Saturday, 20 July 2019

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, Lavender's green

When you are king, dilly dilly, I shall be queen.
Lavender's blue is an 'olde' English folk song which originated almost four hundred years ago.


As the early evening sunlight lit up the Lavender in our garden, we were reminded that now could be the perfect moment to see a Lavender crop before harvesting begins in earnest. There are several English Lavender farms around the country, but the one we visited is local to us in the Cotswolds. 
Growing Lavender in England is a tradition going back for more than two thousand years. Lavender is a mediterranean crop brought here by the Romans. It has always been highly prized for its antiseptic and healing qualities, as well as for it's unique fragrance. 

The day of our visit was very warm, the bees and insects were busy, 
and the air was enveloped in the balmy fragrance of Lavender - it was lovely.
I think this is the rather diminutive Leafcutter bee with it's black facemask. I was delighted to have some Leafcutter bees nesting in my 'Solitary Bee Hotel' last year. It is easy to tell what type of bee has arrived as the other two solitary bees that tend to come are the Red Mason bee and the Blue Mason bee both of which block off their entrance/exit hole using mud. Whereas the Leafcutter lines the tubes with leaves and also uses cut leaves to block of the entrance when it has finished the task. So far no Leafcutter bees have visited, but I have not given up hope as there are still six more weeks to go before their nesting season ends.
Forager and trailer
The foragers and attached trailers are all GPS guided. On the first harvest run they cut off the sides of the plants and then trim the tops of the plants on the second run.  When the trailer is filled with 5 tons of Lavender flowers it is taken into the distillery. The flowers remain in the trailer whilst hot steam is passed through it. The steam then passes through a condenser, and finally the condensate is sent away to have the essential oils and perfume extracted. The harvest and process is quick and efficient, and the newly cut and trimmed plants are ready for next year's growth.
When the Romans left England, Lavender was principally grown by monks in their physic gardens where it provided them with a whole range of herbal remedies. 
Lavender became entwined within English folklore. A lavender cross was often hung on the door to ward off evil spirits. In the 16th century it was effectively used to guard against cholera, and during the Great Plague in the 17th century people would tie Lavender bunches to their wrists to guard against infection. 
For the past three years the farm has been growing Camomile which thrives well on the free draining soil here in the Cotswolds.
The first recorded uses of Camomile was in ancient Egypt where it was used to treat fever. Crushed flowers were rubbed on the skin as a cosmetic, and its oil was used to embalm deceased pharaohs.
Throughout history Camomile has been used to treat a variety of ailments. In medieval times Camomile was thought to be almost a cure all. The most common way of enjoying Camomile's benefits today is in tea, especially just before bedtime. Camomile soaps, moisturisers and room fragrances are also popular ways to enjoy its properties.
The Camomile is harvested in the late summer when the flowers are at their peak. The crop is mown and allowed to dry for a day. It is harvested using a forager which gently lifts the crop before chopping it into short lengths and blowing it into the attached trailer. It is then steam distilled inside the trailers in the same way as the Lavender flowers.
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But it's not only Lavender and Camomile! 
The farm grows several small meadow areas of wildflowers which create a lovely colourful display and attract a wide range of insects. 

48 comments:

  1. I didn't know lavender also grows in the UK. Have only seen the fields in France, it is a wonderful sight that colour purple.

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    1. Lavender growing in Britain is a tradition that goes back for over 2000 years. It is a very long tradition and similar to that of France. The Romans also took Lavender to France at around the same period.

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  2. I can smell it now. Do you take your own photos? If so, they are great. Well, they are great anyway.

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    1. Sorry I can't oblige you with the actual fragrance - yes, every photo shown is mine, and I am very happy that you thought they were great - thank you. When I see people with their long lenses and tripods I feel quite embarrassed and always wonder how mine will turn out. I saw a chap taking the wild flowers whilst lying on the ground with his enormous lense and tripod. He was still lying there long after I had taken mine and gone on my way.

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  3. What a lovely view of your garden. I love the deeper shade of lavender. Glad that you were in time to see it before harvest. It can be there one day, all gone the next!

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    1. Thank you Betty - We enjoy that corner of the garden especially as it catches the evening sun - we call it our sundial garden.
      I love all of the colours of Lavender, especially when they are shown, as here, complimenting one another.

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  4. Beautiful photos! This is the first I've heard of steam distillation -- interesting process! Doesn't everyone have a little lavender sachet in their sock and underwear drawer? lol

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    1. Too right Debra - apart from scenting drawers and wardrobes they are said to also keep the moths away.

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  5. Just love lavender. Good to see growing so well in your country.
    The bees, gosh, people in some parts of Australia are hand feeding the bees to try and save them in the drought they are having, so sad.

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    1. Lavender grows really well in the Cotswolds as we have the soil that it loves.

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  6. Dear Rosemary, This is such a lovely post. Your photos are outstanding.
    I have lavender growing in my garden and Camomile growing in between the rocks in the walkways. I plan to harvest both of them.

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    1. Dear Gina - thank you for your kind comment - the Lavender farm was very photogenic. I have quite a few areas of the garden where I have Lavender growing which are such easy plants as long as you remember to cut them properly every year to prevent them from becoming straggly and woody.

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  7. I'm thrilled to see a lavendar farm, and learn the processes used in distilling it. It is so beautiful and fragrant. I've got a little pot of it on my porch railing.

