A New Approach to Weeding

The bane of maintaining any garden is the unending encroachment of weeds into the space designed for our plantings.  The headache of weeding becomes even more intense for those of us who have elected the organic approach because little, short of conventional manual approaches, is possible.  Mulching, ground covers, weed matting and similar options produce varying degrees of success.  But, ultimately, in our experience the weeds eventually find an avenue to daylight.

Our primary lavender field garden is located in our South Meadow.  While not perfectly ideal because it is not exclusively south-facing, it benefits from full sunlight exposure while gently sloping from East to West.  However, the farm’s history was rooted in livestock and today’s lawns and meadows once provided grazing space for cattle, goats, guinea hens and burros.  The consequence for us is soil so rich that we had to integrate 10-tons of crushed limestone to achieve a PH factor suitable for lavender.

Initially, our lavender field garden was cultivated, disked and weed matted.  Twenty years ago plastic matting was the popular convention.  Its limitation, however, was that it quickly became brittle following prolonged exposure to the elements.  Despite being covered with a 4-inch layer of small, round sandstone pebbles the deteriorating plastic weed mat soon incurred holes and splits which provided opportunities for the century-old field grass lying dormant beneath to emerge.  Replacing the plastic weed mat with the aerated fabric matting that became all the rage thereafter proved, for us, to be only marginally better.  Nature is tireless in its effort to reclaim land to its former, natural state; and, within a year of replacing the plastic matting with the woven alternative, the weeds were back in full glory.

For nearly a quarter-century our assault on weeding the lavender field garden has been a shovel-and-shoulder enterprise.  Neglect it for a season and the following year would find the lavender plants choked by a sea of thistle, clover, field grass and dandelion.  Measuring 120 feet by 40 feet, the lavender garden formerly required 2 – 2 ½ months to fully restore.  Then, completely by chance, Ginna discovered a partly rusting tool hidden deep in the dark recesses of the Carriage House where our garden tools and supplies are stored.  It is called a Hula Hoe.  This tool features a simple square looped steel blade affixed to a shovel handle.  Its virtue is that when pushed forward and back through the weedy gravel it upends many of the invaders while clipping off others.  In a span of three weeks the entire lavender field was cleared; thereafter, requiring only several weekly maintenance passes through the garden.

Sadly, the tool suffered metal fatigue and failed at Summer’s end.  Fast-forward to Christmas when family members were peppering me for gift ideas, my research for a replacement Hula Hoe discovered what I can only describe as the single most efficient, effective weeding tool which should be de rigueur for every gardening arsenal.  It is made in the United States and, building on the design theory of the Hula Hoe, it features a triangular shaped cutting blade that, when placed flat on the ground, slices cleanly through soil and gravel at far less than half the effort required by the Hula Hoe.  I have just completed clearing the entire 4,800 sq. ft. lavender field garden of Spring and early Summer weeds.  The project consumed a grand total of 21 hours!  That is 82.5% faster than the Hula Hoe required and 2 ¼ months quicker than conventional shovel weeding.

At the heart of its design is a pointed arrow shaped blade.  The angled edges are serrated to facilitate side assault, as well.  I opted for the longer handle to reduce the bending angle of my back.  It is called the Basic Garden Tool by its creator and manufacturer, and can be used as a hoe, weed, shovel, edger, pitch fork and rake among other tasks.  It is available through www.basicgardentool.com  

With a lifetime guarantee it is certain to be the only weapon I will carry with me into gardening’s battle hereafter.

Organic Lavender Farm Tour in Clarion County, PAThanks for this post to Chris Gemmell Co-owner and Chief Weeder at Lavender Green farm.

Celebrating a Bountiful Harvest!

Like any plant, lavender experiences good years, poor years and bountiful years.  I’m thrilled to report that this summer has been one of those bountiful years as the first harvest completed with a brimming Carriage House full of drying bundles.
What contributes to a bountiful harvest?  Lavender likes air, space, light and sun which were plentiful here at the farm in the critical months of May, June and July.  We received just enough rainfall which meant that the plants didn’t get their “feet wet” or drown in puddles in the garden, which renders them more vulnerable.
 
Sunny and warm Summers also hold diseases at bay like Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (AMV) and Phytophthora Nicotianae (Ppn) which plagued many lavender farms throughout America for the past two years. We’ve had our own tough seasons past  with “winter kill” from prolonged days of sub-zero Winter temperatures.
A few years ago we lost about half of our lavender plants from “winter kill”.  Many of those plants were 20+ years old and had been so well loved that we knew them by name.   We also lost every one of our long stemmed “Provence”and “Grosso” plants during the brutal Winter of 2013-14.  This was a heart break.
In trying to second guess the upcoming Winters we cautiously bet that there would be a return to “normal” which, for us, does not include months of sub-zero temperatures.  So, we began replanting gingerly.
We replaced the Provence and Grosso gardens with “Phenomenal” which flourished this year.  Phenomenal has stems as long as 2 feet; is very hardy in Growing Zone 5; and, offers a nice fragrance.  It has a mid-bluish/purple color and is a nice all around plant to include in your garden. All in all, an improvement!
 
