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

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

Our Lavender Farm

Love and Life on Our Lavender Farm

Lavender and romance – they just go together

Gina and Chris Gemmell of Lavender Green Farm

Chris and Gina Gemmell of Lavender Green Farm

We’re Chris and Ginna Gemmell and we’ve just celebrated our 44th  wedding anniversary on the same farm we were married on in 1969. Its our family farm — now called Lavender Green where we currently grow several varieties of English and French dried lavender flowers and buds.

Here, we craft lavender products that help bring the many benefits of lavender into the homes of people worldwide.

It seems as though Chris and I have been together for our entire lives and yet it feels as though we’ve just fallen in love. Our farm wedding was simple in ceremony and music and yet lush with 300 guests, great food cooked outdoors and lots of love!

There were flowers and fragrance everywhere.

Chris and Gina Gemmel farm wedding at Lavender Green Farm

Here we are at our farm wedding in 1969.

One of our many passions is growing lavender, which has historically represented love and fidelity. Chris and I love lavender and believe that everyone should have an affordable way to access the healing benefits of this wonderful, aromatic plant.

Small Beginnings with a Big Return

How a few lavender plants grew into a successful online business

Chris and I began with a few plants in 1988 before the benefits of lavender were well known in the U.S., and there were very few lavender farms.

After much trial and error, we settled on growing the variety Lavender Angustifolia (True English Lavender) because of its hardiness for our Zone 5 region, its many culinary uses and perfume quality fragrance.

From here we’ve added several other varieties and have used our lavender farm to grow a successful online business creating lavender products that highlight its scent, flavor and healing properties.

The History of Our Lavender Farm 

Keeping our family Civil War era farm sustainable
Lavender Green FarmMy great, great grandfather purchased our farmland before he headed off to the Civil War, but sadly he never returned. His daughters inherited the land when they married and my great grandmother, Mary Amelia, with her new husband, William, built our farm’s house, barn, summer kitchen and carriage house along with several other buildings in 1888.

My grandfather was born here and one hundred years after it was built, Chris and I purchased the farm from my grandfather’s estate to keep it in the family.

To us, family history and the farm’s legacy are important and we hope to keep it going strong for generations to come with sustainable land management practices.

Helping Young Women Grow on Our Lavender Farm

Employment and coaching for local high school kids  

Here's our crew that helps pick our organic lavender.Lavender Green has developed a unique business model where we work with high school students to manage the planting, tending, cutting and crafting of our lavender.

The young women self-select new team members each summer and hand the jobs down to younger kids as they move on from high school to college. Lavender Green helps support our youth with life coaching, giving them guidance and direction for their own life’s journey.

We also pay our young workers a fair wage, so that they can save funds for higher education. This model has worked for 25 years for Lavender Green because of the excellence of the youth involved.

Over the years, well over 150 kids have worked with Lavender Green!

Made in America

Promoting the cottage craft tradition

Most all of Lavender Green products are made in America. And many of our artisans, local to our Western Pa. region, come from a tradition of expert sewing and craftsmanship. Lavender Green proudly provides opportunities for local artisans to earn a fair percentage on retail sales for the products we sell.

Lavender Friends Gather Here

Join us!

At Lavender Green, we like to think of our customers as fellow “lavender lovers” and friends. We are always available by phone to answer your questions or to advise you about our products.

Friends gather on our lavender farm.We believe in protecting your privacy and won’t send spam e-mails or sell your addresses to anyone — ever.  Sign up for our Lavender Blog or Facebook Page to learn more about lavender and to stay in touch with what’s happening on the farm.

You’re also welcome to visit the Lavender Green Farm in our private or public tours. Local groups can also host meetings and celebrations here at the farm.

Lavender Green is a Charter member of the US Lavender Growers Association and we love to share our experiences with beginning lavender growers.