Winter Lavender


When you think of Montana in the winter months you probably picture it covered in snow. And that is typical. It has been like that all 2016/17, and though we got a late start - the middle of December - this year 2017/18 is on track for typical.


There were some such as 2009, the year I lost 90% of my original crop, when winter started in early October (about a month earlier than is normal) and since then and up until 2013/14 there were a handful that would've made you think our state had relocated to the Oregon coast.


Winter used to be so much more predictable in the Intermountain States. It would show up on Halloween night (and you were smart to think of a warm costume) and aside from a predictable January thaw, would stick around until Easter. Anymore with the obvious effects of global warming it seems fickle as any cat.


I am grateful that snow does fall, and seemingly right on cue to avert disaster. Each winter we can get two serious bouts of sub zero temperatures. Sub zero. I can't tell you how many times these sub zero predictions have come a mere week after I was still outside barefooted. And I'm always on pins and needles wishing there could be a languid slide into cold weather rather than an abrupt cliff. My small plantation is still green and looking very much alive when this forecast comes in. Miraculously, the last two years, and I recall another in 2006, at least a foot of snow falls from a gray sky. Sometimes it happens only a few hours before I watch the temperature guage plummet.


Most lavender varieties fit in the USDA zone 5 category. This is a broad and general classification based on what minimum (antiquated U.S.A.) Fahrenheit temperature the plants will sustain without serious injury. Zone 5 indicates to -20°F, that's negative 20. Any temperature below that, a plant with no cover/protection will not survive. I have, on a few occasions noted plants surviving uncovered to minus 20°F, but that all above ground growth is killed. In this case the roots survive and then push all new top growth the following spring. This can cause a delayed harvest and certainly a sparse one but the next year, barring any drastic weather event, the harvest is right as rain.


So the lavender farmer in high elevations or areas with drastic weather prays for generous snow cover or is otherwise prepared (another post for another day). The photo shows exactly what you want it to look like.


I have always said, and it is a belief among the general public that lavender makes it on the list of being deer proof. Yes, once it is mature and the volatile oils are active the plant is not so much desired by the over-grown rodentia. However, if, as it has happened with mine in the past, the plants are green and lush when all the land is suddenly covered by snow, I guarantee you the deer will uncover and eat them to the nubbin.


Last year after wasting entirely too much energy shoveling snow back on as fast as they removed it or running out dressed in my skivvies screaming like the mad woman my neighbors all have me pegged out to be, it is with great relief that I enjoy the fence I had installed around the perimeter fall of 2017. Though I do feel sorry watching them peel the sand papery leaves off the prickly teasel plants...but not that sorry.

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