Archive for June 18, 2009

Sunshine Lavender Farm near Hillsborough, NC

I read about it, heard about it, wondered about it.  I finally found the time to visit the Sunshine Lavender Farm.  The afternoon was delightful with an added bonus of hooking up with  a blogging buddy, Anna at Flower Garden Girl.  Anna will tell you too, it was a delightful visit.

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There was a country feel to the farm with quilts hanging from the close line, a fenced-in herb garden, lavender drying in the hayloft, chickens scratching for somethin’ in the dirt and kids enjoying themselves as much as the grownups.  That’s country.

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The purpose of my visit was to learn the secrets to growing lavender.  I grow lavender in the Herb Garden at Helen’s Haven, albeit short lived and looking ratty in the winter.  I always found the look of my winter lavender plants disturbing.  I wanted to learn from the best and figure out what I was doing wrong.

Annie Baggett with her lavender pruners

Annie Baggett with her lavender pruners

During this open farm day, Annie Greer Baggett, ever charming, gave tours of her lavender farm.  After listening to Annie explain the various varieties that can grow in our area and how to properly grow them against the odds of clay and humidity, I had an ah-ha moment.

When my plants go ratty in the winter, I haven’t failed at growing lavender – completely; I failed at giving lavender each of the four conditions for successful growth.  The area of my particular lacking was by not giving lavender an annual pruning.  Without it, the lavender plants will look ratty in the winter.

FOUR CONDITIONS LAVENDER NEED

During the tour, Annie shares with us the 4 conditions for successful lavender:

  1. Sun – At least 6 hours of full sun.
  2. Good drainage – High and dry and a lean soil.
  3. Good air circulation – The plants don’t like to touch.
  4. Annual pruning – Halloween is best; Valentine’s Day is second best.  Leave 1 inch of foliage.

LAVENDER VARITIES

Several lavender varieties grow well in our area (Zone 7 in the Piedmont section of North Carolina.)  Local garden centers typically offer those that thrive locally.  But to be on the safe side, refer to the plant tag; it will indicate hardiness.

Lavandula angustifolia Dutch and Hidcote.

Lavandula x intermedia – Grosso and Provence.

Lavandula stoechas – Spanish lavender.

LAVANDULA AUGUSTIFOLIA

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Hidcote. Hidcote has dark purple, fat flowers that begin to bloom around Memorial Day, a compact lavender growing about 18″ – 24” tall and wide.  Hidcote dries nicely and with a scent that is a favorite with Brides.

LAVANDULA X INTERMEDIA

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Grosso.  Grosso has the highest oil content of all of the lavenders.  Medium purple blooms open in Mid June, growing 24″-30″ tall and wide.  Grosso dries well and stays on the stem making it a nice lavender for use in crafts such as wreaths and floral arrangements.

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Provence.  Provence is fragrant, tall and lovely.  Probably the lavender that got you interested in lavender in the first place.  Pale purple flowers open in early June, growing 36″ tall and wide.  Provence is used in cooking and for crafts using the florets in things such as sachets.

LAVANDULA STOECHAS

Herb garden at Helen's Haven
Spanish lavender in the Herb Garden at Helen’s Haven

Spanish.  Spanish lavender is the first to bloom in at the farm and at Helen’s Haven. This is the lavender I grow the most.  The florets are notable with “Rabbit Ears” which are actually sterile bracts.  With a spicy scent, long lasting, growing 24” tall and round, Spanish is used in arrangements and ornamental crafts.

With one from each of these species, you will have lavender blooms from Memorial Day until the fourth of July.

Once established, lavender is very drought tolerant.  Also deer and rabbit resistant with spring being the perfect time for planting.  I can’t imagine not having lavender in my garden.  Now that I know the four conditions to growing this lovely herb, I’m sure to be pleased with its behavior – even in winter.


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