Castle Farm, with over 95 acres of lavender and lavandin, is the biggest lavender farm in the UK. ( Go to our Uses of Lavander & Lavandin page to understand the differences.)
Planting began in 1998 and a commercial steam distillation unit was purpose-built in 2002 to process all the Kentish Lavender oils. These are supplied via a co-operative to toiletries manufacturers, perfumerers and pharmaceutical companies in the UK and abroad.
GROWING FOR OIL
The lavender harvest starts in mid July and the later lavandin is cut in early August. We wait until the flowers are at a stage of maturity when they contain the maximum quantity of oil and then use a purpose-built machine imported from Provence to cut the flowers and stalks – leaving a neatly domed mound of foliage behind.
The large trailers containing the cut flowers are then driven to the distillation unit. Steam is pumped under high pressure into the sealed trailers. As it rises through the lavender flowers, the oil volatilises into steam that is then cooled in a condenser. As it settles, the oil separates and floats to the surface where it can be tapped off. The pure oil is then poured into drums for storage and is allowed to mature for at least 6 months before being sold.
The condensed water remaining in the flask after the oil has been removed still retains the fragrance of the oil. This pure lavender water (also known as hydrolat) is bottled for sale in the shop as a natural, powerfully-fragranced linen water for ironing and is also used as an essential ingredient in the making of our hand-creams.
CUTTING FOR BUNCHES
The Hop Shop’s long-term expertise with drying flowers has enabled us to produce top quality bunches of lavender for domestic and floristry use. We primarily use the ‘Folgate’ lavender variety for drying because of its consistent dark blue colour but have also been cultivating an even darker ‘Super Blue’. The ‘Grosso’ lavandin variety is taller and sturdier with a stronger scent but a paler grey-blue colour. All bunches are harvested by hand at the end of June, when they are in prime condition and immediately dried to preserve quality. Dried bunches of Lavender are despatched from store throughout the year.
Fresh-cut lavender is available from the shop throughout the lavender season and large orders (10+ bunches) can be pre-ordered and collected from the shop when in season – call 01959 523219 for more information.