The Pinehurst Garden Club

Gardening Tips


The Pinehurst Garden Club

May 2014

Growing Lavender in the Sandhills by Susan Zanetti

Two varieties of lavender are best suited for success in the Sandhills, Lavandula x intermedia, varieties Grosso and Provence, and Lavendula angustifolia, variety Hidcote. These lavenders will thrive when properly planted. The soil used for Lavender beds needs to be well drained with a pH of 6.5 or higher. Our sandy soils provide good drainage. Prepare your Lavender bed by creating an 18” to 24” mound of sandy soil, you can amend your soil with 1” round stone if needed. Using a trowel dig a hole deep enough for the plant. Add ½ cup total, equal parts bone meal, lime and composted manure in the bottom of the hole and mix well, just like a cake mix! Let your lavender plant sit in a pail of water for about an hour before planting. That way the roots have some time to soak up some water to be well hydrated for planting.  Loosen the wet roots from the pot and place the plant just above your mixture in the hole. Do not let the roots touch the mixture, back fill the hole, level to the base of the plant, water deeply. When planting lavender take into consideration air circulation. Make sure there is plenty of room between your plants. Remember Lavenders are drought tolerant, do not over water your plants. You do not want the roots to rot. Mulch with pea stone, coarse sand, or shells, do not use hardwood mulch. Prune in late winter while still dormant, by the end of February. Amend your plant’s soil in the fall with a small amount of lime, bone meal and compost. I hope this information will make you successful with lavender; it is a really low maintenance herb that rewards you with its wonderful fragrance from April to July.

April 2014


         Impatiens, a favorite annual, seemed such an easy flower to grow, perky, colorful, no deadheading required; simple watering and a little weekly fertilizer gave blooms aplenty.
Now, some folks in the Sandhills are wondering if the rabbits are eating their impatiens
or maybe a stray cat wandered by because of the look of the wilted, collapsed and disappearing little plants. In fact, up and down the East and West Coasts and even into the Mid West, Texas and Ontario, people are asking the same question, “What is killing our impatiens?” 

Something began in the fall of 2011 and has continued until many growers are declining to grow them, but it is not rabbits or cats.


Brisk sellers in the spring here in the Sandhills in various stores, garden centers, and by
the Pinehurst Garden Club plant sale, impatiens now have a mysterious strain of
downy mildew.  This disease is a mold
 (Pkasmopara obducens), that thrives in cool, damp conditions and first appears as a white, downy coating of spores on the undersides of leaves, therefore easy to miss, until one notices the flowers drooping.  The spores on the undersides can disperse if splashed with water or blown by the wind.  More spores are on the stems and these can be released into the soil where they can live through the winter waiting to infect new plants in the



The dangers of this fun plant now outweigh the pleasures since the disease can spread down the
street or be carried for miles by wind.  We are being told to dig up all the diseased plants and bag them for trash removal, and advised not to compost them because the spores can spread.
Some growers and retailers have stopped selling them altogether.


A few local growers have offered some insights. Aberdeen Florist and Garden Center owner Janet Peele explained that the problem is not with a greenhouse such as hers where they are sterile and use only sterile ground.  Very knowledgeable about the disease, she went on to say that the mildew "Can be spread even through some potting soils which are not sterile." To eradicate the problem she suggested leaving the ground fallow for up to five years where impatiens had been planted. Janet and others pointed to the fact that Florida has an even more serious problem, but further north frost usually kills the disease. Pete Gulley of Gulley's Garden Center said that his people had been telling folks here not to plant the impatiens in the same spot for more than two years in a row. "Rotate crops just as farmers should do."  And he reported his son Graham
had just returned from a seminar about the topic.   
Green Haven Plant Farm owner Matt Whitaker said he is not going to grow the impatiens for several years.  He is following advice to take a two year break. "Give the disease a time out and break the life cycle,"  he explained. As the supplier for the Pinehurst Garden Club, next spring he will be offering through the club, SunPatiens and New Guinea Impatiens, neither susceptible to the downy mildew, along with more colors of vinca, some mixed dwarf Zinnias and many additional plants.  The Pinehurst Garden Club, aware of the seriousness of this problem, is planning to promote the replacements and looks forward to taking many pre-orders starting in February.