming soil, each lavender plant had grown from its nursery-potted origins, spreading so wide that I came to understand why they said “plant lavender three feet apart” and regretted not doing so…

By springtime of season two (or three?), the lavender plants had become mature shrubs roughly two feet high, with shaggy, cedar-like bark on their sprawling branches. Thick clusters of dusty blue-green leaves sprouted along and at the end of every branch, as they prepared to ready to flower. This year, the yield from these mature plants was doubled — 60 bunches — it would be a busy winter making soaps and sachets for loved ones!

But during the prime picking weeks of mid-July through mid-August, as I bent, crouched, squatted, reached, pulled, and clipped my way through the harvest, I discovered an entire ecosystem living in, on, around, and under the lavender in my little patch of crappy soil! Most active all around me were the honeybees, bumblebees, and small white butterflies — a pollinator feeding frenzy! So I was careful to only pick blossoms after they closed, faded, and had no more pollen to give. This slowed me down, but the picking process became my daily meditation and calming communion with nature. Here are a few of the creatures living in my patch of lavender, which I paused to photograph…

Russ Murray

My photographs, daft/deft words, haikus, observations, and musings.