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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.


The Ghostly Monk

The Ghostly Monk

The Blacklands - The name alone conjures up thoughts of foul deeds afoot!  Prior to Quarr Abbey holding the lands of Arreton Manor, which in turn owned Staplehurst Grange, many issues beheld the area, and in the 13th Century the Abbott of Quarr complained actively that “certain persons had carried away goods”.  This led to a ditch being built as a defence between the lands of Briddlesford under control of the Abbey and that of Staplehurst. Piracy and theft were common throughout the island and the Abbey did its best to protect its property.   

Then in the 16th century the Grange was purchased by Quarr Abbey as a parcel of the larger Arreton Manor.  The expansion of Quarr by buying up these minor manors was a very important part of the Abbey’s development, and the lands were worked daily by both surfs and monks.

The Ghost Workers of Quarr

The Lavender Farm ghosts are said to originate from this time, and are active at dusk when shadowy features can clearly be seen. Looking at the image below there appears to be one of these shadowy forms, a monk slumped next to the steps.

Today this is the office, but in ancient times it was the grain store and built as one unit. Apparently they used to load sacks of grain from the mill cart using a grain hook suspended from a rope and pulley affair. It is said that one day a monk from the Abbey who was doubting his faith while loading the heavy sacks of grain let the hook slip off a sack under tension, which then swung wildly and killed him instantly.


Look Carefully in the circled area .. what can you see?

Legend has it that sometimes at dusk you can hear the muffled sound of the old monk doubting his spiritual beliefs, and his ghostly form can be seen collapsed next to the step. Or so the story goes.

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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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Bees and pollination

Most bees in this country are domesticated and live in hives. They are known for their ability to produce honey which can be collected and eaten, and the production of wax comb which has a variety of uses from candles, to polish, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

On the farm we have our own bee hives making sure that the pollination process is well supported within the valley.

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Reuben's Craft