Mendip Lavender

After a good drive around the lanes trying to find the location of our visit, Shepton Horticultural Society met in a field on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet.  As the group assembled we were treated to panoramic views of the countryside and a sky of black stormy clouds.  

We were welcomed by Jenny who explained how she and her husband moved out of Bristol two years ago to become lavender ‘farmers’.   It was clear from Jenny’s enthusiasm that they had reached out for their dream: living close to the land with an organic and environmentally friendly approach however you could hear that there was a lot of back breaking work involved too! 

Jenny says “Lavender oil is good for everything: it has anti-bacterial, anti-septic and anti-microbial properties.  It is good for burns, scratches, bites, helps the nerves and helps you sleep…  it’s properties are far reaching and much overlooked these days.” 

We stepped carefully over newly planted beds of Lavandula angustifolia ‘Maillette’ and L. angustifolia ‘No.9’ and brushed our legs along scented rows of established L. x intermedia ‘Grosso’(a vigorous variety), L. angustifolia ‘Imperial Gem’, L. angustifolia ‘Folgate’ and L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’(still the best for a neat garden hedge).  The differences in size, colour, habit (and smell) were obvious as we were introduced to the world of ‘lavender’.  

Jenny explained that the season was approximately 3 weeks late this year and that the lavender flower spikes (with a bit of stem) are harvested when 1/3 of the flowers are open, 1/3 are over and 1/3 are still in bud.  The flowers are then put into the still and the oil is extracted by steam.  The plants are then pruned hard in August. 

The evening was rounded off with a display of Mendip Lavender products accompanied by beautiful (and delicious) ‘high’ tea with lavender biscuits and lemon drizzle cake. 

For more information visit www.mendiplavender.com
 

Speciality lavender plants are available from:
 www.downderry-nursery.co.uk

Mendip Lavender farm is on Bristol Sandstone, which is a free draining brash.  Simon from our group sent me a link to an informative document all about Mendip soils, take a look!http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/images/jca141_tcm6-5522.pdf  or
http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mendips/geology/geological_structure.htm

What the RHS says about growing conditions for lavender:

Lavender is best planted between April and May.
It thrives in poor or moderately fertile, free-draining alkaline soils in full sun. 

On heavier soils, like clay and clay loam, lavender tends to be fairly short-lived, becoming woody at the base. To prolong the life of your lavender on heavier soil, add organic matter and gravel to improve the drainage and plant on a mound. If growing as a hedge, plant on a ridge to keep the base of the plants out of wet soil.

Space plants 90cm (3ft) apart, or if growing a hedge, 30cm (1ft) apart or, 45cm (18in) for larger cultivars.

Once established, lavender is fairly drought-tolerant.   Ref: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=127

Notes compiled by Angela Morley
www.wildgardens.co.uk