Lavender Varieties: Maillette

Hello Lavender Fans!

Another post giving you some information on the different varieties of lavender. This week we are going to be looking at Maillette, which makes up around a third of the main field, giving some details of the flower generally, as well as our experiences of growing it at Hitchin Lavender!

First thing to say is that this is another example of an angustifolia  blooming between mid June and mid July. Having said that, everything is happening a little earlier this year and, as you can see from the shot below, it was looking fab by early June.  Though it has a continental name, it is not one of the ‘French Lavenders’, but is, what’s commonly known as, an ‘English Lavender.’ However, this is a bit of a misnomer as lavender is essentially a Mediterranean plant.

Maillette
Shot taken 5th June ’17.

It has a mid purple sort of colouring at the height of its bloom and is the most commonly used flower by aromatherapists. Maillette oil is a relaxant and a few drops can be put neat into a bath, or maybe even a few on the pillow to help you drift off to sleep. It is a widely held belief that all lavender oil is as such, however, depending on the variety, it can also be a stimulant.

What brings all lavender together are its properties as an antiseptic. Lavender oil is particularly good for cooking burns and can heal up a wound within days.

Though this is a hardy plant, we have had a few problems with the maillette we have grown on the field. It is, generally speaking, a hardy plant and it used to make up the entirety of our display area, however, for whatever reason, it did not grow happily there. Though this is a shame in one sense, it allowed us the space to grow 60 new varieties of lavender, giving the full spectrum of the plant.

Furthermore, last year, we had problems with maintaining the maillette on the field. As mentioned previously, one of the properties of an angustifolia, is its shorter stem relative to a lavendin. This means that, when we want to cut back our lavender, an angustifolia does not give us much margin for error. It was pruned back too low before the season last year and we thought that it had been killed off, as, for a long time, it did not flower. Sometimes lavender is difficult to predict, because by the end of the season it had regrown and survived the slight mishap.

This gives a good example of the resilience of lavender. Though we certainly don’t recommend ever pruning back into the old wood, the

 

maillette shows just how much of a fighter an angustifola is!

That’s all for this week.

Come back on Thursday for another Lavender Digest.

Bye for now!

Will

 

 

Lavender Digest (13/7/17)

Hello Lavender Fans!

This is the third week of our guide to Hitchin Lavender. We will be looking forward towards the weekend as well as giving you all the information about the week just gone. Let’s go!

Next week… (14/7/2017 – 20/7/2017)

How will the Lavender be looking? 

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We are pretty well at full bloom right now! (see picture below taken 7/7/17) So any time in the next two weeks would be the best time to come.

Sunflowers? 

No, not yet. Though the sunflowers may be a couple of weeks early this year. Keep your eyes peeled for these updates.

How busy will it be this weekend? 

The forecast – currently – looks as though it may rain for over the weekend, meaning that it could be quieter, but this may well change. As I’ve mentioned in previous editions, if we are sunny expect it to be busy.

And in the week? 

We have around one more week before the schools break up for summer, as soon as they do we get incredibly busy in the week and on weekends. If you were hoping to come for a quieter visit, then this may be the best week for it.

What’s on? 

Workshops 

14th July – Ceramics with Beth Fairchild (10.00 – 20.45)

                    – Outdoor Glow in the Dark Yoga (Sold Out) (19.45 – 20.45)

15th July  – Sold Out  – Morning Meditation Class at Hitchin Lavender Farm

17th July – Craft Workshops – Making Bath Bombs! (19.00-21.00)

18th July – Print Making Workshop (10.00 – 12.00)

                  – Knitted Flower Workshop (13.00 – 15.00)

19th July – Photography Workshop (10.00 – 12.00)

                  – Mindfulness Meditation (18.30 – 19.30)

20th July – Toddler Tales with Lucy Harrigan (10.00-12.00)

– Paper Cutting with Vanessa Stone (19.00-21.30)

For more information go to our events tab on our Facebook. Our news tab on our site will be updated tomorrow! So keep your eyes peeled on there for info on how to book a place for any of these fab workshops!

See you next week!

Will

Lavender Varieties: Grosso

Hello lavender fans!

