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.


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.


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.


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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.


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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.


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.



  1. tina said

    I need to be more ruthless in pruning my lavender. I care for a client’s garden and she will be most upset when her lavender dies. It is well on its way despite some pruning and care from me and she cannot understand its downward spiral. It is in shade and crowded, and pretty old. But fortunately we’ve got more planted. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Janet said

    Hi Helen, an inch of foliage? Wow! I got a lavendar last fall, haven’t pruned it…it has bloomed beautifully, but will prune it this year. I have it in a pot to keep it from having wet feet. Mineis Lavender angustfolia ‘Munstead’. So far, so good.

  3. Yes Janet, I had the same reaction. But when you think about it, it keeps it tight. My lavender, esp the 2 and 3 year, gets leggy, woody, and gnarly; I’m hoping by doing this pruning it will keep it perky too. If it doesn’t work, at least I won’t have to look at the ratty plant in the winter. H.

  4. Yes Janet, I had the same reaction. But when you think about it, it keeps it tight. My lavender, esp the 2 and 3 year, gets leggy, woody, and gnarly; I’m hoping by doing this pruning it will keep it perky too. If it doesn’t work, at least I won’t have to look at the ratty plant in the winter. H.
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  5. Annie is wonderful! I so enjoyed visiting last year, but we were in Lynchburg last weekend as my husband was playing acoustic bass for a band for a charity fundraiser.

    I have trimmed lavender regularly, sometimes 3x a year. If we have day-after-day of rain, the thick Spanish lavender still can’t dry out in the middle. I have 5 large ones left, but pulled a lot of 4 year-olds this year.

    ‘Munstead’ was tricky at first, but now it’s one of my best lavenders. It has a very sweet fragrance. I’ve edged a re-designed bed with it after pulling out the invasive ligustrums.

    Our future garden plans include putting a path above the deer resistant garden and planting a lavender/herb garden on the upper side along the meadow. I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to take care of that much more garden, so it may never happen!


  6. Racquel said

    Thanks for the tour. I bought Hidcote earlier this month so I’m not sure if I’ll have blooms this year or not. But I’m glad I stopped by, I didn’t realize you needed to give it that drastic of a haircut, that might explain my problems with growing it in the past. 🙂

  7. Hey Racquel, I switched over to Spanish lavender after many attempts at Provence. Once I fully understood lavender to be so short lived, I thought I would go back to growing Provence. But when I look back at the photos, I’m loving the deep rich color the Spanish offers. I may add a Provence for sentimental reasons – from my many visits to France, but otherwise, I’ll stick to Spanish – specifically ‘Otto Quast’.

    I am really looking forward to meeting you and Janet! I’m packing a camera, so bring your garden charm – the one that is sure to shine in front of the lens.

  8. TC said

    Of all the herbs, lavender is my favorite. It’s scent triggers the erotic in me!

  9. Hey TC, I will remember that when we meet! H.

  10. I want to go back already. Sure did enjoy seeing you that day.

  11. Chris said

    When is the best time to plant lavender? Fall or Spring?

  12. Hey Chris, I plant mine in the spring. I find there to be no value to plant in the winter. Our winters tend to be wet and lavender don’t like getting wet. Remember, if you do plant in the fall, if it looks dead in the spring, don’t give up until May. If it still looks dead in May, they its dead. H.

  13. I live in Michigan and did a light fall prune on my lavender…I am worried that this might have been a mistake…any comments would be welcome!
    GartenGrl at Planning Plants to Plant

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