Category Archives: Tidbits & Facts

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Taking lavender cuttings without a greenhouse

In 2009 I went to a Lavender conference in Cambridge, UK and got a chance to visit the amazing Downderry Nursery owned by Simon Charlesworth. He has created the best greenhouse system I’ve seen for propagating and growing lavender. On a scant 2 acres of land they produce about 400 cultivars of lavender for sale. It was inspiring!

The greenhouses were engineered to be perfectly level so they could easily water the starts from below which helps with disease problems from watering above.

They had a special greenhouse just for rooting the cuttings that was held at an even 70º F and the cuttings rooted quite quickly under their care.

Coming home to our greenhouse with its lack of power and electricity, and the lack of means to build what we had seen, we thought about other ways to propagate our lavender. Back in 2002 I had visited a lavender grower in Nyons, France, who taught me that lavender can be propagated right in the ground. While there are problems doing that if you are going to be selling lavender plants commercially because the dirt in your ground isn’t sterile, it’s a great way to propagate for your own uses.

Preparing the beds

Making the beds for outdoor propagating can be somewhat formal as these framed ones are, or you can build rows in your fields. Whatever you do, you will have to be prepared to weed them during the rooting time.

The beds need to have level soil so there won’t be puddling when you water them.

Taking the cuttings

Sometimes you have to hunt around in the plant to find the right branches for cuttings. You’ll want to have a good attachment to the main stem, as well as a good leaf structure to sustain the cutting until it roots.

When you take off the branch you will see a “heel” from where you gently tore it off the main stem. This is good. Roots grow more easily from that heel.

You can see the leaves that are on the bottom part of the cutting, remove them up about 3/4 of an inch because you don’t want the leaves to be in the soil.

After removing the bottom leaves, you’ll pinch off the top part so the bud that will try to flower won’t be there. You want that cutting to put its energy into building roots not making flowers.

After you have prepared the cutting put it into the Willow Water* you have prepared.

 
Sticking them and watering

When you have gotten all the cuttings you want you take the bucket of them and stick the into the soil you have prepared. We make holes in the soil with an old chopstick and then stick the cuttings in and pat the dirt around them. You can stick them fairly close to one another – it won’t hurt them at all. We do them about 1/2″ or so apart in a row and the rows are about 1 1/2″ apart.

Digging them up and transplanting

About 2 to 3 months later… dig up your plants. The roots will be intertwined, but if you take small clumps at a time, they will stay moist enough to keep the roots viable while you gently pull them apart and pot them up.

Growing lavender is an exercise in patience. It takes 3 years or more for a lavender plant to reach full size, and that is after you’ve got a cutting that has roots. You’ll be taking cuttings in the late spring or early summer (because the soil temperatures are high enough so it will work) and harvesting the rooted plants in the late summer. Then you’ll have to grow them out in pots. If you don’t have a heated greenhouse you’re looking at the next spring before those plants are ready. You have to love this to do it!

by Sarah Richards

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*Willow Water! You can use rooting hormone if you want. But, if you are certified organic or trying to be, then you can’t use those hormones, so what to do? Use willow water – We take twigs from our willow trees and put them in water, they stay in that water for the whole cutting season because those twigs will make roots. During that time we will use the water they sit in and replace it with fresh water. You pour off the water in the willow’s bucket, and then put fresh water back in. Take the poured off water and use that for when you are taking cuttings that day. Discard after using it.


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How to Make Lavender Bundles

You have grown your lavender, picked it, and dried it. Now what?

Making attractive lavender bundles is easy if you are just making one or two, but how about if you are making 20 or 200? This video shows how we make them at Lavender Wind Farm.


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Provence

 

Provence Bush

Provence Bush

Lavandula x-intermedia is a hybrid cross between Lav. Angustifolia and Lav. Latifolia. The Lavandula Angustifolias tend to have a high quality but low yielding oil, whereas the Lavandula Latifolias have a poor quality but high yielding oil. So there are quite a lot of hybrid crosses of various varieties of these two lavandulas and Provence is one such cross.

Provence is not typically found in that French province, rather, it is a cultivar that was hybridized in Canada. Nevertheless, it has found its way throughout North America, the United Kingdom, and other countries.

It has a sweeter, less camphorous scent compared to most of the other x-intermedia hybrids. The oil is also sweeter, but it does not have a larger yield than the angustifolias, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to other x-intermedias. Therefore, many growers don’t distill Provence, they tend to use it for both crafting and culinary applications.

At Lavender Wind we use it for all three, and we do distill it. The Provence Essential Oil is very nice. Our Culinary Lavender is a blend of Provence and Folgate.

Provence Flower

Provence Flower

Provence is susceptible to root rot due to overly wet conditions. The flowers dry well and the bud is easily taken off the stem. Too easily, in fact, and it is well known to be useless as a dried flower because the blossoms shatter off the stem once they are dried.

Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Description: Light lavender
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful, Fragrant

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Purple Bouquet

Purple Bouquet is AWESOME! It is the variety on the right. Next to it is Hidcote Pink, and to the left of that is Folgate. Purple Bouquet blooms a bit later than the other two so it isn’t quite in its full bloom in this picture.