We hope you’ve had a great weekend and that your Monday has treated you OK! Today we will be looking at the variety of lavender of which we have the most: grosso…

Grosso

grosso closeup

Grosso is a variety of lavendin (follow the link to find out what that really means) and makes up the vast majority of our main field. The best way to distinguish a lavendin from an angustifolia is to first of all look its stem, a lavendin’s stem – generally speaking – looks, almost like a spear, as it is particularly long with the flower head coming to a point (as you may be able to distinguish in the photo on the left). Second of all have a little look at the greenery. A lavendin grows wider than an angustifolia, especially noticeable when they are younger flowers.

It also easy to distinguish from the period in which it blooms. Again, generally speaking, a lavendin will be in bloom later in the season. Our grosso is, pretty well, in full bloom right now and we expect it to stay that way for the next three weeks. It is difficult to give exact dates on these things, as it depends on the weather. Almost counter-intuitive to what you might expect, if there is a long period of rain, the lavender will begin to suffer and turn.

The grosso we have on the farm is about 15 years old, and is still going strong. There are a few reason for having so much of it on the farm. Though it doesn’t produce a better quality oil than the angustifolia, it has a much higher yield, meaning we get more oil out of it, and the longer stems make the plant easier to harvest come August (I will do a post on the harvesting process closer to the time.)

If you were wanting lavender at home, we tend to suggest going for an angustifolia (something like folgate or an ashdown forest) as they will stay a little more uniform and won’t take over your front garden. However, if you do have space to play with, and want a lavender that grows a little bigger, grosso is a great one to go for!

That’s it for this week. Thank you so much for reading.

Subscribe on our site, or share on your Facebook feed.

All feedback appreciated!

I will be back on Thursday for another of our ‘lavender digests.’

Thanks again,

Will

 

Lavender Digest (6/7/17)

Hello Lavender Fans!

Welcome to week two of the Lavender Digest, your one stop shop for news about Hitchin Lavender. We will be looking at the week just gone, but first I will give you some information about the farm for next week.

Next week… (7/7/2017 – 13/7/2017)

How will the Lavender be looking? 

We are one more week closer to being in full bloom. Our display area is still looking absolutely magnificent. With 60 different varieties of lavender, it really is a sight to behold! The main field is looking great and is about 80-90% of the way to being in full bloom. See picture below (taken 5/7/17)

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Sunflowers? 

No, not yet. Mid August.

How busy will it be this weekend? 

I think from now on it will be safe to suggest that every weekend will be busy, just as long as it’s not raining. Forecast says it should be clear all weekend (though it was majorly wrong last week!) – so expect queues. Just as a word to the wise, we do allow picnics on the main field, for those who don’t fancy waiting for food!

And in the week? 

We are still relatively quiet at the moment, as the schools haven’t broken up yet. So if you have the option to come on a weekday, or weeknight on Tuesdays and Fridays (we are open till 9) I’d go for it.

What’s on? 

Workshops 

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We have lots of workshops on for you this week. Here is a brief overview

7th July   – Outdoor Beer Yoga (19.00 – 20.45)

9th July   – Knitting on the Farm (9.30 – 11.30)

                  – Yoga with Aminta (9.00 – 11.30)

                  – Full Moon Meditation (19.00 – 20.30)

11th July – Print Making Workshop (10.00 – 12.00)

12th July – Photography Workshop (10.00 – 12.00)

                  – Mindfulness Meditation (18.30 – 19.30)

More details on our Workshops go to: www.hitchinlavender.co.uk/news 

What’s been happening? 

Oh nothing much… Other than we only picked up an award! Thanks so much to Muddy Stiletto for that nod, we won for ‘Best Family Attraction!’ More info to follow!

Not quite as jam packed this week – in terms of new and exciting events. However, we have been super busy as more and more people come to visit our place.

Check back with us on Monday for another post about our all lavender related things, or next Thursday for another update on Hitchin Lavender!

See you soon!

Will

 

History of Lavender in Hitchin

Hello lavender fans!

In a new series of posts, we will be discussing a little about the history of lavender growing in the Hitchin area.

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Recently, our museum of the Perks & Llewellyn pharmacy was opened to the public and I thought it would prove prudent to give you a little context about this space!

The Apothecary

Perks & Llewellyn chemist and druggist was originally founded as an apothecary by James Meers and his wife Hester around 1783. Their store on 9 High Street was a famous landmark in Hitchin and sold a miscellany of products and services including gunpowder – which he presumably made himself, rum by the gallon, red wine, combs, hair ribbon and, crucially lavender water.

