We have been growing lavender on our farm since 1999 and distilling it for essential oil and hydrosol since 2001.
While we have gained an incredible amount of knowledge since then, we continue to learn more and more about this fascinating flowering herb each year. We discover better ways to distill it. We explore different options for harvesting and processing.
And this year we were forced to come up with an efficient way of removing and replanting.
Farming is by no means an easy or relaxing profession. Each season has its own challenges, successes and failures, and this year we were faced with the daunting task of replanting our entire lower field of ‘Super’ lavender.
While we might never know exactly why we lost this field, we figured it was due to the longer than usual winter. The temperature dropped suddenly, perhaps not providing the plants with enough time to go dormant. We also had bucket loads of snow which took a long time to melt away.
In any case, we realized early into springtime that we needed to make a game plan, and get a crew together.
In one day, Dave, Rory and Fabien removed over 1000 dead lavender plants. They worked together like a well-oiled machine; pulling out the plants, shaking off the dirt, tossing them into the trailer, tilling up the soil, and laying down new weed barrier cloth.
A few weeks later, we assembled another crew for the replant. In a day and a half, we managed to replant about 700 lavenders, which involved distributing the pots, digging holes, planting, watering and moving down each row.
It was a lot of work, much more than we had been anticipating for this 2017 season. But the experience ended up teaching us more than we thought.
The plants that suffered the least amount of winter damage were of the Lavandula angustifolia species, so half of our lower field we replanted with ‘Annet’.
The plants that were more severely damaged were of the Lavandula x. intermedia species, except for one of the cultivars in our garden, ‘Phenomenal’, which fared fairly well with the cold temperatures.
We decided it was hardier than ‘Super’ and replanted the other half of the lower field with this.
With the replant under control, we then had to face a much different problem: our essential oil distillation.
For the past 6 years, we were distilling close to 40 litres of ‘Super’ essential oil and over 400 litres of its hydrosol for use in our products. We also sell various sizes of pure ‘Super’ essential oil at our Aromatherapy Bar. And to be honest, with our entire field of ‘Super’ ripped up and piled high, a few of us were wondering if there was any point of continuing at all.
Around this same time, we had several of our lavender essential oils entered in the Australian Lavender Growers’ Association Olfactory Oil Competition, a prestigious international competition that judges and evaluates lavender essential oils from around the world on their aroma.
In the midst of pulling out lavender, digging holes, ordering new lavender, and filling holes, we all but forgot about this competition, and our heavy reliance on ‘Super’ along with our despair that it was gone made us almost forget about all the other lavenders we distill too.
Until one day when we received a sizeable envelope in the mail. The multitude of stamps on the outside had us giddy with anticipation – the oil competition results from Australia!
It turns out that our ‘Super’ – the one we thought we were lost without – didn’t win anything at all.
But our Lavandula x. intermedia blend and our Lavandula angustifolia blend both took home the gold medal! And our ‘Grosso’, often shoved from the limelight by the ‘Super’, took home silver.
We couldn’t help but jump with joy. And relief.
We may have endured a considerable loss this year, but it turns out that it was not as great as we thought.
We still had to make some adjustments and pull our larger ‘Super’ essential oils from our shelves, but we did so confidently, knowing that the oils we replaced it by are of superior quality. Their aromas garnered international attention and a whole lot of home-grown excitement.
In a few weeks, we will be heading into this year’s lavender distillation season. Usually a hectic, sweaty and tiresome time of year, we are truly looking forward to experimenting with new and exciting blends of lavender that we hadn’t thought to try before. While our ‘Super’ is still a lovely oil, it turns out that we aren’t as sad to see it go as we originally thought.
But that’s farming for you. Always changing, always adapting, and always remembering that with each door that closes, another is bound to open again soon.