Three Varieties

Three Varieties

The plant is not very large. This plant is in its 4th summer.

Purple Bouquet Bush

Purple Bouquet Bush

Purple Bouquet lives up to its name. It produces a longer stemmed flower than many other Angustifolias and it holds up well when dried. The fragrance is strong and pleasing.

 

Purple Bouquet Flower

Purple Bouquet Flower

  • Zone: 5a to 8b
  • Height: 18″ – 20″
  • Spread: 24″ – 30″
  • Sun: Full
  • Soil: Well-drained, dry
  • Bloom: Early summer, produces 2nd bloom
  • Leaves: Vibrant green
  • Flowers: Brilliant dark purple

We like this variety for making lovely dried bouquets. Because we have so much wind at our farm, our stem length tends to be a bit shorter than stem lengths on farms more protected or inland.

For Comparison here is an image taken June 30, 2015 of six varieties in our field. The Grosso and Provence weren’t yet in bloom in this image.

Six Varieties

Six Varieties


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Hidcote Pink

Folgate and Hidcote Pink

Folgate and Hidcote Pink

Hidcote Pink has been available since 1958. It is an average sized lavender with pale pink flowers. In the picture above it is next to rows of Lavendula Angustifolia “Folgate”. Together they make each other pop. Hidcote Pink is a lovely lavender for contrasting with other, purple, lavenders. But, even on its own in a garden it provides that lovely mounded pink look that only lavender plants can provide.

It is not very good for drying because it loses it’s nice pink and dries to a brown color. It does make an unusual oil. It has a bit more of a camphoric scent than other angustifolias, but there are some people who swear they prefer it and say it is a more masculine presence. This is in spite of it being a pink lavender, though lavender essential oil doesn’t keep any color purple nor pink.

It blooms with other early lav. angustifolias. It doesn’t give much of a second bloom, but sometimes, if it’s feeling agreeable it will send out more flowers.

Hidcote Pink Bush

Hidcote Pink Bush

It is a bit more than 3′ around when it is blooming. After pruning it’s closer to 28″ across. (These measurements are at our farm, which can get very windy and that can make the plants a bit smaller than in less windy situations.)

Hidcote Pink Flower

Hidcote Pink Flower

Lavendula Angustifolia “Hidcote Pink”

Major Lawrence Johnston brought Hidcote to England from France in the 1920’s. Hidcote Pink is thought to be available by 1957 or 58. Adapted from The Lavender Lover’s Handbook, by Sarah Bader

  • Flower Color: light pink
  • Foliage Color: Green (Grey in winter)
  • Stem length: 6 to 10 inches
  • Blooms: once in spring
  • Plant height: 30 -40 inches
  • Spacing: 36 inches
  • Hardiness: zones 5-9

Is excellent for landscaping, culinary, and oil.


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Folgate is Blooming

Blooming Folgate

Blooming Folgate

 

Lavandula Angustifolia “Folgate” is the official name of this beauty.

Out of 39 species of lavender and over 400 varieties within those species we grow 14 of the commercially on the farm. We have more in our demonstration garden.

This variety (Folgate) produces bushes that are quite large for this species:

Folgate Bush with ruler

Folgate Bush with ruler

We have just harvested the first row of it in this season’s bloom.

One Folgate Row Harvested

One Folgate Row Harvested

The bees love it, can you see the bee that was up early in the morning to start working on gathering pollen?

Bee at Work on Folgate

Bee at Work on Folgate

The flowers are lush. This is what one looks like next to a ruler.

Folgate Flower

  • Folgate is hardy, withstands cold and comes back every year.
  • Like all lavenders it prefers to have full sun and well drained soil.
  • It cannot tolerate being in standing water & puddles.
  • It makes a good cut flower and is used as a culinary herb.
  • Versatile, it is used in various types of gardens and hedges. It is spectacular en masse.
  • Bees love it which makes it a good habitat plant for beneficial insects

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Debra Prinzing interviews two lavender growers

Screen shot from Debra Prinzing's page with our interview

Screen shot from Debra Prinzing’s page with our interview

Lavender interview by Debra Prinzing (Author of Slow Flowers: The conscious choice for buying and sending flowers)

Mike Neustrom and Sarah Richards were interviewed by Debra at the Northwest Regional Lavender Conference in Portland, OR Oct. 2014.

We are so thrilled to be able to talk with this influential cut flower industry author. From her site we found that Debra Prinzing is a Seattle and Los Angeles-based writer who can credit her happy existence writing about gardens and home design to great preparation: a degree in textiles and design and a long career in journalism.

All we know is that Debra is passionate about flowers, growing & buying them locally, her books are both beautiful and entertaining. It was an honor to be included in her podcast series.

Listen to the Podcast


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Planting lavender all year?

Lavandula x-intermedia var “Provence”

Probably the last thing you are thinking as you get ready for Thanksgiving is “Can I plant lavender in my garden now?” But, that is exactly the question a woman asked me two days ago when she stopped by the shop. It’s been freezing cold for more than a week here, which is rare for this time of year out here on Whidbey Island. In spite of that I told her that when it warms up (surely in a couple of days) she can plant her lavender. At least out here.

