We have over twenty-four acres of land dedicated to growing english lavender at Hartley Park Farm.
We grow four main varieties of lavender for harvesting:
- Folgate with a mild aroma which produces a top quality English lavender oil
- Maillette, originally from France with a strong perfume, also producing high quality essential lavender oil
- Imperial Gem, because of its vibrant colour, is used exclusively for dried seed and bunching
- Grosso, a hybrid variety, is grown for its oil, the distinctive aromatic lavandin oil. With its long elegant stems and light blue-grey fragrant flowerheads, It is perfect when cut dried for lavender bunches and sheaths.
We also grow a number of other english lavenders such as Hidcote, Miss Katherine, Blue Ryder and Edelweiss.
It takes three years for the lavender plants to mature, each with a life cycle of between 7 to 10 years. After this time the yield (ie amount of oil obtained from each plant) starts to dramatically reduce.
We harvest our lavender during July and August – depending on the weather. Lavender is normally harvested early morning, to ensure the highest yield of oil. It is immediately taken to the distillery, as it starts to lose oil from the moment it is harvested. Loaded into wire baskets it is then immediately taken to our distillery on the farm. We use a process of steam distillation, thus ensuring that the oil is pure.
The lavender oil must be left to mature before it is used, as the characteristics of the oil change over time and only reach full maturity (like a fine malt whisky!) after several years.
However, both the quality and quantity (yield) of the oil can be affected by many factors, not least of which sunshine – limited sunshine – limited oil!
We pick our lavender bunches by hand. Two of our varieties, Imperial Gem and Grosso are suitable for bunching. Imperial Gem has a strong colour and is short stemmed whereas Grosso has a light blue-grey colour with long elegant stems.