Lavender Harvest!

The highlight of the garden right now is a waving patch of purple, aromatic and buzzing with life. It’s time for the lavender harvest!

The lavender patch. The scrap metal sculpture we call “Farmer Grosso” used to peer out high over the patch, but these days he’s almost nestled inside the lavender. Grosso lavender is one of the taller varieties.

We planted this patch fourteen years ago and it has outlasted our expectations. I pondered back then what we could plant that the gophers would leave alone, that was drought-tolerant and something we loved. So lavender it was. Unlike so many other garden experiments we’ve tried, this one has worked well so far.

This variety is called “Grosso” and has great form, color, scent and dries well. We bought 350 plants back then (from Emerisa Gardens, if you are interested). Each year we start harvesting when the buds reach about 10% open, then we gather and arrange large handfuls into bunches and hang them to dry. Sitting in the middle of a large pile of field cut lavender, tidying them into bunches is especially welcome this year, since I’ve been in need of healing surrounds — being mostly laid up and on crutches with a bad knee recently.

The honeybees and bumblebees LOVE lavender and during the height of bloom and are mesmerizing to watch in their vibrating cloud above the purple swath. The honeybees must come from a neighbor’s hive or perhaps one of the wild ones we’ve noticed from time to time. They are so very determined that these normally shy creatures refuse to leave a flower head for almost any reason. I usually give them a gentle puff of breath to move them over when harvesting. And wear gloves. They don’t want to sting of course since they are 1) totally focused on the lavender and 2) will die if they do, poor things. I prefer to leave some of the patch unharvested for them. A couple days ago, I hobbled out to the patch on my crutches in the evening and noticed only bumblebees on the lavender. Do honeybees go to bed early and bumblees stay up later? I hope someone who knows will tell me.

Lavender with honeybees
Lavender with honeybees

What to do with dried lavender bunches? I just like having them around the house–in an ornamental vase for example. They smell good of course and are pretty. Rub a dried flower to release more scent. I keep them for months until their stems pale from subtle green to brown, then use them as part of the kindling in the wood stove in winter.

Lavender bunches hanging to dry
Lavender bunches hanging to dry

I also like making sachets, using cotton muslin bags and hand-carved stamps. To collect the buds for a sachet or potpourri, turn them upside down over a paper bag and rub the tops between your hands. I keep lavender sachets with clothes, in the car, in the linen closet, sometimes in pillow cases. Vacuuming up a bit of dried lavender makes the vacuum air smell better. Spent stalks can also be used as mulch around trees — although beware if you are in a wildfire zone. Kids might enjoy making lavender wands from fresh cut lavender, and of course lavender is popular at weddings for bouquets, favors, or in place of rice for the toss.

Lavender sachets
Lavender sachets. I prefer cotton muslin over synthetic organza. Except for the Eiffel Tower, I carved the stamps myself. Fun and easy.

Many people ask us if we do essential oils. We do have an alembic distiller that we pull out of the closet from time to time, but we like the dried lavender bunches the best with the Grosso variety. If I had a patch of Provence variety, I’d probably want to distill that into essential oil and floral water (hydrosol) since it has more of a sweet floral aroma.

Harvest basket with field cut lavender
Harvest basket with field cut lavender. I just want to stick my head in there like the bees.
Metal sculpture of Farmer Grosso
We call him “Farmer Grosso” & he lives in the lavender patch. I recently repainted him some fresh overalls as he was getting pretty rusty after 14 years outside.

The only thing I wish I had done differently with the lavender patch would have been to leave a bare circle in the middle of the patch to satisfy the overwhelming desire to lie down in the middle of it when it’s in full bloom!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer so far, and enjoying seeing friends for perhaps the first time in a long while!

Happy Gardening!

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14 thoughts on “Lavender Harvest!

  1. We have a big bunch of province lavender. We started with 75 plants from urban tree farm. Most have grown well. I have had to replace about 15. They are in nasty clay soil. It was fill that was put in the hole where our house was, pre Tubbs Fire. I have tried many different planting protocols. It is crazy how all of a sudden one plant will die…!
    We do have a circle in the middle with two chairs! It is beautiful!!!

    1. Oh that sounds so lovely!!! I would love to see a photo. How cool you thought to leave a seating spot in the middle!!! I love how tough lavender is. Sorry to hear the house was lost in the Tubbs Fire. 😢 I can’t imagine how traumatic that must have been. Thanks for commenting!! ❤️

  2. That’s a lot of lavender! It feels good when your choices for the garden turn out well. I have lavender but it is never sufficient and yet I find it difficult to find enough space for it because it does like the sun. You must trim yours well as some of our older lavender is getting too straggly. I cut some every year to put in bags in the cupboards but I always feel bad about taking it from the bees. Our honey bees stay up quite late but in the summer the bumblebees are busier than them early in the morning and they do not stop until the sun goes down. Amelia

    1. Hi Amelia! Yes, we prune after harvesting — back to the first green leaves. If it is pruned back beyond that into dead leaves, it will not regrow from there, as you probably know. I had read that a hard prune would help the plants live longer and stay bushy, so that’s what we’ve done. Good to know about the honeybee and bumblebee habits! 🐝

  3. Wonderful post about lavender—how I love it! Hope your knee will heal up well. And—thanks so much for following my blog, which has been neglected lately due to my recovering from a concussion!

    1. The property is about 5 acres. We bought it two decades ago. It was a “fixer” property. We’ve put a lot into it over the years. We feel lucky to be able to have space for the lavender. Yes, lavender is so wonderful! Thanks for writing!

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