The shop itself was ran by Hester, due to the fact that as an apothecary, such as Meers, did not just provide medication. They had an important place in the community, to the point that their social standing was actually importance than their knowledge of medicine. For example, there is evidence that on one occasion Meers was trusted to supply butcher’s meat to the Poor Law overseers at Kings Langley. The dispensing of a qualified physician’s prescription was a very small part of their medical practice, as they also went to the homes of patients who could not afford qualified doctors to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication and even perform light surgery to patients who could not afford qualified doctors. This he was contracted to do for the surrounding villages, which came at a cost:

Table of Treatments and Prices
Six Pence Bleeding

Tooth Extraction (per tooth)

Ten Pence Draining a large blister
One Shilling Dressing a bad finger

Enema

Two Shilling sixpence Bleeding with six leeches

Opening a tumour

One Guinea Reducing a leg fracture

 

Generally speaking, providing medical services was commonplace requirement of an apothecary during this period, which begat the development of what we now know as general practices. However, when both James and Hester Meers died in 1800 and 1804 respectively, the business was taken over by chemist and druggist John Perks, which changed the store from an apothecary to a pharmacy. This marked the beginning of Perks & Llewellyn as a chemist and druggist.

Early Days

Edward Perks, son of John, began the growing of lavender and the development of lavender products in 1823. However, after his untimely death in 1826 the business was run by Sarah Perks for over three decades. During this time Hitchin was starting to make its name for lavender production, though it was championed by another business: William Ransoms co. By 1851 the lavender produced in the town had gained such notoriety that Queen Victoria visited Hitchin station to pick up a bottle of essential oils. She was at the station for a matter of minutes.

Upon the death of Sarah in 1860, William continued to develop the lavender business. With fields across Hitchin – specifically on Whinbush Road, Stuart Drive and Ransoms Recreational Park – the range of lavender products produced by Perks began to expand. Through labour intensive work, which relied heavily on female workers, each field would produce lavender continually for up to five years. After this period they would be uprooted and burnt, which produced a sweet aroma that drifted over the streets of Hitchin.

 

 

International Acclaim

Over the next 150 years Perks used the lavender to produce shaving soap, toilet soap, tooth powder, bath powder, bath crystals as well as lavender water, some of which can be found in the right hand cabinet of the museum.

Perks toiletries featured in several globally renowned events. Remarkably, they received an honourable mention for ‘goodness of quality of lavender oil’ at the International Exhibition of 1862 – also known as the Great London Exhibition – and moreover gained the only prize medal for lavender water at the Second Paris International Exposition of 1867.

In 1871 Samuel Perks – William Perks’s brother – bought the business for £3500. By 1876 Samuel had 35 acres of lavender field across the country under cultivation including fields at Mount Pleasant, Gaping Hills and Grays Lane, which could produce 2000 gallons of lavender water. Not to be outdone by his brother, Samuel exhibited Perks’s wears at the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, one of the first World’s Fairs in America.

Perks & Llewellyn and the Decline of the lavender industry

At the time of the 1871 census 47 year old Samuel and wife Catherine lived at the shop on 9 High Street with their two daughters and six sons – they even had a nurse and 3 servants. The shop was staffed by two pharmaceutical chemists and one Charles W H Llewellyn, assistant to Samuel. In 1876 Samuel went into partnership with Charles and the company was registered under Perks & Llewellyn for the remainder of its business life.

After Perks and Llewellyn died in 1890 and 1893 respectively, the business was taken over by Anne Sarah Llewellyn. This saw a succession of different owners of the company, none of whom could reach the heights of the 1870s.

By the 1960s a combination of competition from French lavender, higher taxation forcing the price of lavender up and the location of the lavender fields being sought after for housing development, saw the final demise of lavender after 180 years.

So there we have it.

Make sure to join us again on Thursday for our new ‘Lavender Digest’, giving out information on how the field is looking.

See you in the week

Will

The Lavender Digest (30/6/2017)

Hello Lavender Fans!

Welcome to our first weekly installment of The Lavender Digest! Here we will be giving you our forecast of the coming week, as well as what has been going on at the farm over the last seven days!

Next week… (30/6/2017 – 6/7/2017)

How will the Lavender be looking? 

We are very close to being in full bloom. The first seven rows of angustifolia are currently in full bloom, with the main body of the field really beginning to look very purple indeed!

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Sunflowers? 

No, not yet. Mid August.

How busy will it be this weekend? 

