comments

Lavender farm is couple’s field of dreams

Purple-hued hillsides of southern France were the inspiration for Elizabeth and Dan Bunz’s flowering agricultural endeavor
By: Anne Stokes / For the Auburn Journal
-A +A

Lavender in Placer County

 

Bywater Hollow Lavender

Where: 5950 Mt. Vernon Road, Lincoln

Phone: (916) 316-0062

Bunzlavender.com

 

Charleston Lavender Farm

625 Yankee Jim’s Road, Colfax

Phone: (530) 637-4190

 

High Hand Nursery

3750 Taylor Road, Loomis

Phone: (916) 652-2065

 

Eisley Nursery

380 Nevada St., Auburn

Phone: (530) 885-5163

 

This business is no longer open. If you find this in error, call the AJ at (530) 852-0287.

The Lavender Farm

1420 Shamrock Lane, Lincoln

(916) 645-6892

 

Peak season for blooms is nearing an end, but lavender is a good addition to the garden at any time of year, according to Julie Fitzgerald at Eisley Nursery in Auburn.

There are many varieties of the versatile plant – allowing home gardeners to opt for more vibrant or paler colors and stronger to milder scents.

Spanish lavender is a popular type that grows well in the foothills.

“It’s the kind of is behind the post office (on Nevada Street in Auburn),” she said. “Everyone just loves it. It is beautiful. It has little flags at the top of the flowers. Spanish lavender will bloom spring to summer and then repeat if the flowers are sheared off of it. It is also very drought resistant.”

Color options encompass deep purple to light lavender, white and even pink.

The Munstead variety blooms slightly later than Spanish lavender and is a type widely seen in France. It is a good choice for creating sachets and other scented products.

The Grosso variety gets very large and has an ample spike.

“It gets big and is the most fragrant of them all,” Fitzgerald said.

Hedge lavender, also known as sweet lavender, is another good choice for long-lasting bouquets.

Lavender is not fussy in the garden, but any plant will do better with amended soil, she said.

Trim the plants after they bloom to encourage rebloom.

Lavender’s long stems will last for a year or longer in a dry vase or container.

 

Editor's note: This articles details the Bywater Hollow Lavender Farm in Lincoln, not The Lavender Farm, which is now closed. Contact the Bywater farm through the box below.

Bywater Hollow Lavender farm is a unique stop along Placer County’s Wine Trail between Auburn and Lincoln. The 13-acre farm is a family owned and operated establishment that cultivates nine varieties of lavender with which they create an array of products, including beeswax-based balms, lotions, and goat-milk soaps infused with the heady essence of the spiked purple blossoms. During the flowering season from May to July, the farm’s field is open to the public to pick their own bouquets of the popular flower.

When Elizabeth and Dan Bunz (yes, the former 49ers linebacker) purchased the property in 1987, it was full of potential but not much else.

“It was just a cow field,” recalls Elizabeth Bunz, a former dentist. “It used to be a swamp. We dug it out and put in a pond and built our house overlooking it. It was supposed to be a one-year project, but it ended up being a four-year project.”

Originally the Bunzes used the acreage to breed Irish Sport horses but scaled down that operation once their daughters left for college, looking instead to create their own vineyard until a fateful summer vacation in 2011 changed their direction.

“When you have 13 acres, you have to do something with it, so we pretty seriously looked at putting in grapes, since we’re right on the Placer County Wine Trail,” Elizabeth Bunz said. “We took a riverboat cruise from Nice to Paris through southern France and we saw the lavender fields in Provence. The climate and soil type in southern France is actually quite similar to here and it’s good for grapes and lavender. I thought that lavender sounded more fun than grapes! And it’s productive sooner, so you can harvest lavender in its second year, whereas grapes can take a minimum of five years.”

After doing their homework and researching how to go about cultivating their new dream, the couple came home and planted half an acre — about 750 plants of five different varieties and opened up their farm in 2014. Since then, they have increased their crop yield in both volume and variety, with careful plans for future expansion.

“Right now we’re growing on about one acre, but lavender is a very, very productive plant, and in that one acre I have about 900 plants. That’s a lot of lavender. Each plant gives us about seven bunches,” Bunz said. “We use those bunches for drying, the buds for sachets and I distill essential oil. We use the buds and essential oil to make our products.” 

While Bywater Hollow Lavender is not a certified organic farm, the flowers are grown using organic practices.

“The nice thing about lavender is that there really aren’t any bugs that like it, so there isn’t anything you have to spray for in terms of pesticides. It doesn’t even really like fertilizer, it likes the poor soil,” she said. “We hand-weed, we don’t use any herbicides, there’s nothing that we put on it.”

It’s that hardiness, as well as lavender’s ability to thrive in the absence of water, that have a lot of local gardeners interested in cultivating lavender gardens.

“I do have a lot of people asking about lavender as a landscape plant because people are ripping out their lawns and putting in desert landscapes. Lavender is perfect for that,” Bunz said. “My goal for this year is to propagate the lavender varieties that I have and have some plants for sale for people to purchase for their landscapes next spring.”

The flowering season for foothills lavender runs from May through July. But the farm is open year-round. Bunz leads farm tours for those interested in cultivating lavender on their own property and local photographers have caught on to the fact that the grounds lend themselves beautifully to family, bridal and senior portraits.

“Even when the lavender is not in bloom, there’re a lot of pretty settings with the willow trees and the pond,” she said.

Bywater in bloom is a sight, smell, and sound not to be missed.

“People just like the experience of going out in the field and cutting the lavender,” Bunz said. “The fragrance is heavenly and the field is full of bees. They’re not aggressive, they’re feeding so they’re very docile. It’s a little bit hypnotic being out there with the fragrance of the lavender and the bees buzzing.”