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Answering Your Questions About Lavender

purple lavender heads with bright green stems captured from overhead

At Wānaka Lavender Farm we are happy to answer any questions about lavender, the farm and everything in between! Sharing the passion for lavender is important to us and we encourage conversations about this versatile purple plant so that more people can appreciate its beauty and benefit from its properties. Whether you want to know more about lavender varieties, growing conditions, uses or skincare, we can probably help you out. That's why we've compiled a list of 20 of the most common questions we get asked... and we have the answers for you right here, right now.

Lavender Varieties and Growing

What is the best lavender to grow in New Zealand?

If you ask us, the best lavenders to grow in NZ would be English Lavender and Stoechas. English Lavender are Lavandula Angustifolia and these are known to look beautiful and taste wonderful, they're a guest favourite here at the farm. The other variety you will see in abundance around Wānaka and New Zealand in general are Stoechas, as these bloom before other varieties and need less sunshine.

Saying that, we enjoy nurturing Grosso (Lavandula x Intermedia) in big numbers at the farm because it grows well, looks good and yields a lot of oil. You'll find our Grosso in rows in the fields, down the driveway and dotted around the buildings. We'd recommend giving this one a try in the garden.

How many types of lavender are there? And what's the difference?

A surprisingly large number that many don't expect... lavender has over 400 varieties! The differences range from colours to fragrance to uses. Some grow happier in certain areas of the world than others as well.

a field of different lavender varieties: light purple, dark purple, pink and white lavender

How do I grow lavender successfully?

Follow our tips and tricks in this guide and you will have some beautiful blooming lavender in your garden in no time. There are a couple of things that are a must for growing lavender like a warm climate with plenty of sunshine and well-draining soil.

Is there a variety that doesn't need a lot of sunlight?

Lavender does require full sun but there are varieties that are hardier than others. Spanish and French Lavender would be your best shot in the shade. We have Stoechas growing next to the tearoom at the farm and they are always the first out before summer is in full swing, meaning they still bloom when temperatures aren't that high. And although they go to sleep to recoup in the middle of summer, they come back for a second bloom and stick around longer than the other varieties.

Although a little challenging, you could put lavender in pots, ensuring you can move them around to follow the sunny spots through the season. The pots would need to be large enough for the lavender to grow into.

a type of lavender variety with bunny ears and in a bright pink-purple colour: Spanish Stoechas.

What is the white foam sometimes seen on lavender?

The white foam that can be found on lavender, as well as other plants, is the creation of a critter called the Spittle Bug. The foam is a little protection bubble against birds and other predators. Nothing too serious!

Can you eat all lavender?

Only certain lavender is safe to eat. English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) is the culinary lavender that can be added to food as a light flavour, but it must be used in low doses. We recommend adding lavender oil into food one drop at a time, even using a toothpick to keep it small. Lavender flowers are less potent than oil and each recipe will require different amounts to bring the flavour through.

What type of lavender is the best?

Everyone will have a different opinion on the "best" lavender. This comes down to personal preference on scent, colour and appearance. All lavender flowers picked or oil distilled are pure unless blended with other ingredients, so in that sense there isn't one lavender that is "stronger" than others.

stunning white lavender flowers

The Farm and our Lavender

How do you harvest the lavender?

We harvest our lavender using two methods. When the first lot of lavenders are ready to be cut, we use a hand sickle to go over the rows - this ensures perfectly neat bundles. Later in the season, when the particularly long rows are ready to be harvested, we bring out our tea cutter machine to help with the task. It still needs to be pushed by a gardener and the bags stuffed and changed when full.

How many varieties do you have?

In total, there are over 30 varieties of lavender growing at the farm. But for use in our farm-made products, we grow 4 particular ones in larger quantities that make up most of the farm's fields. These are Grosso, Super, Pacific Blue and Violet Intrigue.

Which variety is hanging on the wall?

It depends on what we've harvested that week! We usually keep Pacific Blue or Violet Intrigue (both in the family Lavendula Angustifolia) hung up in the shop and tearoom. This is because they are tidy and are a deeper purple than others. However, if it's harvesting season, we may have different varieties hanging up to dry for a couple of weeks, including Grosso and Super (both Lavandula x Intermedia). These will all eventually end up in our farm-made products that guests can enjoy.

hanging lavender being dried - full wall of dried lavender bunches

How did you decide you wanted to have a lavender farm?

