Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lavender and Hardy Look-Alikes

LAVENDER. You love it, I love it, we long to grow it as a perennial in Saskatchewan, but like our long-standing hope of someday getting an IKEA, it’s probably never going to happen.

The type of lavender we’ve been seeing more of at the garden centres and even grocery stores lately is French (AKA Spanish or topped) lavender (Lavandula stoechas), with its pineapple-like flower heads shown in the below photo. It’s gorgeous and sells for shockingly cheap at places like Costco, but it’s only hardy to USDA Zone 7 at the lowest. You can try to bring it in over the winter but attempts to overwinter lavender as a house plant are not generally associated with success due to its high sun requirements, so best to enjoy it for the summer and say au revoir as you sacrifice it to the compost bin after the fall frost. Or, strip off the leaves and flowers to dry for tea all winter long.

(French lavender flower head - By fir0002flagstaffotos [at] gmail.comCanon 20D + Sigma 150mm f/2.8 - Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1499700)

If you’ve heard of folks successfully treating lavender as a perennial in Saskatoon it is most likely a cultivar called Munstead. This is a type of English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) that local greenhouses will often categorize as a perennial. It is hardy to Zone 4, and Saskatoon is a dubious Zone 3. Personally I once had it come back after a mild winter, but it was not a strong plant and did not survive the following winter. I’ve yet to meet anyone who successfully overwinters their lavender year after year in our climate, but if you want to try – find the warmest and most sheltered microclimate in your yard and give it a good mulch in the fall. Or, move to Maple Creek.

(A photo of non-blooming Munstead in the small pot next to some French lavender.)

What’s a lavender lover to do in Saskatoon? Especially if one longs for that look of a stunning lavender field or hedge. It’s not particularly environmentally-friendly or cost-effective to internationally import several dozen lavender plants to make an annual hedge year after year, but there are some passable hardy look-alikes to try.

My favourite plant for the lavender look is Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), which is actually not Russian nor sage. To my eye, this is the one that looks most similar to lavender, at least from a distance, with its spires of lavender-coloured flowers. As a bonus it is beloved by pollinators and smells wonderful.

(Russian sage in Italy - By Lord Koxinga - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8976259)

Other lavender-ish look-alikes that you've probably seen around the city are some hardy species of ornamental sage (Salvia) and speedwell (Veronica). Most of the common cultivars are a darker purple or pink, so not quite similar in colour to lavender, but will still get you that look of purple/blue/pink spikes of flowers and will appear lavender-ish to the untrained eye.

If you see landscaping in the Saskatoon area that looks like a lovely Mediterranean field of lavender, it’s almost guaranteed to be one of those three plants and not actually lavender being used.

All that said - prove me wrong, SHS members! Have you had success overwintering lavender in your garden? Please comment and let us know how you did it!

-Robyn Reist, SHS Blog Editor

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Upcoming Workshop: Grow to Glow with Kim West

We are excited to be offering our first virtual workshop of 2021 - Glow to Grow with Kim West!

The workshop will happen over Zoom on June 5 from 3-5PM. It is FREE for members, and $10 for non-members. 

Kim West is a Master Gardener who has spent countless hours in her garden, finding it to be a place of deep joy, connection, and healing.  Her love of the seasons, plants and nature is interwoven with her broader interests in writing and storytelling through art and poetry and wellness through nutrition, qi gong, forest walks, and mindfulness.  Kim has been a university teacher and researcher for 20 years and is passionate about creating and sharing educational initiatives that interweave the pleasures of gardening with nutrition, the culinary arts, and mindfulness practices.  She often can be found in her garden, meditating, doing qi gong, reading, or harvesting flowers, herbs, and vegetables for delicious meals and wholesome skin care remedies.  Kim holds a PhD and BSc Hons. in Earth Sciences from Carleton University and the University of Saskatchewan, respectively.   She is a culinary nutrition expert and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitator and is undergoing training to become a certified qi gong instructor.

We hope you will join us on June 5! If you are interested in registering, please email info@saskatoonhortsociety.ca. If you are not an SHS member, we encourage you to purchase a $15 membership as it is only an additional $5 above the workshop registration fee, which will pay for itself quickly if you take advantage of our business partner benefits

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Welcome to the blog!

Welcome everyone! The Saskatoon Horticultural Society's Board of Directors recently decided to phase out our quarterly newsletter and replace it with a blog. There are many advantages to this format, including easier viewing on mobile devices, easier sharing on social media, and the ability to post more frequently. 

Submissions to the blog will function similarly to the newsletter - please send submissions to info@saskatoonhortsociety.ca. If you are concerned about having your name published on the internet, we are more than happy to remove your name and simply credit the article to "SHS member" or whatever pen name you'd like to use! Our current newsletter editor, Robyn Reist, is now the blog editor.

We hope you will enjoy reading the blog!