Dazzling displays of lavender across Sonoma County
At this time of the year Sonoma Valley is filled with dazzling displays of Lavandula, or lavender.
As you drive or walk around you’ll see lavender edging vineyards, bursting from home gardens, decorating winery walkways, and on sale in neat bunches at farmer’s markets. Brush against a plant, and lavender’s haunting, unmistakable scent fills the air.
Nothing else resembles lavender, with its unique perfume and tall green stems topped by a spiraling and spiky cascade of tiny blue-violet blossoms. The flower’s extracted essential oils have been used throughout history in herbal treatments, massage oils, perfumes and for other purposes.
The Valley’s lavender will remain in bloom in most home gardens through the summer. However, professional lavender growers such as Rebecca and Gary Rosenberg, of 5-acre Sonoma Lavender farm in Kenwood, are harvesting their 7,000 plants right now, while the flowers are at their peak.
“We sell live lavender and dried lavender,” Rebecca said, “and we make about 300 different products with the rest.” Those products include sachets, bath and body care, gifts and home accents, and more.
The couple moved to Sonoma Valley about fourteen years ago. “We were living on the Peninsula,” said Rebecca, “but had a second home in Kenwood. For many years we’d studied the land and wondered what we could do in this beautiful place, what we could grow, that would let us live here full time.
“I loved lavender, so I started studying its properties—there wasn’t much in the way of lavender anywhere then. We thought growing it here would be a great way to bring up our young family.”
Once the decision was made, Rebecca traveled to France’s Provence region, famed for its lavender, to learn everything she could from growers.
Et voila! Today the Rosenberg’s lavender farm is a successful concern, its annual Lavender Festival in June attracts people from around the nation, and this year they released a photograph-laden book, “Lavender Fields of America,” which features more than 250 beautiful lavender farms from Hawaii to the East Coast.
Rebecca offered to share with Towns’ readers the book’s “Tips for Growing Lavender:”
- Choose plants that have been proven to grow in your area. In Sonoma, all lavender grows well. Two good choices are Provence and Grosso varieties.
- Choose a spot with full sun.
- The soil must drain well, because lavender does not like wet roots. Amend the soil as needed with sand or pearlite to increase drainage.
- The soil Ph should be slightly alkaline, between 6.5 and 7.5. Amend the soil with lime, to add alkalinity.
- Plant new plants after any danger of frost.
- Trim flowers after the first year to send the plants energy to developing a stronger root system.
- Some drip irrigation is usually necessary. Overhead watering is not recommended.
- Prune back to the main plant in the Fall, if you have not have already done so when harvesting lavender stems.
- Fertilize with composted chicken manure and Bone meal when planting.
- Weed control is important to the beauty and health of lavender. Pull weeds within the plant. Between the rows can be handled by pulling, disking, weed wacking or applying weed cloth.
Visit Sonoma Lavender at sonomalavender.com.
–Suzie Rodriguez, Sonoma Valley Correspondent