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    1. Thank you I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing the Lavender farm. Lavender is a great little flower to grow and I hope you enjoy the one that you have on your porch railing.

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  8. What a lovely post - sadly, I think the Lavender Farm you went to is our nearest (here in deepest Wales) so I will just have to appreciate it from your photos.

    I was reading a piece in the Telegraph today about Councils using "boughten" (good Glos expression according to my butty from down that way) wild flower seed from Europe, to use on verges, but it is only supporting 40 sorts of insects, whilst our native species of wild flowers support something like 1400! Carms. Council are still the sort who think verges should be neat sterile places and will persist in mowing down swathes of wild flowers in season in the name of tidyness. Grrrrrr.

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    1. There are a couple of Lavender farms in Wales which I imagine are reasonably close to you - there is Wye Lavender Rhayader, and Welsh Lavender, Builth Wells. I don't know how they compare to the Cotswold Lavender Farm which is rather special because of all the lovely shades they have which compliment one another.
      If you decide to go, check what your own Lavender looks like to make sure that it is still at its peak. I visited the Cotswold one last Monday, and my own Lavender was lovely then, but I noticed today that it has rapidly started to go over and has patches of brown.
      www.welshlavender.com or www.wyelavender.co.uk

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  9. Hello Rosemary, Wonderful photos of the lavender fields. I do have to admit that I prefer flowers in nature to those made into sachets or scented products!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - I must admit that I too like to see the flowers in situ too.

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  10. Wonderful photos, as always. I can almost smell the lavender farm. The wildflowers are really colourful as well.

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  11. Ahh smell that lavender. I love the red yellow blue and green at the end. So bright so crisp looking.
    The round photos are a lovely change.

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  12. A very comprehensive post. Never heard of the folk song except from your previous post and a recent beer advert. The photos reminded me of Grasse in France which feature in a very unusual but excellent film Perfume: The Story of A Murderer. In that he enters a world of colour and scent transformed by fields and horizons of blue lavender. What a cracking place to visit in England.

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    1. People tend to associate Lavender fields with Provence, but we have a great profusion of them across our country too. From Norfolk in the east to Wales in the west, Surrey, Hertfordshire, Kent, Somerset and Devon in the south and Yorkshire in the north.

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  13. Oh my gosh. I LOVED reading about the lavender process. I never knew this before, never even gave it a thought. This is lovely and amazing all at once. Thanks for educating me, and for making my morning nice with beautiful photos. I can almost smell them.

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    1. Sorry JC that I cannot supply the fragrance too. Thank you for kind comment.

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  14. I just love lavender :)
    Titti

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  15. True balm to my eyes , just love these rows of lavender , and now I finally know how they extract the oils !

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    1. It was indeed balm to the eyes, and made for a lovely day out.

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  16. Thanks so much for even more info. on growing, harvesting, using, and just enjoying everything about beautiful lavender.
    Britain's lavender seems as perfect as what we all see in Provence at the right season - and perhaps even more fragrant due to more rain? Yardley's lavender soap has been my favorite since childhood - and little drawstring bags of dried lavender flowers are tucked in my drawers (not my knickers!!!) around the house!

    Again dear Rosemary, we are thrilled at your news and that all is well in the Cotswolds.
    Mary X

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    1. Dear Mary - I smiled about your 'drawers' My MiL always loved to receive Yardley's Lavender soap and talc for her birthdays.
      We loved it at the Lavender farm, next year I am thinking of visiting another interesting farm called the Confetti farm?
      Thanks again Mary we are also very happy at the news💜

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  17. This is a wonderful post - so much good information and gorgeous photos. Thank you!

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  18. This was not only beautiful but informative. I always associated lavender with the south of France. I stand corrected. Gee those wildflowers are so pretty.

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    1. Even though England is well known for its Lavender fragrances, soaps, and dusting powders, I think that most people do tend to associate Lavender fields with France.

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  19. I do love lavender very much, and these pictures are just lovely. Of course I am looking forward to seeing in in our upcoming trip to Provence. That is a cute little black face bee, and it is good to read an update on the bee hotel, a great project. Thank you for sharing the method of production of lavender and camaomile, which I never really thought about, despite loving a daily cup of camomile tea. As for the meadow flowers: just so stunning, like nothing we ever see here, alas.

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    1. I have never tried camomile tea - do you find it relaxing? My little bee hotel has proved to be a great place for the solitary bees visit to lay their eggs, I am very pleased with it.

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  20. How I would like to be in these fields ...
    Wonderful photos!
    Hugs and all the best
    Maria

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  21. What a lovely post this is, Rosemary and I agree with Tom that your photos are excellent. I especially like the first one. Like many people I'm a big fan of lavender and mine has put on a good showing this warm summer. Now it is going over and should really be cut, but I am always loath to shear it!

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    1. The Lavender has been really glorious this year - fortunately we went to the Lavender farm on the right day last week, as mine too has now begun to go over. I know how you feel about cutting it though.

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  22. So many beautiful wild flowers around this year - I have enjoyed them as much as, if not more, than the cultivated ones.

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    1. At least the wild flowers are a joy, and give those of us that love nature something that we can take pleasure in whilst the country appears to be going to the dogs!

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  23. Amazing photos.
    Beautiful lavender fields

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