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The Lavender Farm Blog

The lavender farm is not only a working farm but a well established Isle of Wight attraction. Within the farm team, there is an overwhelming desire is to share and bring to the attention of the public the many interesting ecological and educational aspects that we see on a daily basis.

Our primary goal is to operate a successful business, however,  we also see ourselves as an educational and informative centre. To this end we will be publishing various articles based around our nursery experiences as well as what we call good sense ecological propositions, that need to be shared, discussed and understood.


Bare Root Rose

Bare Root Roses
Bare Root Rose
When you first receive your rose delivery, unwrap them, and inspect for any damage. Then carefully place the root or roots in a cool place to stop growth but with some moisture such as a damp cloth, so that they don’t dry out

As long as there is good wrapping or packing around the roots you can keep them for some time, such as in an empty freezer which is switched off.  Keep the top open a tad of the freezer and make sure they are kept moist.

However, if you need to store them for more than say twelve days then I suggest you take them outside and heel them in. 

Using this method you can store the bare root for some time, firstly create a trench around twelve inches deep in reasonable soil not too boggy, then lay the roots on their side at a 45 degree angle, cover the root ball with soil and heel them in with your boot, leaving the head of the root exposed.

Be sure to check the trench regularly for moisture and when needed gently ease out each rose for replanting in final destination.


Obviously they should be moved prior to the generation of new root growth as this is easily damaged so a good planting plan should be adopted in order to make certain the roses are given the best chance to thrive.


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Besom Broom

Most farms have tucked away areas full of discarded objects overgrown with weeds and grass.  The Lavender Farm is no different.  One such object we unearthed looks like a bench crossed with an early bone shaker bicycle without the wheels, but it is in fact an efficient besom broom making machine.

The Besom Maker

Looking like nothing more than a stick with twigs stuck on, or upside-down supermodel having a bad hair day, the besom broom is instantly recognisable to most of us as the witches broom. However, it was for centuries the typical broom.  It was traditionally made with a hawthorn stave for the handle and birch twigs for the brush part, but heather, straw and herbs were also used. The twigs were attached to the stave with a split withy, a thin flexible branch from the willow tree, or twine made from brambles or other suitable plant, but string and a nail are used today. Its distinctive appearance is partly due to the twigs being tied around the end of the stave, giving it a rounded shape rather than being flat ended as more modern brooms are.

The besom has seen an increase in popularity in recent years in line with more interest in woodland management and using renewable materials. If looked after, a besom will last fifteen years, it looks better than a plastic or metal handled broom, and when its worn out just throw it on the bonfire rather than landfill it.
So why the connection between witches and brooms? There is all sorts of hokum connected with brooms and folklore.  According to J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, witches chose brooms to make magic because they were easy to hide. A variation on this is that it was a way of camouflaging a staff, the handle, which was used to harness magical powers.
Besom Brooms
Lavender Farm Besom Brooms £15

They were also used to symbolically sweep away harmful energy and protect houses and their occupants. You can also turn them up the wrong way for good luck or jump over them for the same effect.

There is, perhaps, a more believable origin for the mystical reputation of such a humble tool. Before trained medical professionals became the norm for healthcare, a local woman, often a widow or spinster, would dispense herbs and potions and help with childbirth.  Because such things could be effective but no one really knew why they were sometimes accused of witchcraft and, as they were women who at the time were strongly associated with housework, the broom became part of the magical image.

In Welsh folklore they were used as an important part of marriage ceremonies.  All the couple had to do was place a broom across the doorway of their home-to-be and both jump over it.  If neither of them knocked it over then the marriage would be a success, if they did then it would end in disaster and the whole thing was called off. If they decided that they’d had enough in the first year they could jump the broom leaving the house and they’d be divorced.

Whether you want one as part of your Halloween fancy dress, to fly over the rooftops, or to sweep worm casts from the lawn, they are also decorative and environmentally friendly, and very much in use today.


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Reuben's Rose Quest

Reuben’s Rose Quest

Reuben has always been a keen lover of roses as well as lavender. One of his new horticultural quests is that of the Isle of Wight Rose, and he is already three years into the development cycle of around ten years to cultivate a really special new and very “smelly” rose.

The real driving element here is Jill, Reuben's wife and business partner, who has the misfortune to suffer from a poor sense of smell. When Jill can smell the fragrance Rueben knows he has created a really “smelly” rose.

What actually goes into breeding the Isle of Wight Rose?

In a word, patience. The process can take up to ten years and so it’s an ambitious long-term goal for anyone to embark on. To start, you need to decide how many crosses to make. The definition of a cross is where two rose cultivars are brought together to create a new one, with attributes of both parents being found in the new creation.

Crossing is carried out in the same general way as Mother Nature does it, collecting pollen from the pollen parent and transferring to the seed parent. Every time this is done it is called a cross. Rather than rely on insects, birds or the wind, Rueben has to carry out this process by hand, carefully transferring the really fine pollen from parent to parent, and then accurately recording exactly what he has done. It’s vitally important to Reuben to understand the history of each cross so characteristics of petal count, fragrance, and disease resistance can be bred in or out.

A few months later, in the autumn, the seed parent’s blooms produce hips. These are berry-like in shape and bright orange to red in colour. Once ripened they can be slit open and the rose seeds carefully extracted and, again, notes taken of their details.

These seeds are then refrigerated until February, when they are sown in seed trays to await the germination process; details of each batch are marked and recorded. Eventually the new rose seedlings will develop, and as this occurs the strongest seedlings will be chosen to mature into full blown plants.

Reuben is looking for Grade One plants (Bare root roses are classified as grade 1, 1 1/2 and 2.  Grade 1 roses have at least 3 large canes (branches) and the lesser grades have fewer and/or smaller canes.)  At all times the possible grade ones are the final choices that will hopefully become commercially viable.

The above process can take years of crossing and analysing and re-crossing, not forgetting that the actual growth periods are seasonal so you only really see one good cross and development annually.   Once Rueben has what he considers to be The Rose it has to be trialled by other rose growers to verify its viability as a commercial rose. Only after this rigorous testing will the rose go into production to be sold to the general public.

On completion Rueben can announce The Rose and give it a name connected with the Isle of Wight. However, this will only happen if it passes the final test; if Jill can smell the fragrance from a distance.

Only then will he know it’s a really smelly rose!

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Reuben's Craft