Potted Plants with Gazebo

If you live in other, colder, parts of this huge country, then my answer is different. Plants fresh in the ground need to be comfy in their root/dirt relationship before they can endure too much freezing (and windy) weather. Here, in the Salish Sea area, our winters are quite temperate, snow and freezing weather are relatively rare, so, as long as the Lots of baby lavendersground isn’t frozen, we can plant most of the year. Not so for the colder parts of this country (such as in the Buffalo area, which, as I write this, is suffering the worst snow in decades). Folks living in snowy and frozen areas have to wait until winter breaks, the ground is unfrozen, and you are able to work the soil again before you can plant lavender. When exactly is that? That depends on the exact nature of your own micro-climate where you live, so you’ll need to ask someone at your local Master Gardener’s service or that neighbor who’s garden always is looking good.

If you find yourself wanting to burn up some of the calories from your dinner, and your weather is warm, then you just might be able to plant some lavender. If you live in our area, you can get some at our shop – we have several varieties, even at this time of year. If you live other places, check the member map at uslavender.org to find a lavender grower near you.

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Film Student at the Farm

The tragic fires in eastern Washington right now have had an unexpected result for me at the farm. There is a film camp that normally takes place in Twisp each year called Wild Mind Film Camp. The dates for the camp this year are July 16-27. However, they had to evacuate due to the fire in the Methow Valley, and luckily they found accommodations on Whidbey Island. 

Monday I was distilling at the farm and a woman introduces herself as Lulu Gargiulo, a film student, and tells the story of the camp’s relocating. Then she asks if she can film the farm and interview me. Ok, I’m a bit of a ham, so it was easy to say: “Sure!” Turns out this “student” is a film making professional and has done lots of projects from commercials to features. Lulu and Gear in PatioWhat she hasn’t done is direct films, because she has mostly been behind the camera as director of photography and camera operator. Just to add drama to the context of her request of me I want to remind you that we are getting ready for our annual festival and at the same time we are having the biggest harvest we have ever had. Everyone on the staff is working incredibly hard and for longer than normal hours. But, I am a fool for fun projects, and Lulu’s film camp sounded fun.


The next day she comes to the Coupeville shop and prepares to interview me on camera. A fellow student serves as her assistant and they stage the patio, set up their equipment and invite me in. She started asking me questions, and they were good ones. They made me think. They asked me to reflect on the farm, my trajectory as a lavender farmer, my part in the community, and some rather deep thoughts about lavender, farming lavender, and what it all means. 

Lulu in Kitchen with CookieIt was a blast! I’d include the video, but she is off in the editing barn, on Whidbey Island, trying to put bits and pieces together to make it into a cohesive whole. It is, after all, a student project, even if that student is a gifted professional so she needs to burn the midnight oil to complete the work. I sure hope I get to see it when it’s done. Meanwhile, we are working on getting her addicted to our lemon lavender shortbread.


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Planting New Lavender?

Several varieties of Lavender

Several varieties of Lavender

You are finally ready to put lavender into your garden – whether you are planning on putting them in the soil or in a pot on the deck. What you might want to think about before you come to the shop to get your lavender plants….

How much sun will your lavender get? Lavender likes at least 6 hours of sun a day. Sometimes people think that because there are a lot of cloudy days that their plants won’t get the sun they need. Those cloudy days aren’t the problem for lavender plants – it’s the trees and buildings that block the sun that can be the problem.

How well drained is your soil? Lavender likes “dry feet”, which means your lavender spot should never have puddles, even in the winter. If lavender stands in water it drowns. That’s true if you over water lavender, too.

How big do you want your lavender to be when it’s full grown? It takes lavender around three years to grow to its full size. Lavenders tend to be as wide as they are high, looking sort of like hedghogs, except prettier. Some lavenders grow only about 10 inches while others can grow up to 3 feet and many are varying sizes in-between. Also, think about whether you want them to be individual plants or whether you want them to look more like a hedge. That will determine how close together you plant one to the next.

What color and how long do you want the flowers and stems to be? Lavender flowers range from dark purple to white and lots of shakes of purple and pink between those two. They can have stems that are quite short, or ones that are more than 14″ long. The shorter stems will produce a more compact look, while the longer stemmed plants will give a wavy, moving in the wind sort of look.

When do you want them to bloom? Lavenders vary in the time of the summer that they bloom. Some bloom rather early, some quite late. If you have a lot of varieties, it’s like a blooming parade through the end of summer. You can plant all of one variety and have a big show at one point in the summer.

What do you want to do with the lavender? You can cook with some varieties, use some for dried flowers, use some for bulk lavender and make sachets. Unless you have a lot of plants, you probably won’t be able to make your own essential oil, but you can make lavender extract for cooking! There are some varieties of lavender you shouldn’t eat that are great for your garden, but not for your plate.

Now are you really confused? Don’t worry, we’ll help you when you come in.


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