Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bare Rooted Lavender

On our last garden group meeting we mentioned that we found a grower who was selling bare rooted lavender plants at a very reasonable price, 0.28 centimes per plant.  If anyone was interested to put in an order.  In the end we had an order for 200 plants.

The following is Mavis' article on how we came across the plants:

"How we tracked down our lavender plants.

Last year whilst playing around on the internet on my iPhone I found an interesting site,    L'Atelier Vert Everything French Gardening.

This is a site run by an American woman who lives in Paris and south of Sisteron Provence and she sources  French decorative gardening and kitchen things to market in America. On the site she writes interesting articles about gardens she has visited plus stories about herself and interesting people she has met. One of her sets of articles is called French Postcards and one of her stories is titled 'The Joyous Lavender Farmer'.

Distillation near Castellet

I mentioned this to Saskia who is very interested in Lavender and thought she knew where this man was. However it turned out that he actually bought in his plants so the story was a bit awry.
Saskia then did some detective work and eventually came up with the telephone number of the Bouscarles in Castellet who are wholesale but were happy to let us have a few plants. From there it escalated to 200 plants and a prepaid order was made.

We were told we would be rung quite soon when they would be starting to dig up the type of lavender we wanted (Lavendula angustifolia 'Maillette'). There was much delay due to the rain and the soil being too heavy to harvest. Before our type of lavender could be dug up they had to complete a Spanish order for 20,000 of Lavandin!!

On Wednesday morning we set of bright and early for Castellet  in the Luberon, to the east of Bonnieux and quite close to Cereste which is where we had our lunch on our club visit to Valsainte. 
Madame Bouscarle was busy supervising over a dozen workers in a huge field near to the main road. She was very charming and happy to break off and explain their operation.

One large section of the field had the new plants we had come for and here was a group of people working on a trailer base sorting out into bundles of 100 the little plants which had been lifted by machinery.

On this farm they grow four different types of lavender,ours,lavendula angustifolia being the true lavender and three types of Lavandin which are used commercially for oil and are not as decorative  as Angustifolia. The wife of the owner explained that the lavenders are grown from heel cuttings done at this time of the year and grown for one year. We watched a group of men squatting on the ground alongside long lines of plastic sheeting, slightly mounded. The plastic has two small slits side by side down the whole length of the line into which the little cuttings were being poked. 

Under the plastic is an arrossage pipe which feeds the plants morning and evening, gout a gout, with a liquid fertilizer. When the weather is very hot the plants are fine sprayed morning and evening with water. The cuttings take one year to grow and are then dug up ready to complete orders. We assumed that unsold plants are kept to use their flowers to distill for lavender oil.

Lavender is grown on a four year rotation which means they must have several several fields for production.
As we travelled through the village we saw several very simple and ancient distilleries.
Madam told us that the lavender is fully matured at 10 years.


Take hold of the branches of the plant holding all the branches together and cut off one third of the roots and half of the top. Plant in garden soil making sure that the plant is deep enough for the soil to come 2.5cm above the branching of the plant. Do not put fertilizer in the planting hole but the owner recommended sprinkling the soil around the plant with fumier de mouton or cheval. 
Water in well and water thereafter once a week for the first year. She recommended planting 40cm apart. Prune after flowering by holding all the branches together and cutting straight across the top as this will keep the plants boule shaped."

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