Candy Traven enjoys her 'Phenomenal' lavender. Photo:

We can grow many great plants in the South, but up until now traditional lavender hasn't been one of them. It didn't like our soil and climate and would collapse and die in a heartbeat. But now there's hope with a new lavender that's simply 'Phenomenal.'

Actually, 'Phenomenal' is its name. It's disease-resistant, tolerates heat and humidity, and is also deer-proof. Its purple blooms are extremely fragrant, not like those of the Spanish lavender (Lavendula stoechas) we've been forced to settle for in the South. They're good for cutting, making sachets, and so forth. Their high oil content makes them perfect for use in baking, cocktails, and other delectables.

Who do we have to thank for this Herculean herb? Wholesale plant growers Lloyd and Candy Traven of Peace Tree Farm in Kitnersville, Pennsylvania. Lloyd recounts their discovery of 'Phenomenal.'

"We were doing custom propagation for a lavender farm," he says, "including varieties like 'Grosso,' 'Hidcote,' 'Munstead,' 'Edelweiss,' and others. Losing them by the thousands---EXCEPT one patch in one flat of 'Grosso' [the most widely planted kind in France and renowned for fragrance] that was glowing like a pulsar and thriving. We separated and watched and started selecting. Did trials alongside regular 'Grosso' and the other varieties in areas where we knew there was disease in the soil, and it simply does not die. Saw how incredibly UNIFORM it is. It has trialed all over the planet now... simply, a quantum leap in performance compared to any others."

The 'Phenomenal' Facts


'Phenomenal' lavender has been tested all over the South, including such prominent trial gardens as the Dallas Arboretum and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and passed with flying colors. It grows well in hot, sticky Florida, where other lavenders go to die. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide, with silvery-green foliage. It's hardy throughout the South (USDA Zones 5-10). Give it full sun and excellent drainage.

Drainage is the key. Don't expect great things if you plant it in wet clay. Lean, gritty soil is much better. Its need for good drainage makes it an excellent choice for growing in containers filled with good potting soil.

Where To Buy With luminaries like Grumpy going gaga over this plant, you shouldn't have trouble finding it in garden centers this spring and summer. Go out and buy a plant -- before I buy all of them for me.