FAQs about the Farm & Lavender
Did you know that sunshine lavender farm was the first farm of its kind in North Carolina? Pretty neat, huh? Being a lavender farm is kind of like being the Pied Piper. Folks just follow that sweet scent!
Some of the questions asked of us in the early years of lavender farming in North Carolina are below, as well as answers to some commonly asked questions about the farm today.
What is that? Where is your farm? And, when may I visit?
We had our work cut out for us teaching about lavender, its benefits and how to grow it successfully. Our farm is in northern Orange County, not far from the Person County line. We are about 6 miles north of Hillsborough and about 23 miles west of Durham and about that same distance north of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Please plan to sign up for our Lavender Letters to receive the invitations to our on-farm June Lavender Harvest and December Holiday Celebrations.
What is lavender?
Lavandula (common name Lavender) is a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate climates as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, for use as culinary herbs, and also commercially for the extraction of essential oils. The most widely cultivated species are Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandin.
What is the difference between English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) and French Lavender (Lavandin)?
With hundreds of lavender varieties available … really hard to explain all of this! Perhaps, for example, Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote is a deep, rich purple, grown predominantly for its color. It blooms about Memorial Day, has a compact habit with a shrub of 24”-30” in diameter, with stems about 8”-12” in length. Hidcote has a very light, delicate scent with a nutty flavor in recipes.
Lavandula intermedia Grosso, is a medium purple shade, grows 3 feet or more in diameter, blooms in mid-June with stems as long as 22”. The fragrance is strong and quite Eucalyptus or camphor-like and not a primary choice for culinary use. Perhaps use stems as skewers on the grill to gently infuse the taste versus infusing or grinding the lavender into recipes, like you would Hidcote, for example.
What types of lavender does sunshine lavender farm grow?
There are many, many varieties of lavender and about a dozen that do well on our farm. We continue to try new ones. Some varieties include Dilly-Dilly, Grosso, Hidcote, Hidcote Giant, Munstead, Provence, Royal Velvet, and more.
How do I capture summer-long lavender blooms in the garden?
For bloom sequence for the summer gardener, try a Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas variety like Otto Quast) to bloom first. These are not always hardy through difficult winters of ice and wind, mind you. Lavandula angustifolia, like Hidcote (Memorial Day), then Lavendula intermedias like Provence (early June), then Grosso, Dilly Dilly and many, many others that bloom in mid-June. Left to fully flower, your garden will be blooming with some sort of lavender all summer long. Lavender blooms predominantly in early to mid summer. Shear the blooms when totally spent and perhaps you will even get a petite fall display! Our farm oftentimes enjoys a few lavender blooms up until Thanksgiving.
What does it mean to be a small sustainable lavender farm?
Growing a niche crop that meets demand at a profit with a focus on the environmental, social and economic bottom line is the short version of that story. On average, we care for about 1000 lavender plants, performing every step along the way with people power. We are good stewards of this land, growing lavender using natural practices. We invest in people, from our harvest crew, to farm ambassadors, to the community as a whole. As farmers, we invest as we go, making sure that we make sound business decisions, care for one another, our vendors and all who touch this farm with attention to detail and premium service. Please do not ask a farmer … Is this all there is?
How long does dried lavender last?
Lavender can last from months to years! As long as you have lavender buds intact you will have fragrance. Just give your bunch or sachet a gentle pinch/squeeze to release more fragrance. The lavender fragrance will fade over time.
Why do you mulch the lavender with oyster shells?
There was a grant study done for a west coast lavender farm, and the benefits of that study revealed that the shells break down heavy soils, add nutrients that lavender appreciates, and reflect the sunlight, keeping the lavender dry. Keeping the lavender dry was key in our decision to have 12 tons of oyster shells delivered to the farm! (This is the most commonly asked question when folks visit our farm!)
Lavender is a perennial. Can it be divided like other plants?
You would think this to be a great idea. However, lavender is a woody shrub. To divide it will mean most likely sending it to the great compost heap in the sky. In short, don’t do it!
Can lavender seeds be planted?
Sure, some varieties grow from seed. That is if you like a 10-15% growing out rate, on average. If you have a lavender that you love and you want to create more, the best way is from cuttings or by simply laying a side limb down in the garden, mulching it in the spring. It will take root for fall planting.
Do you consult privately with wannabe lavender farmers?
We have worked hard to create a website offering the best advice based on experience. We share! Our Planting & Care page will have the answers to many of your questions. As for one-on-one consulting – there was a time when time permitted, yet this is currently not, well, the time. You may want to reach out to your local Cooperative Extension horticulture agent who will have terrific knowledge about growing in your location or a local nursery may also offer variety suggestions and more. Volunteer Master Gardeners are also a wealth of information. Then, there is also the Internet! Thank you for your understanding.
How do I sign up for Lavender Letters?
It’s easy! Just add your email address in the big yellow box at the bottom of any page, and you will receive our seasonal and informational news from the farm, get the official invitations to our special events, recipes, farm updates, lavender gardening tips, and more. You will not be overwhelmed with emails, we promise! Yes, we are wishing for scratch ‘n sniff electronic device technology!!
I really love your lavender. What is the best way to satisfy my lavender addiction all year long?
Find our lavender items for body, garden, gifts, home and weddings at our Etsy shop.
How quickly will I receive my order?
Orders are shipped 2-3 day USPS Priority Mail. If you require your order by a certain date, be sure to include a message when you place an order through our Etsy shop.
Do you offer wholesale?
We do not have a wholesale program. As part of our sustainability plan, our products are offered directly to our customers, exclusively.
I’m a professional photographer looking for unusual venues for portraits. May I schedule private photography sessions on the farm?
This sounds like a terrific idea doesn’t it? Well, there are a few reasons why we really are not a good venue fit. Mostly, the lavender blooms for a very short time and it is typically when we are really slammed with getting fresh lavender cut and delivered. Thank you for thinking of us!
May I get married on the farm?
What a wonderful question! We certainly understand why you ask since this is a beautiful venue. Unfortunately, our farm is not equipped to host private special events. You could include a bit of our farm by having your engagement or bridal portrait taken at the farm. Contact Colleen Mathias Photography, who has exclusive professional photography privileges on the farm. Colleen is one of our farm’s prized ambassadors and our preferred local, professional photographer.
What is the best way to contact the farm?
Email, please! Or use the form on our Contact page.