A superior hardy lavender handles harsh winters and taxing summers with grace and good looks. Phenomenal® achieves that goal in our minds. It has made lavender an accessible garden plant for many who thought they could not grow this beloved herb. As the breeders, we have been working with Phenomenal® for several years. Over time, we’ve learned a lot about the plant, and we would like to share our experiences with you.
Phenomenal’s® best feature is its forgiveness. Guessing which lavender cultivar will grow in a given area is a constant source of frustration for the gardener (and the professional), but Phenomenal® doesn’t have that problem. It handles variations in soil, rainfall, summer humidity, and overwinter in a manner similar to many other popular perennials. As a result, typical gardeners are more likely to have successful lavender plants with Phenomenal® than with any of the other cultivars on the market.
Phenomenal® is a hybrid lavender from English and angustifolia parents. It is a hedging lavender that creates a low bushy shrub of uniform, aromatic silver-green foliage, topped with tall wands of rich lavender-purple flowers. From this shape comes the famous French-style lavender hedges. A mature plant gets about 24 to 36 inches high. It takes about two years for the plant to reach its full height; three in the coldest regions. We like to plant them about 36 inches apart.
When in bloom, Phenomenal’s® flower stems can extend out from three to four feet. It tends to bloom earlier than most lavandins, the first blooms appearing in late spring continuing through midsummer. It is well adapted to perform in both home gardens and commercial growing facilities.
Phenomenal® is rated from USDA Zones 5 to 9, which covers a wide swath of the United States. It is extremely tolerant to summer heat and humidity as well as winter freezes—an unusual feature in hardy lavenders. Overseas, these cultural conditions also cover a wide range of continental Europe (especially the northern parts), Asia, and coastal Australia, where traditional cultivars don’t succeed very well.
We have seen reviews of Phenomenal® where people successfully grow it in both colder zones (such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario) and warmer zones (such as Texas, southern Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia).
One of the key strengths of Phenomenal® is that it behaves more like a standard perennial rather than a fussy lavender. Phenomenal® does well in a typical garden with a prepared bed as found in the yard of many American homes. Heavy clay soils, like those found in Chicago, Kentucky and Georgia, are usually improved above brick status. Given a choice, Phenomenal® does like lighter and leaner soil, so don’t add fertilizers but do add sand. However, if you can grow other popular perennials in your sun garden, you can probably grow Phenomenal®.
A key to success is to drain the water. Soggy soil is the death of all things lavender, and Phenomenal® is no different. It can handle rainstorm puddles, but those puddles should disappear after a day. If not, root rot will probably set in, especially in those temperate zones where Phenomenal® should succeed. If it fails, a water problem is the first suspect on the list.
Phenomenal® reaches the largest size, sends the most blooms, and generates the most oils in full, direct sunshine from morning until night. It can handle some partial shade, but the plant needs a lot of the sun’s energy to create its magic so the more sun, the better.
This plant is tolerant of humidity-based problems that plague the traditional cultivars, and is resistant to common root and foliar diseases. Gardeners tend to give the dormant stems a haircut in the winter to clean up its appearance, but it does not require deadheading or pesticides. In zones under 5, some protection is not a bad idea, but don’t bury the crown to avoid trapping moisture there.