Purple Haze

Rows of lavender at the
Rows of lavender at the Crystal Brook lavender farm

The pleasure of a drive in the country and an event to enjoy saw us driving at the end of January to an open day at Crystal Brook Lavender farm, near the small hamlet of Laggan, some 50kms north of Goulburn.

As you can see it was a perfect day and the farm had planned an interesting program of talks for the visitors. We arrived just in time for a presentation on lavender cultivation and the their properties, by the owners of Renaissance Herbs. Lavandula angustifolia (true or ‘English’ Lavender) is the one that is used for fine oil for perfume, not to mention cooking purposes. The oil of Lavandula x intermedia, has camphor overtones which means that while the oil is not suitable for perfume, it can be used for scenting common household products, such as dishwashing liquids and such like.

I think one of the most useful tips we were given was that if you want to get that purple haze of lavender over an extended period in your garden you need to plant multiple varieties of lavender. English lavender will only flower for a limited period of time so you can extend the ‘look’ by inter-planting other lavender species and cultivars, such as Italian lavender (Lavandula stoechas) which has the ‘wings’ at the top of the flower.

We were interested to see Michael, one of the farm’s owners, harvesting lavender, in this case L x intermedia, with a hand sickle.

Harvest with a hand sickle is a viable option for small areas.
Harvest with a hand sickle is a viable option for small areas.

Michael was cutting the lavender for a demonstration of oil extraction. He told us that for the amounts he needed for his distiller hand harvesting was quite a viable option.

The oil distillery
The oil distillery

While the distiller did look a bit ‘Heath Robinson‘ inspired it certainly did the trick. A short while after the boiler was turned on the lavender oil and water mix was dripping out of the machine.

Oil and water don't mix
Oil and water don’t mix

Like they say, oil and water don’t mix. The lavender oil, as you can see in the photo, is sitting in a layer above the water. The clever little tap at the bottom allows the water to be drained off. The water doesn’t need to be discarded as it can be used as a scented water for ironing.

We had a really pleasant lunch, sitting under the shady verandah. Afterwards we strolled around the veggie and rose gardens which are currently being expanded. Of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing some plants to take home. I chose several plants of L angustifolia ‘Bee’ for their fine scent and dark flowers. These plants are also said to grow well in containers. So far I haven’t killed them. I hoping they will survive winter under our tree canopy.