In Love with Lavender and Provence
I’ve only been in Provence once during lavender season. It was many years ago when everything in the region was new to me and I was much less adventurous. As a result, I didn’t see much lavender and have regretted it ever since. This year I wanted to be here in time to see it before it would be harvested. As everyone knows, there have been many things going on in the world that could potentially put this plan off-course, but thankfully it worked out.
Continue reading here for the original contributor blog post by: A Table en Provence.
Lavender Fields in Provence
Lavender is a crop like any other, the exact flowering schedule is completely up to Mother Nature. However, in Provence, you can generally see lavender fields in bloom from the end of June through mid-August. The harvest depends on the year, as the farmers want to ensure they pick at the peak of the season.
Sault is considered the lavender capital of Provence, as there are many fields nearby. Every year on August 15th there is a festival celebrating the end of the season.
Where to see the fields?
In the Luberon at the right time: A great place to start would be the stunning hilltop village of Gordes. Head towards the viewpoint below the church, where you should be able to see a lavender field almost immediately below, looking towards Joucas. It’s a spectacular panorama with or without lavender in bloom!
When you’ve finished exploring Gordes, head towards tiny Joucas. If you don’t have time to explore Joucas – it has an excellent outdoor café-restaurant, a splendid little church and a pretty town hall – follow the signs to Roussillon. You will be able to get up close and personal to lavender, as the road between Roussillon and Joucas gives terrific close-up views and photo opportunities. There are a couple of large lavender fields here along with a few nearby smaller ones.
Smaller, and shall I say, ‘secret’ places to see lavender fields are just below Saignon, a pretty hilltop village near Apt, and en route to Rustrel and the Colorado Provençal – a little out of the way but magnificent scenery to enjoy.
A part of the mint family, there are 39 varieties of lavender. Although we typically associate lavender with purple flowers, the varietals include many colours, from deep blue to white. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of southern France. A relatively easy plant to grow. Lavender is well-suited to the Provencal climate with hot, dry summers, and cold winters the plants require minimal care.
Lavender vs Lavandin
Two main lavender varieties grow in Provence. The “real” lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill) or in French (lavande fine) is a small tufted plant with a single floral spike. Each plant is unique. The plants grow naturally at elevations between 600 and 1,400 meters, but cultivation is generally above 800m. Each plant is unique.
Did you know that lavender is actually a family of Lamiaceae plants that includes several species? As part of the mint family, there are 39 varieties of lavender. Although we typically associate lavender with purple flowers, the varietals include many colours, from deep blue to white. The plants love the dry, sandy, rocky soil that is typical of southern France. A relatively easy plant to grow. Lavender is well-suited to the Provencal climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters; the plants require minimal care.
This is the lavender scientific name of ‘fine lavender,’ or ‘true lavender,’ which is also called ‘officinal lavender.’ It grows exclusively above 2600 feet of altitude. A relatively small stem characterizes the lavender plant compared to other varieties.
There is only one flower stalk on each stem. Its flower is slightly purple-blue but more open than the lavandin flower. This is the best for perfumers because of its delicate scent. Once distilled, the essential oil of fine lavender is believed to have medicinal virtues.
The ‘aspic lavender’ grows at altitudes greater than 2000 feet above sea level. The plant is larger in size but with smaller stems in comparison with fine lavender. The scent of this variety is very camphoric. This variety is mainly found in Spain and Portugal.
This hybrid is a combination of the previous two varieties, and therefore it reproduces only by plants and not by sowing seeds. Lavandin (French name) is a robust plant with long green stems forming a ball-shaped tuft. Its flower stalks are long and blue, almost purple.
The blooms from these plants are used mainly focused on olfactory qualities. Used extensively in the perfume and detergents industry to produce essential oils, lavender soap, and make sachets or lavender bouquets.