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LAVENDER DAY
July 1, 2004
 
Today is the day: the fragrant stems are long, and the even-more-fragrant purple buds are heavy, so that the stems arc to the ground under their delicious weight. I will leave a few for the bees, just because they've been good bees, but not many -- there are other flowers they can have, and they've been busy on the lavender buds ever since they opened.

Oh, the fragrance! A drive through Provence with the car window open: the smell of lavender rolling in like a wave, mile after mile. The lavender farms of the American northwest. The long row of lavender alongside Mary's house in Sag Harbor, two years old now, should be in fine shape this summer -- I will email her today and suggest that her tenant might want to harvest it.

Cut the stem right down to the bottom, freeing the plant at last from the responsibilities of pregnancy. For the rest of the summer, the leaves -- also fragrant -- will sip sun and grow large and succulent, sending the chemical blessing of photosynthesis to the roots. Tiny plantlets will grow under them, shielded from the sun by the branches above. Some of the branching varieties will lean a branch on the ground like an elbow, and roots will form right then and there, where it touches the soil: a new plant.

Plants have more than one style of evangelism, a variety of ways of making new plants. Seed, root cutting, stem cutting. Many can root from their leaves. Many can graft onto someone else's root -- most rosebushes you buy are on someone else's root. So are all apple trees. Plants don't wait around -- they know the time is short, and they'd better see what they can do to multiply in whatever way is at hand. Sending up this wonderful smell is part of their evangelism strategy: they are using us like bees, tempting us to take their buds and, as we do, sending a few seeds from each one falling to the ground, just in case, as we carry the lovely armload around to the other side of the house and take them inside. Who knows? Maybe a few of them will become plants, in this garden or in someone else's, carried by a bird. Or by a neighbor, with a lavender bouquet. Who knows? The plants always figure it's worth a try.

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We've gotten a slew of wonderful recipes for Good Lord, Let's Eat! A Geranium Farm Cookbook. But we could use a few more. The deadline was yesterday, but take a moment this weekend and send me your favorite -- with its lore.
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