by David Salman
Grown since ancient times, lavender has been a beneficial companion to mankind for thousands of years. This genus of perennial herbs is a source for healing, fragrant oil, culinary spices and beautiful, aromatic plants for our gardens.
We’ve expanded our Lavender selection for 2018, adding new varieties that tolerate humid summer heat, have exceptionally ornamental foliage or are twice-blooming Lavenders.
New Lavender Selections for Spring 2018
Phenomenal French Hybrid Lavender PP#24193 (Lavandula intermedia 'Phenomenal')
Introduced in 2012, 'Phenonmenal' is a "sport" (natural genetic mutation) of 'Grosso'. Testing across the country and in Europe has demonstrated that this cultivar has improved winter cold hardiness and exceptional tolerance to humid summer heat.
It's a big grower and can reach a mature width of 3 feet. The silver-gray foliage is lovely and the dark blue flowers and calyxes are very beautiful. Gardeners in the eastern US are reporting that 'Phenonmenal' has thrived where other varieties have failed. But fast draining, non-clay soil and gravel mulch will still be needed to keep it healthy in colder, moister climates. Zones 5 - 9.
Fred Boutin French Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Fred Boutin')
This variety is grown for both its very tall, long blooming light blue flower spikes and its exceptionally ornamental foliage. The leaves are quite large and noticeably more silver when compared to other French hybrids. Mix it in with darker colored varieties like 'Hidcote Superior', 'Munstead Violet' and 'Phenomenal' to provide a pleasing contrast of flower colors. Zones 6-9.
Buena Vista English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia'Buena Vista')
Enjoy an extended show of flowers with this twice blooming English lavender. Chubby medium blue flowers cover the plant in late spring/early summer. When promptly deadheaded by mid-summer, 'Buena Vista' will re-bloom in early fall. When planted with French hybrid lavender, you'll enjoy having lavender blooms for the entire growing season! Zones 5-10.
I have a very strong affection for this group of plants and have enjoyed growing the cold hardy English and French hybrid varieties in my New Mexico gardens for the last 30 years.
Native to the Old World, lavender species can be found across the Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa and into southwestern Asia. Depending on the species, Lavender is also at home in North America with the English (L. angustifolia), Spanish (L. stoechas) and French hybrid (L. intermedia) varieties being the most familiar and widely grown.
The western US is arguably the best region for lavender cultivation, as these plants do best in more arid conditions and prefer "lean" (humus deficient, mineral-rich) soils, with fast drainage. Planting in spots with good air circulation and a full day of hot sun is also essential.
Regions that have too much precipitation, rich soil and summer heat combined with high humidity are not favorable to long-term growing success for lavender plants in the ground. But if this describes where you live, don't despair. Lavender makes a fine potted perennial and can be kept healthy and blooming for many years in containers.But plants can surprise us, so I always suggest looking around to see what types and selections of lavender are successful in your hometown. Phenomenal French Hybrid Lavender is one such exception and does better in high humidity conditions than other Lavenders.
Extend the Bloom Season by Planting Both English and French hybrids
English lavender blooms in late spring/early summer while the French hybrids bloom mid-summer. Plant varieties from both these groups to have fragrant, bee-attracting flowers for most of the growing season. And if you chose twice blooming English varieties like 'Buena Vista', 'Sharon Roberts' and 'Pastors Pride', you'll enjoy an extra 4 weeks of flowers in early fall.
Diversity in the landscape is highly desirable. And the use of companion plants (plants with that have similar growing requirements, bloom at the same time with complimentary flower colors and have contrasting foliage colors and textures) will make your garden more aesthetically pleasing and more beneficial to pollinators.
Lavender makes a great companion plant for perennials and ornamental grasses like:
- Hummingbird Mints (Agastache)
- Beardtongue (Penstemon)
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera)
- Sage (Salvia)
- 'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama grass (Bouteloua)
- Prairie Switchgrass (Panicum)
- Little Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium)
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