It's lavender my friend, growing in the wind.

Rows of Hidcote Giant

Sharp's Crossing Lavender Farm

Jan in lavender

Welcome | Farm History | You Pick | About Lavender | Directions | Contact Me | Feedback

Farm History

Farmhouse in 1910

The small plot of land where I've started growing lavender, is part of the original 92 acre farm that my great grandparents, Joseph "Sep" and Appolonia Sharp purchased in 1909.

Farmhouse in 2008

They had the three bedroom house built that still stands on the property.  The farm has gone through many changes over the years as it accommodates the needs of my family over six generations and one hundred years.  One thing is certain, change is constant.

Kankakee-Urbana Traction Company, 1914

1914

In 1914 an electric, inter-urban line, known as the Kankakee-Urbana Traction Company, ran just east of the house from Kankakee to Urbana.  Both grain from the elevator and passengers could be transported between the rural towns.  This particular intersection with Illinois Route 45 was called Sharp's Crossing.

Sharp Elevator 1916

1916

Sep Sharp along with other local farmers organized the grain elevator across the road and so it was named Sharp Elevator.  This was a local landmark for many years.  Unfortunately, in October of 2008, the elevator burned to the ground while being dismantled for reuse and recycling of the aged lumber

I've always dreamed of visiting the Lavender fields in Provence, France.  But the timing was never quite right to see and smell the fields in bloom.  Then in July, 2005, I discovered the Sequim Lavender Festival in Washington state and my life was forever changed.  It was so wonderful, I returned again in 2007.  I've had a lavender plant or two in my Minnesota garden -- but nothing like the ones I've seen in Sequim.  I was equally fascinated and delighted with lavender.  One summer afternoon in 2008, while weeding a garden at the family farm, I had an epiphany!  Why not grow lavender in Central Illinois.

There was  a small plot of land between the highway and the barn that I wanted to reclaim from corn, soybeans and grass that would be a perfect location.  After reading everything I could get my hands on about growing lavender, talking to growers and taking an online Lavender class with Susan Harrington called Lavender: from Soil to Sachet, I was ready.

Jan at Purple Haze Lavender in 2005

 

My DREAM

 

Those who say it cannot be done,

      should not interrupt the person doing it.     

                                           ~Chinese Proverb

 

Laying 12 foot wide weed barrier fabric

4-26-2009

In the spring of 2009 after preparing the ground, next came the weed barrier fabric.  I had seen it used in Sequim and thought this would be the best way to avoid spending all of my time at the farm weeding.  A word of advice, don't try laying it on a windy day if it is 12 feet wide.

I chose three varieties of Lavender starter plants from Victor's Lavender, a grower in Sequim:  'Hidcote Giant', 'Royal Velvet', and 'Melissa'.

 

I had spent all winter planning my lavender fields and anxiously awaiting spring.  Unfortunately, it was a wet cold spring and I soon learned first hand how important WEATHER is to a farmer and it's the one thing that I was powerless to control.  Just when the fields would start drying out, it would rain again.

 

Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Hidcote Giant Lavender

 

'Hidcote Giant' forms a medium-sized (18 to 24 inches tall) shrub after a few growing seasons becoming an impressive plant when the large branched stems are covered with light lavender-blue flowers.  It is also wonderfully fragrant and dries well for everlasting bouquets.  Hidcote Giant falls under the category of Lavandula x intermedia, commonly known as lavandin.

 

 

Hidcote Giant

 

In the field of Hidcote Giant, using the guidelines on the weed barrier, I cut planting holes three feet apart and left five feet between rows.  I managed to get about 3/4 of the field planted before having to return to Minnesota.

 

Hidcote Giant Rows 4-28-2009

4-28-2009

 

The middle of May brought Spring rains filling the drainage ditches and leaving no where for the water to go.  I was sure that I would lose all of my lavender because half of it was totally under water -- the one thing that drought tolerant lavender doesn't like.

 

Hidcote Giant Rows 5-17-09

5-17-2009

Amazingly enough, the Hidcote Giant field survived and by the middle of July, I was thrilled to see that  it was looking quite spectacular.  What a relief!

Hidcote Giant Rows 7-18-2009

07-18-2009

Every month I walked the rows of lavender smelling the awesome fragrance, trimming off the stalks of blossoms to encourage more growth and sometimes pinching myself to realize that my dream was coming true.

Hidcote Giant September 17, 2009

9-17-2009

 

Winter survival will be the next test for my lavender.  Although this is flat prairie, the barn provides some protection against the wicked northwest winds.

 

Winter Hidcote Giant 1-10-2010

01-10-2010

 Royal Velvet Lavender

Royal Velvet

 

 

'Royal Velvet' is very showy when blooming plants are covered with long stemmed, deep purple flower spikes and sweet fragrance.  It is a great oil producer and excellent for culinary uses. Royal Velvet is considered one of the best of the Lavandula Angustifolia species.

 

Field preparation June 15, 2009

06-15-2009

Because of a low spot in this field, I added some top soil from an excavation project going on at the farm before laying the weed barrier.  I've since realized that I may still have a drainage problem in a portion of the field.  I'm waiting until 2010 to determine what to do next.

Planting Royal Velvet June 29, 2009

06-29-2009

 

Due to the regular rain showers about every three days, planting in the Royal Velvet field was delayed until late June when I was able to spend a couple of weeks at the farm.  I spaced the Royal Velvet three feet apart with four feet between rows.

 

Royal Velvet field August 27, 2009

08-27-2009

 

I was beginning to think that perhaps I had taken on more than I could accomplish.  But, plant by plant, I kept on going sometimes late into the night by the light of a full moon and a flash light.

 

Royal Velvet Field September 17, 2009

09-17-2009

The Royal Velvet has not done quite as well as the Hidcote Giant probably due to the fact that it had to be transplanted into larger pots while waiting for soil conditions to dry out and was planted almost 2 months later.  I'll just have to wait and see what Spring reveals.

 Melissa

 

'Melissa' features tightly compact pink and white spikes that bloom longer than other pink lavender plants.  It can be used for ornamental or hedging purposes or for a variety of culinary uses.  Melissa is also a member of the Lavandula Angustifolia species.

 

Melissa

Having seen the visual impact that pink lavender can have when planted next to deep purple lavender, I planted a few of these as well interspersed among the two fields.

Pink and lavender combination
You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.  Over the years, I've  returned to the home farm frequently for visits.  Since I live in Minnesota, my dream of a growing lavender requires that I continue to travel at least once a month back to the farm.  I really do enjoy "going home" to my little piece of heaven.

Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do.   -Rumi              

 

Welcome | Farm History | You Pick | About Lavender | Directions | Contact Me | Feedback | Top of Page