Saturday looks like it will be clear all day, with lots of sun. Sunday, however, will be raining, on and off. So if you are wanting to come this week, then expect some queuing. However, as we are not quite in holiday season, there will definitely be space for you to find a quiet corner to come enjoy the purple.

What’s on? 

Workshops 

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We have two exciting workshops for you this week.

1st July – Morning Meditation Class with John Harrigan (TICKETS AVAILABLE)

“Enjoy an empowering morning meditation class in the tranquil and beautiful setting of the Lavender Farm. This hour long class will aid you to relax, embrace positivity and reduce stress. A perfect start to the weekend.”

5th July – Photography Workshop with Sharon Cooper (SOLD OUT)

“This hands on photography workshop will be held a purpose built classroom alongside the tranquil and beautiful setting of the Lavender Farm at Hitchin Lavender, Cadwell farm.”

Go to https://www.facebook.com/pg/HitchinLavender/events/ to see our full list of events coming up!

What’s been happening? 

roadrunner

We have had a spectacular week!

On Friday night we welcomed the formidable Roadrunner to come play a few funky covers of some classic songs, with Alex Francis as their lead man. They were electric, playing to a sold out audience All Night Long (all night(!)).

Come Saturday, we were ready for another party, getting on down with the Brookfield Band having ourselves a barn dance, followed by some delicious food and drink.

Then on Sunday we opened our gates for Ickleford Open Gardens, letting people have a wander round our fields as part of this longstanding community initiative.

That’s all for this week!

Check back with us on Monday for another post about our all lavender related things, or next Thursday for another update on Hitchin Lavender!

See you soon!

Will

 

 

 

 

 

Some Useful Information on When to Visit…

Hello lavender fans!

Apologies for the two week absence in the blog. With the weather getting hotter and the lavender getting more purple, we have been super busy and haven’t been able to find time to give you more information about our favourite purple plant.

Speaking of being busy, we have an announcement regarding this blog and how it will be used.

Starting this week, every Thursday we will be posting a newsletter, of sorts, updating you on how the lavender and the sunflowers are looking, as well as having a forecast on how busy we think we will be over that week, to help you find a time to visit that suits you.

We will also be telling you of the different events that are coming up – workshops, cinema events, gigs etc. –  on the farm and giving a review of the week just gone.

We hope this will help maximise your enjoyment of the farm.

Next Monday we shall start again on giving you information about the lavender as well!

Until Thursday!

Will

Varieties of Lavender: Ashdown Forest & Lullingstone Castle

Folgate

Hello lavender fans!

Following the blog post on Folgate lavender last week – one of the first lavender to come into bloom at the farm – we thought that we would focus on the other varieties that surround this flower on our main field!

At Hitchin Lavender in the first seven rows, after the first ten metres of Folgate the lavender goes a bright violet blue colour. This is where we have our Ashdown Forest! It was planted at the same time as the Folgate (around 2000) and is exactly the same size.

The reason for writing a separate post about Ashdown Forest, is because it has a really distinctive smell. It is much sweeter than that of the Folgate; it is really worth comparing the two if you have those varieties at home, or if you decide to come visit.

The second lavender in and around the Folgate is Lullingstone Castle. We don’t have too much of this flower on our field and there is a very good reason for that. On the seventh row of the lavender, right at the very top left hand corner, the row goes wild about halfway down. This is the Lullingstone Castle.

Originally, in 2000, when the rows were planted, that whole area was of this variety. Over the years, however, it grew so big and so wild that we could not get our tractor over the row to maintain it. We decided to cut it back very harshly after a period of time, way into the old wood, considering that if it lived, it lived, if it died, it died…

It came back even stronger the next year!

So, we had to dig it all up – Lullingstone Castle had won that battle, we had won the war.

However, we decided to keep a patch of the lavender as a memento. This flower has a real citrusy smell and is well worth the trek up the field to go have a smell (you can’t miss it, it’s massive!)

This lavender is one of the last to come into bloom and will actually be looking at its best within a couple of months, but the greenery will still have that distinctive smell.

These lavenders will be in bloom within the coming weeks – it’s starting to purple already! As ever check on Facebook for more updates on the field!

That’s all for this week.

More to come next Monday!

Have a good one,

Will

 

 

Lavender Varieties – Folgate

Hello lavender fans!

As we are coming to the beginning of our blooming season in the next few weeks, we at Hitchin Lavender thought it would be a good idea to look at the one of the first lavenders that will be coming into bloom in the next few weeks in the main field. We shall be looking at its properties generally, as well as some bits of information about the rows we have growing on the farm.