We’ve planted a test garden of “Big Time Blue”, a new angustifolia with exceptional color, good fragrance and a long flower head for 10″ bouquets.   We found Big Time Blue at Burpee’s and I believe they have them in stock for Fall planting if you’d like to give this compact variety a try in your perennial garden.
Big time Blue Lavender

The Gros Bleu with it’s vivid color, longish stems (18″) and nice fragrance was such a hardy Winter survivor and star that we planted another garden of them.

A garden miracle also occurred with our twenty year-old  Munstead and Hidcote plants which produced “babies” through a natural layering process.  The aging Mother plant produced five baby plants, encircling her last summer.  While many of the rows are no longer “neat and orderly” the harvest from the year old babies has been surprisingly strong.   Mother nature works in mysterious ways
Even though we haven’t experienced Ppn at Lavender Green Farm, we’re taking precautions by sending one plant from each new flat from the nursery to the Clemson Problem Plant Clinic to be tested.  In the interim, the other newbies from the flat are quarantined until we get a disease free health report.  This may seem overly cautious but we don’t want to introduce fungus- like oomycete* into the gardens as they destroy plants with symptoms that look like root rot.  So far there have been no diseases present in nursery stock ordered this year.
A number of the gardeners who attended our tours last Summer reported that their plants died instantly after a rainfall, which is a another sign of Ppn.  If this happens to you, pull and burn or put the sick plant into the trash bag and remove the surrounding soil by digging out the ground around the spot in your garden.  If it was Ppn nothing will successfully grow there for an indeterminate number of years–it is that serious and it can spread through the soil infecting other plants.  You can also notify your local Dept. of Agriculture office to find out where to send the plant for diagnosis.
So much for reflection on what we have learned over the past few years. Given this year’s harvest, our new mantra is to optimistically look forward with eyes wide open–taking nothing for granted.
I hope your garden is flourishing this Summer, too.
Fragrant Lavender Wishes,
Ginna

 

January Bonus for Our Online Friends

Free tea in January with PurchasePlanning a getaway this winter? We have a special deal for our online friends followers and fans. For the rest of January when you order our travel pillow and mask in lavender, black or sage you can receive a free travel tin of Harney and Son’s delicious Chamomile and Lavender Tea.

Just add the Travel set and tea to your cart and use the coupon code FREETEA at checkout.

 

Offer is good for friends, followers and fans until the end of January 2016.

Lavender: “For Love or Money” ?  

LavenderGreen-Love_or_money

This winter I had the pleasure of presenting to the Grapevine Garden Club of Sewickley, PA.  Chris and I loaded the car with lavender filled pillows, closet sachets, Lavender Lover’s Bath and Body products and our Aromatherapy line so that they could shop a little after our talk about our work here at the farm.  We presented at the very accommodating and technically up to speed Edgeworth Country Club, right in the heart of Sewickley.

Lavender Green Farm with SnowValentine’s Day was just around the corner, so love was the  theme of our talk.  The #United States Lavender Growers Association had just posed a question at their recent Conference in San Antonio, “Are you in the lavender business for love or money?”  As you can imagine, almost everyone said “both”.  I had to think long and hard about this question because for me LavenderGreen was all about the love and I wondered if I had ever considered the financial implications of this venture.  The answer “was not at all”.

Partly this lapse was because I didn’t need to think about profit because I was working in Washington DC as an innovation process consultant to membership associations there and could therefore subsidize the farm and the kids and the lavender with earnings from my practice. So LavenderGreen developed without a business plan, even though I  knew how to write one.  Reflecting back to 1990 and making a timeline for how we got to now, was a good exercise.  I began to take stock through some self examination–and an unexamined life is not a life worth living, right?

Gardens at Pickity PlaceAnyway, back to love.  There are many layers of love involved in our case.  Love of the farm and the land itself and the memories of spending lazy summer afternoons here as a kid, usually in a hammock reading a book. Love of my family and all of the warm and safe memories that our big family could provide and wanting to recreate that memory for the next generation. Love for the community weighed in, too. Here, the center of social life was the Dutch Reformed Church and the grange. Everyone in Little Germany and Knox seemed like good people, then and now. Love of the pace of life and the feeling that we are set back in time.

Love of the plant is possibly the main ingredient.  I fell in love with the plant 25 years ago after first touching its leaves in a place called Pickety Place in New Hampshire.  That was the very first time I had even seen a lavender plant and I purchased two to plant in pots in front of our house in Concord, MA.  When we bought the farm, those two plants were planted here and still survive to this very day.  Our plant population sort of mushroomed from there but we’ve lost some due to too much rain and poor drainage, frost heave from planting too early in the spring, and most recently winter kill from 19 days of sustained winter temperatures below zero degrees.  We’ve replanted after every loss. Our love for lavender seems undaunted and we continue to research better methods of planting to reduce loss. 

Gros_Bleu-Weeding

The Sequim  Lavender Growers Association, members of the US Lavender Growers Association posted this very succinct article, How to Grow Beautiful Lavender, that I’d like to share with you to increase your probability of success with your own lavender plants.  Sequim has about the perfect location for growing lavender in the US, located in the Olympic Peninsula in the great state of Washington.  If, like us, you’re located in cooler growing zones, refer to our article Building a Lavender Garden from Scratch.

A Lavender Dessert to Remember…

If you love Creme Brulee and lavender, here is a recipe that is to “die” for.  I know it’s the beginning of the New Year and we’re all thinking about our healthy resolutions, but I have to share this Honey-Lavender Creme Brulee recipe with you before it fades into Christmas past memory.  We served it at our annual Boxing Day dinner party  to eight other couples and everyone was wowed!

