Lovely Lavender

Family Time

A few weekends ago, my hubs and I had grandparent duty for three of our grands.

kids

We took them to the Blanco Lavender Festival, a yearly event for the past 14 years.  I was super excited!  I’ve seen images from the other side of the globe that show fields covered in lavender flowers.  We told the kids that they would be seeing, what my granddaughter calls, PURPO FWOWAS.  Everyone was ready!

We loaded the kids in their car seats and headed to Blanco.  We visited the festival grounds first.  There were a bunch of vendors!  Not everything was lavender related, but there were quite a few booths that had a bunch of lavender items.  Some were simply items that were crafted that had lavender images, there was the always expected and enjoyed kettle corn, and there were many selling lavender items like essential oils, sachets, soaps, lotions, dried lavender, and more.

Somerset Lavender Farm

I visited several booths selling lavender essential oil and asked some questions.  Most of the vendors were selling oils that they purchased from lavender farms, but one vendor, that stood out above the others, was Somerset Lavender Farm in Fayetteville, TX.  The owners, Peggy and her husband, were working their booth and were very knowledgeable about the plant and the essential oil they were selling was produced from the lavender that they grow.  They had some items for sale, and I did spend some sweet moolah supporting their endeavor.

I ran over to the kettle corn booth after chatting with Peggy to pick up a couple of bags to chow on when we watched a movie later that night.  Then we headed to one of the lavender farms to check out the fields.  The kids were excited!

Hill Country Lavender Farm

We drove up Highway 281 just a bit to visit a true Texas lavender farm.  OH MY!  Parking was at a premium and there were people everywhere!  Hill Country Lavender Farm is just what you would picture for a Texas Hill Country farm.  The ground was dry, the air was hot, there was a rustic shed that served as their store front, and there was lavender. Our grandkids   were a bit disappointed.  Well, and let’s be honest….I was too..  The lavender was not in full bloom, but there were some sprigs coming up off the plant. The grands kept asking “where are the purple flowers?”  I had to explain that they just weren’t blooming right now, but they did get to see some and I showed them how to bruise the plant so that they could smell the lavender on their fingers so they were happy.

Is All Lavender Created Equal?

Better Homes and Garden lists 28 varieties of lavender on their site, “A Gardener’s Guide to Lavender.”  Their list includes varieties of Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) which is a cross between Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula angustifolia and does not have the same chemical constituent of true lavender (Petersen, 2016).

Lavandula anguststifolia is said to give the highest-quality essential oil…Growth can be slow and the plants do not produce any considerable quantity of flowers for about three years.  It grows best in a light soil in a dry, open, sunny position.  It needs good drainage, particularly in winter.  It grows in soils where few plants can survive and is said to produce the best-quality oil when the soil is very poor.” (Petersen, 2016)

With so many varieties of lavender, how can you know you’ve got the right one?  The lavender we all think of is the one that provides healing, sedative, and hypotensive qualities (Petersen, 2016).  This lavender is Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula vera, and Lavandula officinalis ; three different names, but all the same plant.  This plant will provide those characteristic qualities that we have all been told about (Petersen, 2016).

You’ve planted or purchased the correct variety.  Does that mean you’ll be getting the exact same lavender every time?

How do plants get their nutrients?  This is high school biology.  If you’re like me, it’s been a LONG time (30 years or so) since then, so here’s a little refresher.

“Plants get nutrients by absorbing them from the soil and also by forming sugars through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process whereby plants absorb light energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar.” (2017)

So, this basically means that the soil the plant is grown in affects the nutrients inside the plant.  This also affects the constituents that are found in the essential oil.  Lavender is grown all over the world.  Typically lavender will contain esters (anti-inflammatory, calming, antispasmodic) and monoterpenols (antiseptic, bactericidal, analgesic) (Price and Price, 2012). The ratio of the constituents differs according to the altitude at which they are grown and the type of soil in which they are grown (Petersen, 2016).  The esters are what give lavender their soothing and balancing qualities (Petersen, 2016).

The ester content can vary from location to location:

  • 25-47%- France
  • 33-47%- Bulgaria
  • 30-46%- Russia
  • 25-46% Australia
  • 34% Moldova

So, the simple answer to the question is no, not every lavender is the same.  Yes, they are similar, but it’s important to know where they have come from, how they were grown, and how they were distilled.

What Does This Mean for Texas Lavender?

According to the Hill Country Master Gardener’s, you will find only a few inches of soil over a bed of limestone or rock-hard caliche and the soil is typically alkaline (Moss, 2012).  Lavender typically grows best in a light soil (sand or gravel), and a dry, open, sunny position (Petersen, 2016).  Well, here in South Texas, we definitely have the dry, open, and sunny covered!  Lavender needs good drainage, particularly in winter and it will grow where few plants can survive (Petersen, 2016).

From my own personal experience, growing plants here is difficult.  I have spent more money trying to grow veggies than I would ever spend at the grocery store!  But, looking at what the lavender plant requires, it seems the Texas Hill Country would be a good place to give it a try.  I think the growers would need to supplement their soil, though, as there isn’t much dirt available over the limestone.  Without having a Mass Spectrometer/Gas Chromatography (MS/GC) report to look at, though, it’s difficult to know how much of which constituents are found in our Hill Country Lavender.

Take Away

Looking at the percentage of esters available in the commercially available lavenders that I listed above, I would

ask the vendor for a copy of their MS/GC.

If the vendor doesn’t know what you’re talking about or doesn’t have the report available, I would walk away!  Someone selling an essential oil should know what they are selling.

And, as always, if you have questions find a Registered Aromatherapist near you or send them to me!

References

A gardener’s guide to lavender. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/gardeners-guide-to-lavender/

Blanco lavender festival. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.blancochamber.com/lavender-fest-information-1/

How do plants get nutrients? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.reference.com/science/plants-nutrients-3d2ad491569bf9cf#

Moss, A. (2012). Hill country gardening. Retrieved from http://www.hillcountrymastergardeners.org/resources_new_hc.htm

Petersen, D. (2016). Aromatherapy materia medica: essential oil monographs. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.

Price, S., & Price, L. (2012). Aromatherapy for health professionals (fourth ed.). Oxford: Elsevier Churchill Linvingstone.