I usually compile a list of must-haves for my garden each year. Last year, for some reason, I had lost three lavender plants that I had for almost four years. Lavender can be a tricky one to grow in our area. I have used some tamed varieties of catmint (or cat nip — you choose) for their place instead but once in a while, I can get lucky and can grow actual lavender. This past year would have been a good time to do it but who can predict how much snowfall a person gets each year. The snow acts as wonderful insulation. You can still grow lavender to your hearts content here but it just might not make it through the winter. If you have the time to really look for them, you can find some zone 4 lavender plants to grow in our area. On the Yard and Garden newsletter, you can find some great information on growing lavender at https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/02/good-lavenders-for-north.html#comments.
So why try to raise these little gems in your garden? First, they are beautiful plants. They have a wonderful blue green to silver colored foliage. Second, their fragrance is wonderful. And third, our pollinators love them too. There are various varieties that have mostly different heights so that should be taken into consideration. Even if there has been some adequate research on the mentioned varieties in this column, I would take care to mulch them quite well in the winter. I would also consider it luck that they make it reliably through the winter. You could go down a different path and plant them in containers, moving them inside to your own private winter garden. Lavender plants will do well in our alkaline soils but in many areas there are some heavy compacted soils that the plants may not do as well or they might be slow in performing as far as flowering goes. The also prefer full sun. I have tried my hand at growing them in sun/shade conditions and they have not done as well. The great part of growing lavender is that while they may seem picky, they have relatively few diseases or insect problems. If you happen to have a situation where you have continual problems with deer and rabbits, this plant may be your answer. They produce some natural chemicals that these four legged pests do not like so they are not keen on nibbling on lavender for that reason.
The following are the lavender varieties that are zone 4 tested but again, in certain growing conditions, they may not be a reliable plant for your garden year after year. The varieties to choose from are: “Imperial Gem,” “Royal Velvet,” “Munstead,” “SuperBlue,” “Jean Davis,” “Niko/Phenomenal” and “Sharon Roberts.” You may find that some of the plants tend to look more along the lines of a good Veronica plant than lavender. It might be interesting to mix the two along with some of the white and red Veronica annual plants that you can now purchase for added interest in a border.
If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, please either go to the U of M Extension’s webpage https://extension.umn.edu/master-gardener/become-master-gardener. We can use new volunteers in the Lyon County and surrounding areas! If you like to garden and to like to talk to people who are also gardening, this is the volunteer program for you! Please contact me about becoming a Master Gardener or about your gardening questions by emailing me at email@example.com