Creme Brulee with Lavender and HoneyI have never made Creme Brulee before, but it’s definitely been on my culinary bucket list, so this was the year. I borrowed a kitchen torch and 6 ramekins (the oval type) to augment my round 6 oz version and made a few substitutions to simplify the process.   It’s easy to get it right the very first time!

This recipe was a winner of the Frei Brothers Winery contest and published in Bon Appetit Magazine, Holiday edition 2014.  It came originally from My Backyard, Eugene Oregon.

Honey-Lavender Creme Brulee
(pairs with Frei Brothers Russian River Sauvignon Blanc)

Makes 6 Servings

  • 3 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. dried lavender buds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved
  • 5 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • Special equipment: 6 ,6-7 oz. round ramekins, a kitchen torch

Note: I substituted lavender honey and our own Tahitian Vanilla lavender sugar to skip steeping and straining the lavender buds.  I did heat the cream with an extra vanilla bean which was easy to remove without straining.

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In medium saucepan, bring cream, lavender and vanilla bean and seeds to simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; allow to steep 10 min.  Strain mixture into a bowl.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 Tbsp. sugar, honey and yolks over low speed until well combined and starting to change color, about 2 min.  Slowly stream in milk mixture; mix until just combined (to avoid becoming foamy)

Place ramekins in high-sided baking pan’ divide cream mixture evenly among them.  Fill baking pan with water until it goes 3/4 up the side of the ramekins.  Bake 50-55 min. until mixture is set, but still wobbly.

Remove ramekins from pan; place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.  To serve, remove from refrigerator and keep at room temperature for 20 min.  Sprinkle custards with 2 Tbsp. sugar.  Using kitchen torch, melt sugar evenly until deep brown and crunchy.

Prep time: 15 min

Bake time: 55 minutes

Chill time: 2 hrs up to two days

Epilogue
Inspired by this delightful recipe, I decided to purchase my own kitchen torch.  I found several brands out there from kitchen stores, but decided upon a professional model that didn’t need to be recharged frequently during the process.  J.C. Penny online had a great looking professional torch (on sale) which I’ve ordered  http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/jsp/browse/product.jspcontainerId=JCP|EMAIL&ppId=1845358

 I’ll keep you posted as this dessert will become a favorite at LavenderGreen Farm!

 Happy New Year,
Ginna

Lavender Gift Ideas Under $25

This is the season of joyful giving, but sometimes our lists seem to grow longer as we search for the perfect gift for Secret Santa exchanges and stocking stuffers, girl friends and aunties and all those who made our year a little better. At Lavender Green we have a wide variety of gifts for to cover just about anyone on your growing list with lavender luxury.

Today we’re sharing 6 gift ideas for under $25. And be sure and check out our gift ideas for Cooks, Moms, Career Girls, and Spa Lovers for more great Lavender gift giving.

Lavender Gift Ideas Under $25

1. Lavender Lovers ™ Organic Massage Oil Candle $24.00
Light the candle, burn to create a melt pool and then extinguish. Dip and apply … ahhhh!  You have just created a soothing, warm oil treatment that is excellent for dry skin!

2. Yellow & Blue Tea By Harney And Sons $7.99
Give the gift of relaxation with the subtle aromas of chamomile and lavender in this wonderful caffeine-free tea. Also available in a travel tin for $3.50

3. Lavender Soles™ Everyday Foot Care Kit With Essential Oils $22.00
Get soft, healthy and fragrant feet in just a few minutes a day with our “Lavender Soles”™ Everyday Foot Care Kit.

4. Lavender Spa Rescue Kit $12.00
Four of our top Stress Less products with Lavender to ease anxiety, Chamomile to soothe your skin and Sage to calm your mind and body are now available in smaller sizes. For home or travel, it makes a perfect gift.

5. Essential Oil Aromatherapy Blends Samples $22.50
What a great way to try all of our Essential Oil synergies and test their benefits! We’ll send you a sample 2.3 ml bottle of each of our Essential Oil Blends for just $22.50

6. Aromatherapy Diffusers $3.50-$25.00

  • Personal Diffuser – $18.00 Send Lavender, Focus Friendly or Road Rage Relief Aromatherapy with you anywhere they go.
  • Ceramic Jar Diffuser – Makes a great add on at just $3.50 with purchase of any Lavender Green E.O. Synergy
  • Heart Locket Pendant – $25.00 enhance their lightness of being with this Heart Locket Pendant and give scent-releasing aromatherapy throughout the day.
  • Terra Cotta Lavender Pendant – $15.00 Diffuse a few drops of our Lavender Essential Oil on this beautiful piece of art and enjoy it all day long! Comes with 1 dram of Lavender E.O.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, we also offer gift cards, a variety of pre-designed gift baskets and a “Build-Your-Own” gift basket option. We would be happy to help you with personalized suggestions, just give Ginna a call.

Keeping the Holidays Peaceful

Norman  Rockwell Family Dinner

“Freedom from Want” – Norman Rockwell

When I think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I envision something like the Norman Rockwell painting  “Freedom from Want” with three generations of family gathered around a big farm table passing the Turkey and mashed potatoes.  The meal begins with a prayer of thanks or the song “Bless be the Ties that Bind” and everyone is grateful to be together for a lovely feast.

