By Mary Reid Barrow
© May 26, 2009
CURRITUCK COUNTY, N.C.
Open the car door at Harbinger Lavender Farm and you immediately know where you are.
A heady aroma of lavender permeates the air from car to lawn to shop and gardens.
The fragrance wafts from the old barn, where lavender sachets, bags of lavender and more are for sale. It floats from flower beds scattered about and from rows of lavender plants for sale.
And once the full field of Provence lavender is in flower, the scent will envelop an acre or more. That should be in about a week, when the farm is one of six gardens featured on the Currituck Garden Tour. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 30.
Tour visitors also will be able to cut their own lavender – $8 for as much as your fist can hold. You also can purchase the lavender products that owners Doris Forbes Flattum, Anne Banks and Leah Barrett make.
The trio propagates, raises, picks, dries, sifts and does all that is needed to take lavender from cuttings to scented blooms, from dried blooms to sachets, soaps, sugars and jellies. They make lavender pillows, eye pillows and drawer liners, even lap throws with sleeves for lavender sachets. For do-it-yourselfers, they sell bagged lavender by the pound, half pound and cup.
When visitors arrive at the farm on Church Road in the hamlet of Harbinger, N.C., they are apt to see Flattum, Banks or Barrett on the barn porch sifting lavender blooms.
Flattum, daughter Barrett and her friend, Banks, have been growing their field of lavender for six years, ever since they were told they would not be able to grow lavender in northeastern North Carolina (just like folks in Hampton Roads are told that lavender is hard to grow in southeastern Virginia).
But the women loved lavender, so they decided to try it anyway.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Flattum said, “and we’ve learned a lot.”
They started with a field of Provence lavender and, though you can see where some of the original plants have been replaced, many big 6-year-old heads of bushy lavender getting ready to bloom are signs of more ups than downs.
Since the early days, they also have found that Munstead and Hidcote lavenders do well for them, too.
The women give out instructions on growing lavender to those interested.
Of the 13 instructions on the list, Flattum said, the top three are the most important. They are full sun, sandy or gritty soil with a pH of 6 to 8, and good drainage.
“It is said that lavender doesn’t like to go to bed with wet feet,” Flattum said.
The instructions also advise spacing the plants far apart, 2 to 3 feet, for good air circulation and mulching them with sand and white rocks to reflect heat up under the plants.
“It’s not an easy plant to grow because of the humidity,” Flattum said.
In other ways, it is easy to grow. It is drought-tolerant and doesn’t require much watering after it is established. It prefers poor soil, so it doesn’t need to be fertilized.
“We like to educate people about lavender,” Flattum said. “We love visitors at the farm.”