There can be little doubt that the area around Hepburn Springs and Daylesford, about 100 km north-west of Melbourne, is just like a little piece of the Mediterranean in Australia.
Costa visits Lavandula Lavender farm during the annual festival. He described standing in a field of lavender surrounded by the intensity of the purple, with the hum of the bees and the aroma as amazing and a feast for the senses. He also tried lavender lemonade, a scone made with lavender, some lavender short bread all washed down with some lavender champagne.
Lavandula is a boutique commercial lavender farm that owner Carol White started some 20 years ago, initially as a way to make ends meet. “I was a single mum with two kids and I needed a crop that a single person could manage. I didn’t know how to drive a tractor then, I didn’t know how to push a lawn mower, I knew how to dig and I knew I could cut the lavender with a hand sickle and I had seen them doing that in Europe.”
Carol fell in love with the rustic stone cottage, built by Swiss Italian immigrants in the 1850s, on the 2 ha property and could visualise its transformation into a little bit of Europe in central Victoria.
“I liked the idea of a beautiful house. I also like a cottage to have gardens that compliment it, so not just a row of roses across the front, but what I call vista gardens, where you plant a crop that actually looks like a garden.”
What started initially as a venture with only 1000 plants has expanded to magnificent fields of lavender and Carol couldn’t have picked a better plant for the conditions in the area.
“Our climate really mirrors the climate of the Mediterranean where it grows. A climate with harsh winters, hot summers and it survives both fairly easy. In fact lavenders adore hot summer, which increases the oil content,” she says.
Lavender has been used for centuries. In the 3rd century BC the Greek physician Theophrastus, wrote about its healing qualities. The Egyptians used it in mummification and the Romans bathed in it and over the years not much has changed.
Visiting Lavandula at harvest time is like stepping back in time. The stems on each bush are cut by hand with a sickle to protect the precious flower heads. Costa found it incredibly relaxing cutting the plants. Once the flowers are harvested they are hung under the veranda in bunches to dry before the flower heads are processed to release the oil used to create healing and body products.
• Carol recommends a good all round lavender for the home garden is an English variety called Lavandula angustifolia ‘Miss Donnington’. It’s hardy, easy to grow, attracts bees as pollinators and so is a great companion plant. “It’s great for vegies, roses, fruit trees, and olives so every house should have a lavender bush,” Carol says.
• Lavenders are part of the lamiaceae family and there are about 25 species that range in colour from white to pink, and of course vivid purple.
• Take a cutting just below the node. The cutting needs to be about 10cm long and remove the top and the bottom foliage. Dip the cutting it in a rooting hormone to stimulate root growth and put it in the growing media.
• This is a cheap and easy way to create new lavender plants at your place.
• Just remember to plant the cuttings in a well drained potting mix until they form roots.
In the Garden
• Once in the garden lavenders don’t need much fertiliser, but the plants like a bit of lime and potassium in the spring to promote lots of flowers and good flower colour.
• If buying an English lavender from the nursery in a small pot, when planting it remember that it will grow to about a metre wide at maturity and will be cut back to about 800mm high. If you plant it too close to a path it will grow right over the top of it.
• Every year it’s a good idea to prune English lavender to promote flowering the next season. Carol recommends that when pruning don’t cut in to the old wood. Cut just above the old wood so that every year the bush grows a bit bigger.
For information on Lavandula:
Address: 350 Hepburn-Newstead Rd, Shepherds Flat, via Daylesford
Phone: 03 54764393
From September to May opens daily from 10.30am-5.30pm daily, during the winter
open at weekends, but check the website for details.
Cost: Adults $3.50 and school-age students $1