We’ve had this kind of Thanksgiving and Christmas at the farm in days past and I treasure that memory forever. The family cooks, Grandma, Mom and Aunt Mary were flushed and slightly out of breath, but proud to serve up the feast to their treasured family. Their  table was laid with traditional holiday fare, repeated year after year.  In our case, dim sum from the German tradition with seven sweets and seven sour’s and ham and game along with turkey.  Family and food were the focus, and tired “little ones” the main distraction.

 Some things this year will be the same, and some things will be different–but the one thing we want to maintain is the joy of the season and a peaceful and pleasant time with family that nourishes relationships and builds memories that sustain us.  There will be many more distractions this year that we’ll have to workaround to make the season merry.  Here are a few tips on how we’ll keep the peace.

Uplifting Conversation
Plan ahead to increase the probabilities of relationship building  conversations and good digestion  by using place cards around the table, thoughtfully.  Position the good talkers next to the good listener’s and grandparents near distant grandchildren, and the hard of hearing near the kind hearted.  You know your peeps!

Maintain a lighthearted conversation at the table.  Ideally, we like one topic at a time with everyone offering an opinion or a story or a joke and a lot of laughter.  The host or hostess or good conversationalist can introduce the topic–avoiding topics that are known “hot buttons” for one or more family members.  Since our family loves to debate–this is not easy–and the best debaters can drown out our more thoughtful and soft spoken family members, so we will try to facilitate the family like a “focus group” with everyone getting a word in participation. When this breaks down with three or four conversations are happening at the same time, bring them all together with a provocative new question around a topic.

Avoid risky topics. I must confess to my own hot buttons in conversation like climate change, GMO’s impact on the food supply and terrorists, but I will keep these topics close to the vest as everyone knows where I stand on these issues and I don’t want to be on a soap box or start a debate.  I’ll speak of positive advances in alternative energy production, growth in organic food farming, and International efforts to secure world peace, instead.  If I hear a comment that is likely to set off a fire storm, I’ll reply with something like “how interesting” and change the topic.

Guests
We’re meeting niece Morgan’s significant other and potential new family member for the first time, so I want to learn more about him, without making him want to run from the table and our family!  Questions meant to grill or haze this newbee (like, when are you going to marry my niece?) are off-limits and will be more uplifting, such as “how does your family celebrate the holidays”?

Inviting a stranger to the group, like a visiting foreign student, is often a blessing in keeping conversation from becoming too personal and cooling contentious topics.  Introducing them to our traditions and learning about their traditions can involve everyone in delightful conversations.  Many foreign students have been invited to our table over the years as well as friends at loose ends for the holidays.  I’m sure they are unaware of the role they play in keeping everyone on their best behavior.

Cocoa, our mini-red poodle will not be invited to the table, as much as he would like to attend.  The little beggar who delights us privately might very well be a nuisance to others and will be brought to the party for a touch football game….later.

Minimizing Distractions
Cell Phones – Some ground rules need to be set in advance around cell phones, don’t you think?  We do have some family members who tune out the conversation and text away with phone discretely in their laps, insulting the people at the table, I believe.  Others have a way of proving you are wrong, with an “I’ll Google that” and tell you the facts.  So, we’ll gather cell phones in a basket before dinner with a promise to return them after the meal.  If someone must take a call, they can leave the table to do so.  Tough rules for tough distractions!

Football – The big screen will be in another room and the DVR will be activated if dinner runs into game time.  We will honor big game times and try to keep meal schedules on track to avoid anxiety on the part of true fans.

If we play touch football in the yard, we’ll let the little kids win, or at least not humiliate or wound them. We do have a die hard football fan in the family, a brother-in-law who can’t miss a moment of play, so he usually decides to stay home in his man cave and watch the entire game day with take-out chicken. This is OK with the rest of us. We can catch up with him later.

Toasts and Prayers
Keep them short and eloquent, toasting the hosts, the cooks and the people in the room (who are the right people) and the people far away who are missed.  Going around the table asking each person what they are grateful for can be uplifting, bonding and a great climate setter for the meal. If a prayer is de rigor in your family as it is in our’s, remember to keep it short and relevant to the day and don’t use a blessing for the meal as an opportunity to present a sermonette, as the gravy congeals.

What to drink and when?
It’s lovely to have complimentary wines served with the meal and cocktails before and cordials after, all within moderation and in due time.  It’s fun for the cook to sip a little and cook a little, but it can seriously slow down preparations–yes, this is learned from experience.  Mia Culpa.  Also, the host should make sure that there are plenty of interesting, non-alcoholic drinks available and monitor drinking so that the party is convivial, but doesn’t get out of hand or set up any driving risks.  The weather and roads during the holidays  are challenging and demand good driving skills so don’t let family members drive who have overdone it.  They can nap on the couch until ready for the road or handoff their keys for a ride home.

