A Yorkshire lavender farm

Take a northern county renowned for its wild and beautiful countryside, damp weather, cricket and wry humour and mix it with aromatic lavender, redolent of balmy heat, blue skies and all things pleasant and refined. The two are curiously combined at one of North Yorkshire’s more successful rural enterprises of recent times.

On a 60-acre site of free-draining, sandy soil in the Howardian Hills a designated AONB it raises an area of commercial lavender, plus a lavender maze and a collection of some 100 varieties of the genus, which thrive in this unlikely location. In the nearby Vale of York, wheat and barley crops typify the region’s agricultural fields, but up at Terrington, the relatively poor, sandy soil suits this crop, more readily associated with the French Midi.

‘Hardy lavenders, particularly Lavandula angustifolia the ‘English’ lavender, although not, of course, native to these isles and L. x intermedia hybrids (often known as lavandin), have settled well into these Yorkshire hills,’ explains owner Nigel Goodwill. They grow in a fragrant haze of violet blue ribbons, buzzing with the drone of bees. In the cutting field, the ribbons are parallel; in the maze, they swirl, like a vortex.

The nursery raises and displays a broad spectrum of coloured lavenders, from creamy white, through pink and lilac, to deep mauve, purple and burgundy and even bicoloured flowers such as the unusual violet-and-white L. stoechas Tiara (syn. Fair 10). The genus is planted throughout the gardens juxtaposed with shimmering golden grasses—Stipa tenuissima is a favourite but also combined with many other perennials suitable for all aspects.

A huge collection of culinary and medicinal herbs is assembled in a Sensory Garden, which includes some 34 varieties of mint, yielding notes from chocolate through to pineapple.

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Mr Goodwill created Yorkshire Lavender in memory of his wife, Lynne, who died when their two children, Sam and Emma Jane, were very young. Mr Goodwill recalls he bought the plot of land in 1994 as an investment gift to safeguard their children’s future. (He first considered farming garlic, but was swayed by a magazine article.)

His first planting, of 10 different varieties, was experimental, to test which would cope best with Yorkshire winters. Now, 20 years on, the next generation of the family is also involved in the lavender enterprise, which itself has developed with the addition of the aforementioned lavender maze and Sensory Garden, a hillside ‘snakes and ladders’, a mirror pool, wildflower meadows, a deer park with white fallow deer and a water garden.

And, at the heart of the gardens, amid swaying lavender and grasses, stands a memorial to Mrs Goodwill, a proud, sky-blue, multi-pyramid sculpture, pointing upwards to the heavens.
Yorkshire Lavender Farm is at Terrington, York, North Yorkshire YO60 6PB (01653 648008; www.yorkshirelavender.com)

Nigel Goodwill recommends

Lavandula angustifolia

• The cultivar Folgate is an outstanding traditional lavender, with really long, blue, fragrant flowers
• Melissa Lilac has a good, strong fragrance with a clear, light, open flower and is very hardy and popular
• Little Lady is a very free-flowering English lavender with clear, light-blue flowers. This is a good, hardy and compact plant that copes well with the northern climate if given well-drained soils and at least partial sunshine. Ideal for containers
• Rosea is a really good pale-pink specimen
• Arctic Snow is a low-growing, evergreen shrub with masses of fragrant white flowers
• Hidcote is a low-growing, silver-leaved variety with dense, vivid purple flowers
Lavandula x intermedia
• Grosso is one of the most cold-hardy of the L. intermedia range, with heavily perfumed lilac flowers held on long, sturdy stems. Favoured by French lavender-oil producers
• Vera (Dutch group) is an old, evergreen variety that’s supposedly the best for medicinal use and aromatherapy

Lavandula stoechas

• L. stoechas has fragrant foliage rather than flowers; they’re less hardy and, unless very sheltered or in the south of England are best grown in pots, which can be moved in winter
• Tiara (syn. Fair 10) is an eye-catching lavender that combines pretty white/cream ears and violet flowerheads
• Helmsdale is one of the hardiest stoechas lavenders, with really distinguished deep-burgundy flowers
• Regal Splendour, with its rich, velvety, purple flowers, makes a good container specimen

** This article was first published in Country Life Magazine on July 30 2014

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