When we decided to offer my late mom's attached apartment as a vacation rental this summer to help pay the bills, we knew exactly what to call it.
We dubbed it Lavender Cottage, after the 52 lavender plants that line the stone walks leading to both it and the main house. From a glider on the cottage's screened porch, you can usually enjoy the heady, sun-warmed scent as it wafts in on the slightest breeze.
In keeping with the theme, we hung a dainty porcelain disk inscribed with "Lavender" in flowing script from a porch post, to distinguish the cottage from the main house. Two antiqued "Lavender" garden stakes mark the bushes that hug the walk.
In the bedroom, a triple vase matching the matalasse bedspread holds bunches of dried lavender. Lavender soaps and lotions, and sachets sewn in white cotton embroidered with a lavender flower design, peek out from a white woven basket. In the bathroom, a brushed pewter soap pump dispenses lavender body wash.
So it was with dread that we watched spring unfold without the usual tell-tale signs of our slumbering lavender plants awakening. By early summer it was clear that many of the bushes — planted by my father shortly before his death in 2000 — were themselves dead. Damaged by our unusual spring followed by winter followed by spring, they were finally destroyed by the now-infamous March storm.
Instead of dramatic hedges of full green bushes topped by fragrant purple spikes, sparse borders of spindly plants alternating with round piles of lifeless woody stems greet visitors to the lavender's namesake cottage.
It would be easy enough to replace the bushes with garden store stock. But I don't want just any lavender. I want the lavender my dad grew in his greenhouse from seeds I brought home from France. When the first batch didn't take, he started all over, planting and nurturing dozens of tiny seeds in tiny peat pots.
Now, when we need their descendants. there are none to be had. The lavender "nursery" we usually keep for additional landscaping and for plants to give away, is empty.
So in addition to maintaining the house and the cottage and the yard and the waterfront this summer, we're busy making lavender babies by pulling down living stems and anchoring them in the dirt with stones.
Maybe by next summer Lavender Cottage will live up to its billing.
Reach staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos at firstname.lastname@example.org.