Lavender Ambiance
We have to bring lavender into our holiday equation, or it wouldn’t be a LavenderGreen Celebration.  We’ll have a menu with lavender in Herbs de Provence for the turkey.  You can find other lavender infused recipes on our Pinterest page, but use sparingly to introduce this new taste to family.  This year, we’re making Earl Gray Tea & Lavender Infused Chocolate Truffles, by popular demand. (Recipe and video)

Before the meal, we’ll diffuse “Celebrate” to set a cheerful mood and give a scent memory of Christmas past with this blend of lavender, frankincense, orange, cinnamon, rosewood, cistus and mandarin.  We’ll add a few drops to our diffuser in the foyer to great incoming guests.  We’ll turn it off when the fragrance of roasted turkey should prevail.  (order Celebrate here)

We’ll spritz the football game room with “road rage relief“, probably in mist form, when the going gets tough for losing team’s fan because it reduces anxiety and tempers.

Here’s hoping that this will be the best Holiday ever with good memories made and relationships strengthened!

To learn more about the miscellany of modern manners–for hosts and guests, see Ben Schott’s article entitled “Giving & Thanking” in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  This article triggered my own thoughts and experiences in hosting holiday dinners for family.  I’d love to hear from you about your family’s experience and your tips for keeping the peace at holiday time.

Happy Holidays Readers and many blessings in the year ahead,
Ginna

Self Soothing Strategies with Lavender

Lavender Essential Oil, Lavender Aromatherapy for Sleep & Natural Relaxation

When news of the world is overwhelming I find myself wishing to be rocked by my Grandmother in her warm lap with my head resting on her generous bosom. Since that is no longer possible and memories fade, I need to find other ways to soothe myself and my loved ones. My tendency is to try to rescue or help, but much of what I see and hear is far outside the realm of my control. I can’t fight insanity or the spread of plague, but I can try to overcome evil with good in my own little arena. There are more wonderful than diabolical people in the world and good will overcome evil, or so I hope is true!

I don’t think I’m the only one feeling this way. Lavender self soothers are trending at LavenderGreen.Com this month, possibly an indication that our customers are feeling a desire to nurture their bodies and souls more than usual. Lavender is a very calming essential oil and can help us maintain our functional availability by muting stressful emotions.

Lavender Goats Milk SoapLavender Lotion with Shea ButterLavender Essential OilPersonal DIffuserLavender Massage OilMassage Oil CandleAromatherapy for your home - Lavender Aroma Sticks, Reed DiffusersNeck Pillow and Sleeping Eye Mask - Curvy ShapeLavender and Buckwheat-filled Spa Wrap Set

Lavender soaps and lotions, Lavender essential oil in personal aromatherapy diffusers, massage oils and candles, Aroma Sticks and lavender filled pillows are going out to lavender lovers all over the country right now.

Here are 10 more ideas I’ve thought of and tried to soothe my own troubled heart:

1. Practice Qi Gong, This is an effective and gentle exercise that is a little like Tai Chi, but easy to master the first time with a  DVD or tape like Lee Holden’s Qi AM/PM workout.  It stretches the body and focuses the mind.  I’ve found wonderful in the morning to set up a positive day and great at day’s end to relax. I do a lot of walking to and from and working in the garden which helps too!

2.  Love our pets for their empathy.  A puppy in my case.  We were gifted a red mini-poodle in March and now that we’re into our 7th month, petting, playing and meeting the needs of Cocoa is very soothing and makes me laugh.

3.  Home made soup.  Just made a big pot with roasted chicken, great northern beans, spinach, tomatoes in a stock made from the left over chicken simmered to a broth with celery, carrots and onion.  A little Tuscan seasoning and Worcestershire sauce added robust flavor, along with black pepper and sea salt

4. I’m reading Ken Follett’s new fiction “Edge of Eternity” book three of the century trilogy.  I find that compelling fiction, set in another time and place helps put the human experience into context.

5.  Reconnecting with family, former colleagues and friends and expressing gratitude for their friendship.  Real live connections help balance the input of our virtual world. Cheering a friend in need with a gift, card or call is a tonic to my own outlook.

6.  Getting in touch with my faith by reading C. S. Lewis…I typed chapter 13 of the Great Divorce and posted it on the fridge as a morning mantra.  “The Happy Trinity is her home, nothing will trouble her joy”….So timeless and empowering!  It’s actually Lewis’s feminized paraphrase of Psalm 91.

7.  Lavender…I love going into the Summer Kitchen to fulfill orders.  The Summer Kitchen is where we inventory our dried lavender.  Its fragrance overwhelms me with peace.  If you ever come to visit, I’ll take you there to just breathe.

8.  Listen to Music.  I love hearing “Anthem” by Ronan Hardeman when I’m by myself in the Summer Kitchen to buoy my spirit.  It works every time with it’s haunting melody and plaintive peaceful lyrics.

9. Take Action!  Do something…even just one little thing!  The pen is mightier than the sword, so I’m tweeting social media outlets suggesting they raise the bar on their broadcasting standards to help combat hate and fear riddled rhetoric and videos.

10.  Watch PBS.  With few exceptions PBS almost always has something to offer which is interesting, educational and entertaining.  So I’m supporting them and programming our household media “feed”.  “Charlie Rose” is a ritual but late night shock talk radio is banned here.

I’m very curious to learn how you self soothe?  Can you share some ideas of what you find peace giving?

