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Lavender or Catmint - Which Makes the Perfect Purple Edge?

Garden designer Rochelle Greayer weighs the two options for her driveway edge.

Contributors: Rochelle Greayer


I have a rather odd-shaped driveway that makes a sharp right as you get to the top and make your way into the garage. The transition between the asphalt driveway and the gardens that greet me at the top have always stumped me. It has its own particular set of challenges--on one side there is the spot where the plow piles snow each winter, and on the other side there is a hell strip (the area between the asphalt and a rock retaining wall.)

About 8 years ago, I planted a lavender hedge on both sides, hoping to add beauty and fragrance to my landscape. It sort of worked….until 2 years later when the lavender growing on the snowy side completely died over the winter. I lost 20 lavender plants in one fell swoop. I strongly suspect that the winter snow melt lasted too long and caused the plants to have wet feet for longer than they could tolerate. Lavender hates wet feet.

As a result, I had a lopsided driveway planting. I needed a plan to bring back the glory of the two-sided purple haze. Fearing a repeat catastrophe, I opted to replace the lavender with catmint and left the (still happy) lavender on the hell strip side. The plan worked!

Some research into the plants revealed why the lavender died:

  • Lavender doesn’t like wet soil, especially in winter.
  • Lavender is evergreen so it doesn’t die back in winter, making it an easy target for the snowplow.
  • Lavender doesn’t like fertile soil. This side of the driveway tends to trap leaves and rotting debris along the edge, which consequently break down and enrich the soil too much for the lavender's liking.

...And why the catmint lived:

  • Catmint is much more tolerant of wetter soils, even though it isn't super fond of it and is pretty drought tolerant in summer.
  • Catmint dies back in the winter, leaving nothing for the snow plow to catch and in dry winters, nothing for the wind to whip.
  • Catmint doesn’t mind a little leaf litter mixed into the soil, since it improves the drainage.

Live and learn! That's how it goes in the garden. No matter how long we've been doing it, there is always something new to discover.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners. I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own.

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