What perennial shrub is a natural antiseptic, disinfectant and stress reliever, that you can also eat or cook with and comes in the showy colours of white, pink, blue and purple?

If you guessed lavender, you would be correct!

The South Bruce Tourism Committee met at Essentially Lavender located at 1379 Concession 10 Formosa on Tuesday, August 7th, where Cathy Kirk gave us an informative guided tour of their lavender farm and gave us a lot of information on this versatile herb/shrub.

Cathy and her husband Bill purchased this farm 6 years ago when it had horses. From 1998-2005 it was an elk farm and it was originally settled in 1869. After inquiring with the County of Bruce on the business needs in the area, they knew there was a demand for businesses in the agriculture, tourism and energy sectors. They decided to combine agriculture and tourism and open a lavender farm! There are hundreds of cultivars of lavender but, after much research on the hardiness of lavender plants in Bruce County, they decided to plant 7 different cultivars with different qualities, uses and colours. This approach helps to extend the bloom time and to mitigate the risk because many cultivars won’t survive here due to the harsh winters.

The 7 cultivars they have planted in various locations are named: Lavandula x intermedia `Grosso’, Lavandula x intermedia `Phenomenal’, Lavandula angustifolia `Super Blue’, L. angustifolia `Royal Velvet’ L. angustifolia `Melissa’, L. angustifolia `Hidcote’ and L. angustifolia `Folgate’. This summer they planted 4,000 plants on 3 1⁄2 acres in 3 days and all by hand! They will plant an additional 1,000 – 2,000 next year.

Most lavender is started by softwood cuttings, not by seed. It takes 3 years before lavender is in full production and the plants are productive for approximately 10 to 15 years if properly maintained by pruning in the spring and fall and watering properly. Lavender prefers gravelly well-drained soil and is drought resistant once established. Over watering will result in root rot. They purchase their cuttings locally from a grower in Beamsville.

Plants are harvested for buds, bouquets, oil and floral water. They will harvest for oil distillation beginning in mid-August and the plants are distilled based on variety. Distillation will be done in a copper distillation unit that was hand forged in Portugal.

The lavender boutique is currently open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9am-5pm from June 1 st until September 2 nd (or by appointment) and self-guided and guided tours are available. In the boutique you can purchase a variety of lotions, soaps, balms and sprays all made from lavender on site. The boutique also carries products from other Bruce County businesses that feature lavender such as jams and cakes by Weber Creek Farms, teas by ITR Creations and photography by Shores of Lake Huron Photography.

The South Bruce Tourism Committee would like to thank Cathy & Bill Kirk for hosting our monthly meeting, for the informative tour and for the delicious lavender infused lemonade! We are always looking for new members. Our next meeting is Tuesday, September 4th at 6:30pm where we will be enjoying supper at Hometown Pizza in Teeswater while learning about their business!

If you are interested in joining the South Bruce Tourism Committee, please contact Rhonda Niesen at rniesen@southbruce.ca or call 519-392-6623. New faces and ideas are welcomed with open arms!