Peaceful Wishes,
Ginna

#lavenderessentialoils #lavenderoil #lavendersleep

Building a Lavender Garden from “Scratch”  

Gros_Bleu-StemsAre you dreaming of a purple haze of lavender in your backyard and lavender’s refreshing scent wafting through an open window on a sunny afternoon?  Almost everyone can make a mini-garden of lavender that can fulfill this dream and provide enough dried stems for your home and buds for sachets or potpourri.  A mini-bed can be created along the side of a building, in a circle, a knot garden, or in a straight line bed along sidewalk or driveway.  The garden featured in this post contains just 18 plants of the Gros Blue variety which is a cultivar of Grosso, a Lavandin.  We love it for its color, fragrance and stem length.

There are just a few things to consider:

  1. Chose the right location, full sun with good drainage
  2. Prepare your soil; a sandy, loamy soil is ideal, but you can amend any soil to work
  3. Chose the right variety for your garden and buy enough plants to space them with room for air to circulate
  4. Plant, Water, mulch, snip, and prune

Choosing the Timing and the Right Location

 Chose a location that receives the most sunlight in your yard.  South facing is helpful and so is a wind-break or a building or a stone wall nearby.  We have open field gardens that do well with a fence as a near-by wind-break, critical in Zone 5.

Plot out your garden first and decide how many plants to buy.  We plant in early June, after the danger of frost has past, but before the heat requires too much watering.  Fall planting is fine in some warmer areas of the country.  Make certain that you have good drainage with a natural slope where water from a heavy deluge of rain can quickly run off the garden.  Lavender likes rain, but does not like to have its feet “wet”…so no standing water in the lavender garden, ever. (standing water leads to root rot–a very sad occurrence).

Soil Preparation

 Lavender loves a sandy, loamy soil just like the Mediterranean soil it came from originally.  Our soil has a lot of clay in it, so we dig a hole 18″ deep and fill it with potting soil, pearlized limestone, and pea gravel.  This soil mix should crumble in your fingers and is “friable” which helps promote healthy root growth.  You can also add play sand, but we reserve the play sand for mulch.  Use a mini-soil tester to make sure the soil mix has a PH of 7.  A PH of 6 or below is too acidic for healthy growth.  Lavender likes “cheap” soil, so there is rarely a need to add fertilizer.

 Sequim, Washington has a gritty soil and Delaware a sandy soil which are both naturally hospitable soils for lavender, but the rest of us need to compensate.

Close-up of Gros Bleu Lavender

Choosing the right lavender plants for your garden

 There are now about 200 varieties of lavender available in the market place.  We suggest that you buy from a local nursery to get the plants that will do well in your growing zone.  In our case, we plant very winter hardy lavender like to true Angustifolia Munstead and Hidcote which survive our quirky winters in growing zone 5.  If you like long stems, consider the new variety “Phenomenal” which can withstand cold, rain and draught.  This is a cultivar of Grosso, a very sturdy Lavandin with long stems.   If you’re going for a sea of lavender, buy all of the same variety for each garden.

 If your gardens are full, consider adding a lavender plant as a fragrant purple accent in a mixed perennial garden. It pairs well with roses and many other favorites.

Gros_Bleu-WeedingPlant, water, weed, snip and prune

 Measure your garden and read the spacing requirements on the tag of your plants.  Lavenders come in many sizes from compact, 12″ spreads to huge 36″ mounded spreads.  Make sure to allow enough space between the plants so the air can circulate around them and you can move around the plants to harvest the lavender flowers and weed.

 Dig holes 12-18″ deep and 12″ wide and refill your hole with the amended soil.  Lavender roots extend 18″ deep, but a 1 year old plant has about 3″ of roots, so you need to mound up a little Pyramid inside your hole and gently spread the baby’s roots over the pyramid, so that the crown of the plant is even with the garden.  Water the plants when you have patted them down into the soil.

Pea_Gravel_ newspaper_mulch We add a top cover of pea gravel to our entire garden after planting for two reasons.  First, it’s light color reflects sunlight back into the plant and prevents fungus and second because it works its way into the soil and breaks down the clay, allowing the roots to “breathe”.

Garden side by side year one and two Don’t expect many stems in your first summer, but year two will yield more and year three should be spectacular.  It’s important to cut off spent stems, to encourage more growth.  English lavenders will give you a second cutting in September if you cut the stems in July.  If you experience a rainy summer with lots of cloud cover, consider adding a 1-2″ play sand mulch on top of the gravel all around the plant to bounce light back into the plant.  This little tip can spare you from root rot and promote healthy growth by tricking the plant into thinking it’s really back home in the Mediterranean.

Gros Blue garden in the fallWeeding is important because weeds can “choke” a young lavener plant and be the cause of an early demise.  We weed by hand because we are keeping our gardens organic and herbicide free. Prune in the fall after the plant has gone to sleep.  Lavandins can be pruned and shaped into a neat mound and the Angustifolia’s can at least be made neater, although they grow asymmetrically and always look a little “oppitity”.

 Your garden should give you color, fragrance  and pleasure from mid-June until mid- July plus or minus two weeks.  It may rest in August and flower again in September providing you with lavender enough for your home and gift-giving.

Enjoy!

Ginna Gemmell

Three Simple Steps to Get Rid of Moths

Crocus at Lavender Green FarmChanging seasons signal the time to protect your wardrobe from the dreaded Moth whose damage to a favorite garment is disheartening and expensive. Moths will attack any natural or synthetic and natural blended fabrics, so nearly everything in your closet is a target. They will even go after leather! While sometimes the telltale holes can be rewoven, most moth damaged clothing ends up a total loss.