The farm is the result of a Dutch couple moving to New Zealand and bringing over their love of working the land. Corry and Jan Zeestraten are big fans of fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers, and they owned a lavender farm in Kaikoura for a few years before selling it and moving onto their next venture. Though, their sons were not done with lavender yet. Stef and Tim took inspiration from their parents and decided to open a brand new lavender farm in Wānaka and build it up from scratch. Now, the whole "Farm Family" tend to the plants and take pride in their work at Wānaka Lavender Farm.

When is the best time to visit?

We adore every moment of nature's cycle at the farm, the changing colours and the different flora and fauna coming and going. So it's no surprise that we're enthusiastic about each season and think that every month has something special to offer guests. However, being a lavender farm, we understand visitors are asking about the optimal time to find the lavender in full bloom, and this would be January! The season depends on the weather pattern but normally lasts from the end of December until the end of February. Giving guests plenty of time to fit in a trip to the farm and seeing some purple rows.

Do you serve lavender ice cream?

Yes! They are a huge highlight of the Wānaka Lavender Farm experience. Adults and children alike adore indulging in our lavender-infused ice creams. There are three flavours available from our tearoom: lavender and honey, lavender and chocolate, and lavender and boysenberry sorbet.

a pot of honey lavender ice cream and two pots of lavender and boysenberry sorbet being held up in front of blooming lavender rows under a blue sky at wanaka lavender farm

How big is Wānaka Lavender Farm?

Right now, the farm is around 22 acres.

Up until 2020, the farm was half that size. The Zeestraten brothers are always working on expanding and coming up with ways to make the farm more immersive and fun for new and returning guests. Most of the land is taken up by rows of lavender, while the rest is made up of flower gardens and paddocks for our animals.

Are there a lot of bees? And do they sting?

There are thousands of bees buzzing about the farm, but don't panic! They tend to leave guests alone, too distracted by the flourishing flowers and collecting nectar to make delicious honey. The bees around here are very calm and collected (thanks, lavender!). Stings may happen on occasion, but it is usually when someone steps on them barefoot (not recommended), or grabs a fistful of lavender with their hands where the bees are going about their business.

Do you have lots of different animals?

Yes - our resident animals come in all different shapes and sizes. Many guests are delighted by the range of animals and love saying hello to all of them. Meet them on your next visit to Wānaka, or take a look at who's who in this farm story.

alpacas and highland cows in the background, with unfocused lavender field in front

Uses of Lavender

How do I know which lavender oil or blend I need?

Lavender is well-known for being a multi-purpose oil and one handy to have at home. We've previously written about lavender oil and the blends that we make at Wānaka Lavender Farm so that you can make an informed decision on what would suit your needs.

What are the benefits of using lavender in my every day life?

Lavender's history spans back thousands of years, having been used in ancient Egypt and Greece for mummification, medicine and fragrance. This is because this powerful plant contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it a popular choice of herb for soaps and balms. Lavender also has unique calming properties that can have a positive effect on some people suffering from insomnia, anxiety and depression.

What's the best lavender for sleeping?

All lavender have calming properties so it doesn't have to be a specific type that you use to help you sleep better. You can use lavender in its pure oil form, in a balm or a cream, or in a night-time tea (paired with Chamomile) to help put your mind and body at rest.

What can I do with lavender?

So many things! Lavender may be used for flavour, applied topically or in aromatherapy. Some examples of uses would be: incorporating it in meals, drinks or desserts, showcasing it in DIY projects, making balms with it, putting it in your skincare routine, using it as bug repellent, embracing its properties for sleeping, drinking it as a tea, adding it to homemade cleaning sprays or diffusing it for a sweet-scented home.

We've gone into this a bit deeper in this farm story so that you can really appreciate what lavender can do for us. We suggest using Google to search for crafty ideas with lavender for endless hours of fun and creativity.

lavender sprigs on colourful canapes

We hope this has been a useful resource for you in learning about our favourite plant. Remember, we are going off our own 10+ years of experience in the field, but not claiming to know everything about lavender! The Wānaka Lavender Farm team is constantly learning and acquiring more knowledge as we go. We have answered other burning questions some people have in previous farm stories, and our FAQ page will help with queries about your visit to the farm. Our lovely front of house team are available to help all year round at the farm shop as well. So don't be shy, pop in for a conversation about lavender.


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