It isn’t easy to grow lavender in Oklahoma, but it is well worth it. Drainage is the biggest issue. Lavender, like many Mediterranean herbs, wants sharp drainage. As the hosts on BBC’s Gardeners’ World are always so fond of stating, lavender likes a “gritty compost.” Translated to American-speak, that means gritty potting soil.
Growing lavender grows happiness
If you can grow lavender in Oklahoma, your garden will be filled with pollinators like carpenter bees, honey bees, and small butterflies. Even when the lavender isn’t blooming, if you run your hands across it, its intoxicating scent will waft over you. It’s almost like having a spa day in the garden.
For years, trying to grow lavender in Oklahoma successfully eluded me. It does not like our red clay or even our red sand. What plant does like red clay you ask?
Maybe horrible bull thistle, but it’s invasive so we don’t want to grow it. Lavender hates Oklahoma’s soil so much it will turn up its roots and die in protest.
Grow lavender in containers
My answer to our clay soil is to grow lavender in containers and raised beds. If you’re growing lavender in containers, cactus soil is great, or you can add perlite or grit to it. I find coarse chicken grit works fine.
I have almost finished edging my entire potager in various lavender varieties. According to this fabulous article in American Gardener magazine, written by Barbara Perry Lawton, there are 20 to 40 species of lavender in the Lavandula genus.
Wow, just wow. Lavender is very old and very complicated.
Testing lavender in the garden
A couple of years ago, I mentioned I was going to test a few lavenders in my kitchen garden/potager. Well, I have done it, and I have a few favorites. Since lavender is expensive, it’s taken two seasons to finish the border. If I were a normal person, I would have used the same plant throughout, but part of the gardening fun for me is diversity.
The first lavender in our hit parade is the fabulous ‘Phenomenal’ Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ PP24193, a French lavender hybrid that was found in a garden. I love this tall lavender and have used it in two different borders of the potager.
Small space? Try a dwarf variety
If you need a shorter lavender, try L. angustifolia, SuperBlue, a dwarf variety, that tops out at 10-12 inches tall and wide. I got my first test plant from Darwin Perennials and bought several more to edge the potager from American Meadows. I usually have to replace one plant of this variety in the border each spring. I can’t explain why I lose one, but it happens. Still, it’s very, very pretty.
The honey bees are most attracted to L. angustifolia ‘Blue Scent,’ which I bought last year from Bonnie Plants at Lowe’s. This lavender grows as large as ‘Phenomenal,’ but it is a lighter blue the flower shape is a little different.
This spring I bought two new lavenders for another raised bed in the potager. In early spring, I ordered L. angustifolia ‘Sharon Roberts.’ Not a new variety, it was named for the hybridizer’s wife in 1989. It has a darker blue flower head. According to Victor’s Lavender, “It is suitable for ornamental hedging because it has a long blooming period and strong fragrance.” Apparently, it will rebloom if cut back.
The plants were quite small, and will probably not do much until next year especially since Pup Francis dug them up several times. I only lost one plant though.
Another new variety to my garden this year is L. angustifolia ‘Royal Velvet.’ It is a small to medium-sized variety with large, dark purple bloom spikes. I bought mine from Victor’s Lavender.
After blooming, cut back
Once the plants are finished blooming, I cut them back. I got rebloom on SuperBlue lavender this year which is fun. It’s bloomed most of summer. ‘Phenomenal’ is still blooming, and I’ll cut it back as soon as the bees tire of it which won’t be long. Then, I try to keep it evened up. It usually stayed evergreen (gray) throughout winter. Occasionally, I lose a plant or two, and since I know the varieties and where they’re planted, I can replace them the following spring. Of the varieties I have, ‘Phenomenal’ is the largest. I wrote about how lavender gives me hope earlier this spring.
All of the lavender is planted on the edges of the potager so it’s against the concrete brick walls of the garden beds. I should have them fully surrounded next spring. I water everything with Netafim drip irrigation. Bill buys the parts for the irrigation system from Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply in Oklahoma City.
This little dissertation on lavender is for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day hosted by Carol Michel at May Dreams Gardens. She is also my partner in crime on our garden podcast, The Gardenangelists. We have a new episode this week on Bulb Buying Advice, Garlic Buying Advice, and a Podcast Recommendation. We hope you’ll give us a listen. We spoke about lavender a few weeks ago here.