Lavender can protect your valuable wardrobe from moths with a fragrance that will soothe your soul. Unlike mothballs which smell toxic and cedar which can stain clothing, lavender can be used to prevent, clean and store your clothing as a triple threat to a Moth invasion without any negative side effects.

Tineola bisselliella 1

Step 1: Environmental Scan

Begin by taking everything out of your closet. Vacuum the floor and “swiffer” the walls–you may want go a step further by washing floor and wall surfaces with lavender floor soap to clean and freshen. This is a “moth prevention” tactic and will greatly reduce the probability that these destructive pests will find a home in your closet. If you do discover any moths (dead or alive) call a professional pest management company and start the scan on each closet in your home before they arrive. As you put each outfit back, inspect clothing for soil and stains and sort into two groups for washing or dry-cleaning. Make another pile for clean, out of season clothing to go directly to storage.

Step 2: Clean and Protect

Moths will be attracted to any biodegradable soil in clothing, but dry-cleaning or washing will eliminate the attraction. Wash rather than dry clean as much as possible following the care instructions and add lavender laundry conditioner to final wash rinse for an “all over” lavender scent and layer of protection. Tossing lavender dryer sachets into the dry cycle will provide lighter scent and can also be used as refresher for clean woolen sweaters and blankets on the “dryer press” cycle.

Add freshness and moth protection to your closets with our Lavender Closet Set.

Add freshness and moth protection to your closets with our Lavender Closet Set.

Step 3: Store

Store your clean, out of season clothes in a cloth garment bag and hang a lavender sachet on the inside over one of the hangers. For long-lasting lavender protection, spray the cloth garment bag with lavender sheet spray. Remember to use a wooden, plastic or padded hanger of the right size and button the garment, so that the shoulders and lapels are not distorted next season. Store the garment bags in a clean, cool and dry area and label the contents so you can find an outfit in a hurry. For foldable items, tightly sealed plastic storage containers work well and can often slide under your bed for easy access. Before snapping them shut, add a lavender dryer sachet. For open shelf or basket storage, you can place each item in a heavy duty plastic storage bag and chill it for an hour in the freezer before storing. This extra step will kill any moth larvae that you may have missed.

Lavender Shoe Stuffers

Don’t forget that your shoes are also a target for moths. Fill them with our Lavender Shoe Stuffers for freshness every day.

Remember that your shoes can also be a target. First clean then store out of season shoes in a shoe bag or caddy and use a lavender filled shoe stuffer to keep them dry, fresh and protected.

How often should this be done? Twice a year the experts advise.

To learn more about lavender closet tips and purchase items mentioned in this article please check out our Closet Freshener Line

12 Ways to Use Lavender in Your Wedding

I found this article in our archives and since we’re moving into Spring and thinking “wedding” I thought it would be fun to update and repost it.  Just ignore the 37 year wedding anniversary reference as time flies when we’re having fun! We now host weddings at Lavender Green Farm and can bring lavender into your wedding at the farm in unique and delightful ways.

Organic Lavender Flowers-Lavender Green Farm Dancing in the fields.This month Chris and I will celebrate our 37th Wedding Anniversary. It seems as though we’ve been together for our entire lives and it feels as though we have just fallen in love. A paradox! We were married in 1969 on our family farm, which is now Lavender Green. Our wedding was simple in ceremony and music and yet lush with 300 guests, great food cooked outdoors, and lots of love! As I remember, there were flowers and fragrance everywhere.

We celebrate every wedding anniversary and mentally renew our vows at every wedding we attend. My wedding dress is carefully packed away and I can still slip into it, which I did on our 25th anniversary.

Lavender Wedding with organic lavender flowers.One of our many passions is the growing of lavender, which has historically represented love and fidelity. Our website features a number of home, travel, and wedding gifts hand sewn and crafted at the farm.

Our most delightful customers are Brides, planning their own weddings and planning to use lavender in unique ways to add fragrance to the celebration. They look to us to provide dried lavender for their own creations, or keepsakes from our wedding line or recipes for food or drink. We raise a number of different kinds of lavender and guide them on what would work the best in their own wedding.

 

Here are twelve of the most popular ways to use lavender in your wedding:

For the Ceremony itself:
1. Dried lavender buds for the flower girl to strew down the aisle fills the space with scent. As the bridesmaids follow, stepping on the buds releases even more fragrance to last the ceremony. (No one ever objects to the lingering scent of dried lavender in the vacuum cleaner)
2. Lavender buds in the ring bearers pillow scent the ceremony for the Bride, Groom and wedding party–it can be very heady and romantic and memorable. The pillow fragrance will last forever and can find a place on your bed to hold the memory and freshen your linens.
3. Bunches of dried lavender tied with big bows at each pew or row of chairs. Dried lavender stems can be cut to any length and made just the right size to work with the bow.
4. Consider a Unity or Promise Candle made with lavender and soy wax to light at the wedding and anniversaries ever after.
5. Fresh lavender in the Bridal and Bridesmaids bouquet for color and fragrance.
6. As a wedding toss, dried lavender in little net bags can be given to each guest to toss at the departing Bride and Groom. It is a soft and fragrant toss that will not offend humans or birds. We suggest the dried French variety because it is less expensive than our organic varieties.

