Southern Grace Lavender Farm LLC, was established May 22, 2019, and has been recognized as the first lavender farm in Florida by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
There are over 45 different species of lavender and more than 2500 different varieties. Southern Grace Lavender Farm has been asked to evaluate different species and cultivars of lavender in comparative trials to identify, through evaluation and testing, the most disease-and pest-resistant, hardiest, and most garden-worthy lavender species and cultivars, and to provide objective, accurate, and reliable information about the cultivars tested for our region to industry professionals and the gardening public.
In ancient times lavender had a multitude of purposes. The Romans used lavender for bathing while the Egyptians used it for mummification. Historians have strong evidence the word lavender comes from the Latin verb, “lavare” which means to bathe. The Greek botanist, Dioscorides (c. 40-90 AD) noted lavender had beneficial effects when prepared as a tea. He was probably referring to L. angustifolia as this lacks the bitter taste of camphor found in several other Lavandula species. Also, a man of many trades, Pliny the Elder, (AD 23/24-79) mentioned lavender due to its ability to soothe people who were in grief.
Hildegard of Bingen of the high middle ages, claimed the strong odor of lavender was great for repelling pests and killing lice. She also mentioned lavender could frighten away nefarious spirits. Regardless of whether these spirits are real or not, there is no doubt peoples of different time were well aware of the strength and power of lavender.
Lavender grows in many different regions and countries in the world. Some of these places are remarkably unique from one another like England and Egypt. However, the majority of data recorded over time indicates the ideal climate for lavender is a Mediterranean climate. The plant does best in temperatures that range from 66-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Because the plant is susceptible to mold and fungal diseases, it is best to grow lavender in climates with minimal rainfall. Some species can tolerate cold winters such as L. angustifolia while others like L. stoechas is not winter hardy. Individuals living in different climates and even different elevations need to take account of their weather conditions before selecting the species best for their location. Even different cultivars of the same species have different levels of winter hardiness.
When Lavender is harvested, the most common method of extracting essential oil is by steam distillation. The oil is extracted by filling a chamber full of fresh or dried lavender. The chamber is packed full leaving no room for air, and the chamber (basket) is placed over boiling water. As stream moves through the flowers and other plant tissues, it removes the essential oils and carries it up into a condenser where the lavender essential oil condenses back into a liquid form. The floral water (hydrosol) and oil are then separated.
Jason and Kari Leabo pose with their daughters Amber (left) and Jamie (right) on Sept. 4, 2019, at Southern Grace Lavender Farm in Southport.
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