They said it couldn’t be done, but finally, there’s a new type of lavender that looks good all winter. Appropriately dubbed ‘Phenomenal’, it’s so good, in fact, that it’s now being used for municipal plantings. To understand the hype, I bought three plants last year for a trial run. What I discovered was nothing short of, well, phenomenal.
A NEW DAY FOR LAVENDER
Who doesn’t love what’s exciting and new? This variety checks all the right boxes. Exceptionally tolerant of both hot and cold weather, Phenomenal lavender is built to withstand nature’s trials. Not only does it retain its foliage through the winter without dying back, it also stands up to humidity. And that’s no small feat for a species that hails from the dry, hot climates of Africa, Europe and Asia.
But wait – there’s more! Phenomenal’s wands of deep purple flowers are highly fragrant, which according to its breeders, is due to the plant’s high oil content. Moreover, the flowers are darker than most traditional lavenders and they last longer; blooming from mid-summer all the way until fall.
Phenomenal lavender’s flowers are highly fragrant.
But for me, Phenomenal’s strongest appeal lies in its hardiness. The plant looks amazing in winter, maintaining its silvery grey foliage atop a neat, compact mound. Here in Maryland it’s the beginning of February and, as you can see, my plants are still holding their own.
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ in February
Now compare that to my Provence lavender, below.
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ in February
HEDGING YOUR BETS
So why is Phenomenal lavender being used in municipal plantings? First, because it requires little to no maintenance. Since it naturally forms bushy, rounded mounds, it seldom needs pruning. And in all but the coldest climates, its drought-tolerant foliage stays silvery-green all year round.
Furthermore, this variety is the ideal size. Topping out at 24 inches with a spread of just under 4 feet, it’s the perfect plant for hedging. Now, thanks to Phenomenal, we Americans can grow the classic, purple hedgerows that so remind us of France. And who doesn’t yearn for a taste of Provence?
Who doesn’t long for a lavender hedgerow?
A PHENOMENALLY DRY SENSE OF HUMOR
Perhaps due to its growing popularity, lavender is now a denizen of most American gardens. Yet, I often find it planted in all the wrong places, in particular part-shade. Like all lavender varieties, Phenomenal needs full sun to thrive. That means 6 hours or more of direct sunlight a day.
Regardless of the variety, if your plant is located in part shade (or worse, shade), it isn’t happy. Consider transplanting it to an area of the garden where it can sunbathe daily. This will not only help it maintain its shape, but also ensure it produces masses of purple flowers for you to enjoy throughout the growing season.
Healthy lavender plants look like this.
Once established, Phenomenal lavender (like all lavenders) is drought-tolerant. Unlike most perennials, it performs best in dry to medium, even poor, light soil. Excellent drainage and good air circulation are key.
And since lavender likes things dry, you should go easy on the mulch (whose job is to retain moisture.) Keep it away from the base of the plant, or better yet, consider mulches like ground shells or white gravel to reflect light back onto the plant and to allow for better drainage.
White gravel used as mulch.
Looking for more information on types of lavender and how to maintain them? Check out Soleado Lavender Farm, a family-owned business located in Dickerson, Maryland. It’s my go-to reference for all things lavender.