For the Reception
7.
Mini-lavender bouquets for place cards are very popular as well as little lavender “shot” candles to brighten your table at the reception and provide a subtle fragrance for the life of the party. We often provide the lavender for your own creation, or we can craft it to meet your specifications.
8. Lavender (our organic Munstead variety) can enhance the food and beverage served at the Reception. Many delicious recipes are available to make lavender scented Cakes, ice cream, cookies and punch. A sprig of lavender in a glass of champagne makes a wonderful aperitif, for example.

Special Gifts for the Bride and Groom and the Wedding Party:
9. Brides have purchased items from our wedding and travel lines such as scented hangers and sachets to give as gifts to the wedding party. Mothers of the Bride especially appreciate a wedding keepsake. Our spa line provides a memorable thank you to those who helped make your day, too.

After the Wedding
10. Store your wedding gown in a large box with acid free paper and tuck in our Lavender filled bridal wear storage liner to keep mustiness and moths away from your dress and veil. A young woman of the future may want to wear your dress! Tuck lavender scented shoe stuffers into your shoes to keep them looking new and fresh as well.
11. Throw leftover lavender buds into your bath for romance and stress relief from the big day.
12. Take a nap with a silky eye pillow filled with flax to reduce puffiness and lavender to ensure restful sleep and sweet dreams. Or tuck a Battenburg sleep envelope into your pillowcase for a long night’s sleep.

 

Lavender is one of the most beloved herbs and scents in the world and is equally enjoyed by men and women so use it liberally and experiment with your own creations! We would love to hear stories of how you brought lavender into your wedding!

 

All the Best,

 

Ginna Gemmell

Traveling Around the World, Seeking Lavender Essential Oil

light through trees on snowOne of the pleasures of a long winter is that Mother Nature gives us a rest from the garden and time to plan and indulge our curiosity about the world outside of the farm.  As a lavender lover I have been armchair traveling to other countries that produce lavender oil and sampling their essential oils this Winter, focusing on Lavandula Angustifolia oils.  What a delight!  Each country seems to have it’s own signature lavender fragrance and benefits, and I appreciate their unique differences!  It’s hard to chose a favorite because, like wine, each satisfies a different mood or use.

map of the Mediterranean region
Mediterranean countries have the longest history of distilling lavender essential oil but, with the globalization of the plant, lavender is wild crafted or cultivated all around the World on nearly every continent.  Far flung countries like India, Australia, South America, and South Africa offer some of the most tantalizing scents these days. The US is also cultivating lavender for essential oil, primarily on the West Coast and, more recently, in the Southwest.  We are very eager to try our US oils when they become more available and affordable.

Lavender can be compared to grapes in the sense that temperature, days of sunshine, rain and growing season all impact lavender’s scent and bounty.  A dry Summer might produce stunted plant growth, for example, but very fragrant oil and intense flowers which translate into a spectacular Essential Oil.  Growing altitude also impacts lavender’s fragrance.  As a general rule of thumb, the higher the elevation the greater the difficulty in harvesting or wild crafting the lavender, and the more precious and pricey the resulting oil.

Photograph: Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Corbis

Photograph: Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Corbis

One of our all time favorite oil is the French variety “Population;” considered the benchmark angustifolia oil. It is raised in almost perfect conditions at a latitude offering long daylight hours, a high altitude of 3500 feet, moderate rainfall and a sandy soil.  It has a thin, sweet, green strong scent and makes wonderful perfume, as well as being known for its therapeutic qualities.  We reserve this oil for our Lavender Personal Diffusers with refills, which use the precious oil very efficiently.

 

Photo: StellaVM

Bulgaria’s Rose Valley. Photo: StellaVM

Lavender Bulgarian Essential Oil  has a rich lavender-floral scent which is somewhat fruitier and more mellow than Population, and is a little less expensive.  We love this oil and use it in our Essential Oil Synergies because it holds its own with other strongly scented oils like Tea Tree or Eucalyptus and is grown organically in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley.

 

Farmers picking on lavender fields outside of Franschoek, South Africa.

Farmers picking Lavender outside of Franschoek, South Africa. Photo: Slack12

We’ve also sampled lavender essential oils from Moldova, the Ukraine and South Africa, and found that each has their own unique scent and appeal.  I think my favorite Lavender Essential Oil might be Kashmir, from the northern mountains of India.  This is pricey and not available in great quantity because it is wild crafted in a very unsettled region of India.  But, I would use the word “divine” to describe its scent.

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This Winter is also giving us the time to experiment with blending oils to demonstrate new research on lavender’s medicinal qualities.  Spanish Stoechas has a sharp note but is very medicinal and, when blended with Lavender Seville Absolute and Lavandula Dentate, they form a synergy posited to treat stubborn infections according to new research shared by the US Lavender Grower’s Association.  Our testing at Lavender Green is experimental and we’re using it on ourselves and volunteers only at this point in straight, carrier oil and cream formulations.

I have also found myself watching PBS and the Travel Channel this Winter in an attempt to learn more and get a better understanding of the countries producing the wondrous lavender Essential Oil.  It’s been a total treat and my real vs. virtual travel bucket list has grown!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to roam the world like free spirits searching out the most fragrant and addictive lavender essential oil?  It could take us many Winters! 

 Comment and tell us which Lavender fields top your bucket list?

Cheers,
Ginna