December 20, 2021
I have always believed that education was the best way to be successful and that you didn't have to sit in a classroom to learn everything. My approach to learning was always learned by hands on. I have to use all my senses to truly understand. When it came to growing lavender in such as harsh climate as Georgia, well for lavender it is, I needed to learn as much as I could about it if I wanted to become a successful lavender grower.
My first travel was to a lavender farm in North Carolina before I even planted my first field. I wanted to see if lavender could possibly grow in Georgia and which varieties this farm was growing. Luckily they were having a Lavender festival allowing guests to visit. I made a date with my daughter and went. Their plot of lavender was small, just an area right after parking, but their knowledge of lavender activities were great. We were taught how to make lavender wands, a very popular way of weaving the lavender to incase the blooms inside the overplayed stems. This was a very popular activity during the Victorian era to place wands in drawers to keep clothes smelling good and keep moths away from destroying the linens. She also had a small shed that held her homemade lavender products for sale. Finally before leaving, they had a lesson on how to debud the dried lavender. The aroma was so intoxicating that I was hooked and knew then I had to learn how to grow lavender on my farm and allow guests to visit so they too could learn about this amazing herb.
My next travel my daughter, sister, and I decided to take a "girls trip" to the Provence area of France to experience the lavender fields together. Where else to make a great to spend time together while learning about lavender. We went the first weeks of July when I had heard they fields would all be in full bloom. Most were in bloom, but some not. Bloom time, like any where, is all depended on the weather - how many cloudy or sunny days and the temperatures. We actually visited several lavender farms and spoke in depths with the owners, going into the fields and seeing the composition of the soil, the condition and varieties of the plants grown there. One lavender farm had lavender florets (buds), wands, and essential oil for sale from a modified wagon that had a front flap on it to open and close the shop.
I heard that while in Europe the farmers must rotate their crops from lavender, to wheat, and herbs. Not a bad idea to help the soil and their soil is so much older being farmed than here in there United States. I was also glad that too battle weeds.
I also visited the local distiller and got a tour of how they distill in large quantities, taking the harvested lavender from the different local lavender farms. It was interesting that not all the farms had their own distiller, but helped one another to get an ending product. They also had the history of distillation over the centuries and their uses. The distiller also had a small shop with different essential oils, from lavandin (Intermedia) and lavandula (Angustifolia) lavender, to rosemary and all the different products made for lavender essential oil. Prices were very reasonable compared to the United States, mostly likely to having so many lavender farms in one huge area and distilling on a very large scale. Check the photo to the sizes of their distilling drums - so big they have to have them in the ground and compact the lavender down with a tractor tire with cement inside of it. It's so heavy they must use a crane and pulley to lift the tire. The containers of essential oil were out of this world, so huge!
We had to take in a trip to Senanque Abbey in Gordes, France, because I have seen the long rows of purple lavender planted in and among the grounds of the Abbey.. The history alone is amazing with all the civil wars and how they to this day the monks still feed the poor in their area by growing wheat and making bread. If you visit the Abbey be sure you are dressed correctly to be able to take the tour inside. This is one place not to miss on your travels in Provence. There is such a stillness and peace there. Breathtaking!
What educational trip to Provence would be without taking a tour of the lavender museum. There we learned which varieties of lavender they most commonly grow in France and how to recognize the two main types, Lavandin and Lavandula Lavender. The trick in in the branching below the bloom.
My week was a joy, visiting the shops, walking the town's cobbled streets and lined with their 16th - 18th century houses, taking in the views from their elevation, enjoying tasty French cuisine at the outdoor cafes in Bonnieux and exploring the lavender fields across Provence. If you are going to grow lavender I highly recommend traveling to Provence area of France and learn all you can about lavender there. This area not only grows lavender, but have many vineyards, olive groves, and, apricots, and to stand next to the superb Roman bridge that was built in the reign of Emperor Augustus (27 BC - 12 AD) It's truly a magical place! I want to return for a longer visit.
The following year my husband, David, and I visited Ireland to see the town where his ancestors came from. We also walked the Causeway, went kayaking into the ocean caves, stood on the Pillars, and walked through The Dark Hedges, and visited another Lavender Farm. Who would know Ireland had a lavender farm, but they do and this one also had a wonderful cafe with many taste lavender treats to try. She grew many varieties of Lavandin (English culinary) showing off their amazing colors of white, pick, and all the ranges of purple. Her lavender blooms were so huge! I had to take a photo with them.
When I started growing lavender I thought that the lavender in the fields should all be the same size and then was disappointed when some plants did not make it due to weather or voles and had to replant, making the field showing plants of different sizes. I learned that it's the same at the fields in France, Arizona, North Carolina, and even Ireland. Lavender is a crop and some of the plants make it and some do not. All the farms battled weeds. I think whenever you farm there is work involved, but also joy of accomplishment.
I also learned some great tips on growing lavender, but also steam distillation, harvesting methods, and even some ideas of new products for my shop. By meeting other lavender farm growers we can share together to make our farming of lavender easier, more interesting, and even learned about more lavender varieties. We are always learning here at our own farm, from planting improvements to being expanding the farm to make our farm a great place to visit. It's defiantly a passion to garden, including growing lavender.
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