The lavender we are going to be looking at today is called Folgate. This is an angustifolia (for more information about species of lavender, look at our previous blog post on the subject here) and will come into bloom between mid to late June. Of course, this is totally dependent on the weather and if we have a long period of hot dry weather, this can bring the blooming period forward. Conversely, if we have colder wetter weather, it may well push the blooming period back (to stay up to date with how our lavender is doing, make sure to keep checking our Hitchin Lavender Facebook page.)

As discussed previously, this lavender grows best in direct sunlight, in well drained alkaline soil – chalk is ideal. For more information on how to plant lavender, please follow this link for bedding lavenders.

Folgate produces a slightly lighter shade of purple in comparison to some and, during its blooming period, gives off a sweet aroma. When picked and dried it can be a perfect addition in potpourri, or can be bunched together and distributed around the home.

The first seven rows of lavender on the field are mostly made up of Folgate. They are the oldest rows we have at Hitchin Lavender, as they are 17 years old – and still going strong! In the right conditions these bushes can grow for as long as 50 years, so we may yet have a few years left to enjoy its purple. At roughly 6 feet wide, these bushes are at their biggest size – though we do have to trim them back before the season, to keep them at this width.

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Shot in the Folgate (taken 28/5/2017) 

As we go to expand the field, we have planted Folgate plants at the far right of the field. These rows are around 2 years old (planted in 2015) and are currently at the size of footballs. So if you were thinking of growing your own lavenders at home and are coming to the field for a visit, you’d be welcome to see just how big these plants can get over time, to inform your decision.

If you like the sound of this lavender and did want to grow Folgate at home, we have plants for sale outside the main barn.

Just as a reminder, as the lavender is not currently in bloom, it is free entrance into the field, if you did want to come and have a visit!

That’s all for this week!

Come back next Monday for more information about lavender!

Will

 

Species of Lavender

Varieties of Lavender

Hello lavender fans!

This post will be a bit of an introduction into the species and varieties of lavender, giving you some consumer advice as to which lavender you should buy.

There are 39 different species of lavender in the world, but here at Hitchin Lavender we only have two of them planted in the display area and main field. Though this doesn’t sound like there is much potential for differing types of lavender, we do in fact have around 60 different varieties of those two species, all with different qualities and different shades of lavender.

The species that we have the most of here, as it makes up over half of the main field, is a species called lavendin also known as intermedia. We have so much of this, because it produces a long stem, which is convenient for the harvesting process (I will talk more about this in upcoming posts). Furthermore it has a high yield for the production of oil; 9% of the weight of the plant can be turned into essential oil, making lavendin a much more cost effective method for the production of this cosmetic.

In domestic settings, this species of lavender can be a bit problematic. As the stem grows longer, so too does the shrubbery, meaning that it can be a difficult plant to control. I’m sure you’ve seen flowerbeds totally overrun by lavender – this is probably because it is a lavendin.  If you do have a larger space to fill – a bed over 6-10 foot wide, say – then this may be the species for you.

The other species is known as angustifolia. Whereas our main field is dominated by lavendin, our display area is dominated by this second species. There are around 100 different varieties, with lots of different colours, from pink, to blue, to light and deep purple – we like to debunk the myth that there is such a thing as the colour lavender! Whereas lavendin grows quite broad, angustifolia remains smaller, producing satisfyingly neat rows. In terms of its lavender production, however, it has a lower yield of 3%, but produces a higher quality oil, which is used a lot in aromatherapy.

A slight issue with this species, is that it does self-seed, meaning that you may find smaller lavender bushes growing alongside the plants you have bedded. Furthermore, due to cross pollination, the lavenders can come back in different colours (if you have different types of lavender in your garden.) This does produce an interesting patchwork of colour, however, that may not what you want in your lavender rows.

A lavender that we don’t grow in the fields, but do have on sale in pots, is a species known as lavendula stoechas, sometimes known as French lavender. This lavender is striking, and totally different to the other two we have been looking at. It produces beautiful ‘wings’ around the flower, almost like a butterfly, which are incredibly delicate and gorgeous to look at. The reason, however, that we don’t grow it in the ground, is because it does not deal well with cold snaps and can die during a frost. But if you were looking for something a little less conventional, that you could grow in pots indoors or outdoors during the summer, then this may be the one for you!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, giving a very brief introduction on lavender! Join us again next week.