Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lavender

Lavender! And Mount Arthur.

There is a brief three or four week window of opportunity to see the lavender in full bloom at the Bridestowe Lavender Farm in North-Eastern Tasmania, so if you happen to be in the vicinity in January, rush in to grab an eyeful. A large lavender estate in full bloom, its curved rows disappearing over the hillsides, is a sight not to be missed.

Your blogger inspects the lavender

On my recent visit in early January, the first rows were already being harvested by a big red methodical machine, chugging along the rows and stripping the heads off the beautiful purple plants.

Harvesting already.

Its catch is then stuffed into canisters and lowered into stills in a distillery, where the rush of hot water releases sense-clogging wafts of precious lavender oil. The flower heads not crushed for their oil are dried for dried flower and culinary lavender.

The aroma!

Curved rows as far as you can see
And what, you may ask, is the world’s largest privately owned lavender farm doing hidden in the bush in North-Eastern Tasmania, under the benign shadow of Mount Arthur? Thriving, that’s what. The first farm was planted in 1921 by Englishman C K Denny and his family, who brought to Tasmania the seeds of Lavandula angustifolia (True French Lavender), which they had gathered from the French Alps. They chose a site in North-Eastern Tasmania because, perhaps improbably, its climate was similar to Provence in France, the home of lavender. After five years of experimentation, they selected five clones for intense cultivation. The result was oil of a quality to rival the best French production. Bridestowe Lavender became the principal supplier of lavender oil to the cosmetic brand Yardley.

Giant oak: planted 1831
Between 1944, when expansion became necessary, and the 1970s, the plantation and distillery were relocated to their present site, not far from the original. Two giant oak trees remain on the site, planted in 1831 and part of the original farmstead which stood here. Looking out over the fields, you can see approximately 650,000 plants. The total length of the rows is estimated at 200 kilometres. Bridestowe’s lavender plants can remain productive for 20 years, but each winter a major project takes place to plant up to 70,000 new cuttings. It takes four years for a cutting to reach maturity.

No irrigation is used at Bridestowe, where the estate relies on natural rainfall. Flowering commences in December, and harvesting goes on for three weeks in January. In March the plants are aggressively trimmed to stimulate new growth. 2,500 kg of “wet flower” produces approximately 250 kg of dried flowers. That’s a lot of lavender.

The Estate is open to visitors all year round, and informative signs encourage your interest in the fields in all seasons. But who are they kidding? The time of full purple bloom, with the heady lavender oil soaking the air, is far and away the best. Although you can get a cone of lavender ice-cream at any time, which is some recompense if you miss the purple fields.

"Bees at work"


Information from the Bridestowe Lavender Estate information sheet.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Annette, Thanks for your wonderful and detailed post on Bridestowe Estate! We have mentioned it on our Facebook and Twitter too!

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    Replies
    1. What a terrific report. Can only imagine just how beautiful it must be.
      Certainly appears far superior to French fields that I have seen.
      Let's hope everyone can get to see it at least once in their lifetime.

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