Apparently even I could grow lavender. Or could I?

Doris's lavender

A gorgeous lavender bush in front of the home of our Belleville friend Doris. It got me wildly excited about the possibility of growing lavender at the Manse – excitement that I now strongly suspect was premature.

I haven’t written much about our garden lately, primarily because it is in a shameful state of weediness that I don’t like to think about (or broadcast, though here I am doing exactly that). I find it amusing, though not in a particularly good way, that I seemed to have more time to weed the garden in the two previous summers, when Raymond and I were only able to get to the Manse on the occasional weekend, than this summer when, theoretically at least, we are in full-time residence. The problem is this: we went and planned so much activity (including travel) for this summer that I can’t find any time to experience what I once called the zen of weeding. What I desperately need is one long, sunny, warm-but-not-too-hot-and-not-too-buggy day with nothing else to do, so I can spend it on hands and knees getting those same hands and knees gloriously dirty, pulling out the weeds that are trying to suck the life from our perennials.

But it hasn’t happened yet. Still, even though my garden is weedy, I can continue to dream garden dreams – can’t I?

My latest dream is about having lavender, although I am far from sure that this is a realistic dream.

I was inspired by a recent visit to our friend Doris, who lives in Belleville. Thinking I had discovered something exotic (for southeastern Ontario), I brought Doris a little bouquet of lavender that I discovered for sale at the farmers’ market in Stirling on the way (the long way) to Belleville from our home in Queensborough. I’ve always loved lavender, perhaps partially because of its deep association with beautiful Provence (where Raymond and I spent part of our honeymoon). I am so interested that it is now being successfully grown in some parts of Quebec (notably at the large Bleu Lavande operation in the Eastern Townships) and Ontario – including, obviously, somewhere close enough to Stirling for the product to be sold at the farmers’ market there. It seemed so pleasantly foreign, and so that’s why I picked some up as a little gift for Doris.

So what did Raymond and I see as we pulled into Doris’s driveway? A gloriously healthy lavender bush right there in her front garden!

Of course I felt dopey about bringing something as a gift that she already had in plenty, but I also used the occasion to try to learn something about growing lavender here in our part of the world. Doris told us that the lavender she has success with is the English kind, and she mentioned two varieties, Munstead and Hidcote. When I expressed surprise that they could be grown here, she said it was not a problem at all in Zone 5b. (Do you know about growing zones? Neither do I, particularly, but they are explained here.)

Spot for lavender

I love these big tall bushes of yellow flowers because they happen effortlessly (for me) – but since there is a bit of a surfeit of them, I think some could be removed to make this prominent corner of the Manse’s perennial garden just the spot for lavender. That is, if it’ll grow here.

Okay, so far so good. By the time Raymond and I got back to the Manse we had already decided where we wanted to plant our lavender. I was very excited!

However … it turns out (and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this) that Queensborough, in its north-of-Highway 7 location, is not in Zone 5b, as Belleville, on the shore of Lake Ontario, is. According to this map from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, it isn’t even in Zone 5a, the next-colder one that takes over a bit north of Belleville.

No, once one gets just a bit north of 7, one is in Zone 4b, where winters are colder still; and it looks rather doubtful that lavender would survive that.

Maybe it would, though; the entry on Munstead lavender on this gardening-company site says that it is their most hardy version, and while it lists its growing zones as 5a to 11, it also says that is is “cold-tolerant to Zone 4.” It doesn’t look like Hidcote lavender is a possibility; that one is listed as being in only in Zones 5a-5b for hardiness.

So this is the juncture where I would like to ask my Queensborough-area gardening friends (you know who you are): What are my chances of successfully growing lavender in the Manse’s garden?

Once I get the weeds out, that is.

9 thoughts on “Apparently even I could grow lavender. Or could I?

  1. Hi Katherine, I don’t know what kind of lavender, but I grew some for years over at the Blair House on Cooper Road. You can too!
    Jan Mason

    • Oh wow – that is very encouraging to hear, Jan! I can’t imagine that there’s much difference, growing-ability-wise, between the (magnificent) Blair House and the Manse in Queensborough. So I am hopeful that lavender will be in our future after all – thank you!

  2. I planted lavender for the first time this summer, inspired by Don DeGenova’s lavender on last year’s garden tour. If he can grow it, just south of seven, we should be ok here too. However, mine is in an exposed area – one of the few sunny spots I have, so we’ll see what next winter does to it. One place to buy the right kind of plants for our zone is Richter’s Greenhouse on Hwy 62 north of Foxborough – on the east side. They are very conscientious about advising you honestly.

    • Thank you so much for that excellent advice, Pauline! Richter’s is very convenient for me because it’s right on my drive to and from work, so I will make it a point to stop in soon. Please keep me posted on how your north-of-7 lavender makes out!

  3. It doesn’t take long for the plants to over take our interest…. the nice part is it gives us a winter to wait and see what is blooming out our window. Makes our hibernation that more interesting… North of 7 of course. 😉

  4. I’m glad that some folks are able to give you good advice, after my too optimistic assurance about growing lavender. And remember, if gardening projects don’t turn out perfectly, you can fall back on one of the gardener’s two unanswerable sayings: ” Just wait until next year!” or “But you should have seen it last week!”

    • Now THAT is good gardening advice, Doris – especially for a relatively clueless gardener such as myself. I especially like the “wait until next year” line – it’s what I need to tell myself when I despair about the garden. Thank you!

  5. If I may be so bold can I come get some of your over growth and plant it at the old store.. ? I like to recycle. 😉

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