A few weeks ago I saw an event advertised on Facebook promoting picking Lavender in Caterton.
I’d never been picking Lavender but after having heard about the fields in Grass from George Bowler, who I interviewed here, I’d wanted to have my own floral experience. While the Wairarapa isn’t France, I did get a little taste of Provence by heading along and picking my own lavender with Matt on a hot Sunday afternoon.
We arrived late afternoon, having driven over the hill. The weather was warm and sultry in Wellington, but grew to be biting heat in the Wairarapa as we drove across. On getting to Carterton, we drove down Dalefield Road and into the paddock by Lavender Abbey. There was a little desk and tent-verandah set up where you paid in a gold coin donation. On payment, for $5 a bunch, you could pick as many bunches as you wanted. Matt and I were handed a pair of scissors and some rubber bands and told to go for it.
We began wandering through the lavender patches. At first from a distance they had seemed a bit underwhelming, but up close in the field, they looked lush and like they went for miles. The smell was like being on a soft scented pillow. In all the bushes, little bumble bees and honey bees hummed. I felt a bit lame, because my first reaction was to be scared of the bees (agh, sorry!) but Matt was brave. “Bees aren’t interested in you. I’m not worried about bees. They’re trustworthy” Matt said. After that, I felt a bit better and wasn’t worried by the bees. Luckily, the bees were indeed not interested in me.
I picked a first bunch randomly, and then, while appreciating the rambling look of it, decided to pick the second but more carefully. To get a nice bunch, you need to go right down the base of the stem and cut it close to the bush. That way you get a nice long lavender. I tried to gather ones without too much brown on them, but eventually gave up. Almost all had a little brown, but it didn’t affect them at all.
After we had picked about three bunches, and were onto our forth, the sun was really hitting us hard. Matt was getting very burnt on his neck and as a very sensitive ginger started to look quite pained. I quickly picked one more bunch, moving to a different part of the field, and then accepted I would need to admit defeat and pack it in.
We paid for our bunches and I also decided to buy a lovely bottle of lavender water to spray on my pillow. I was very pleased with my purchases as you can see below. It cost us $40 in total to do lavender picking, for four bunches at $5 each, a bottle of the spray at $18 and $1 each for the entry fee. I used my brother’s Christmas present of two crisp $20 notes to pay for it and felt well chuffed.
At home, I took the bunches and trimmed the stems again, trying to match the heads of the flowers closely so that I could get a fat bunch. Moving the lavender around meant that the little florette bits fell onto the table. They did seem quite dry, but that is probably because of the weather we’d had. They smelt so nice and it put me in a very relaxed mood. Maybe homeopathy is real after all! Once I’d trimmed them, I added them, stem by stem into a Berleigh China Vase with water in it. One bunch went into the living room, one into the kitchen and one the bedroom. Matt and I have been sniffing it before bed, and I’ve been spritzing the lavender spray all over the show before bed, leaving Matt coughing.
The water in the vases has dirtied quite fast, which was a bit dissapointing. I haven’t changed it every day, but I did cut the stems down and change the water at least once for two bunches and twice for the other. The bunches keep getting shorter, so next time I think I’d have started with a longer set of stems, knowing that to make them last I’d need to trim them down.
I’d so recommend going up to Caterton for this experience. It was magical to see where lavender is grown and to just take some time in nature, smelling the relaxing scent of this wonderful plant. I hope you enjoyed reading my post. I love scent (hence my candle obsession) and really do want to learn more about it, so going and picking lavender was a fun way to connect with my nose and the wider Wellington region.