In Provence, there exist several types of lavender (genus: Lavandula). TRUE LAVENDER and LAVANDIN are the two that are most commonly cultivated and used by local growers. July and August are the harvest months of both.
True lavender grows naturally at an altitude above 700-800 metres. This strong plant can survive the harsh conditions on the Provence mountains – dryness, strong summer heat and extreme cold winter. It is mainly grown for the production of essential oil. Its fresh and pleasant scent is favoured by perfumers and cosmetic producers. Bouquets of true lavender are sold all over the world. Provençal weddings are showered with the purple flowers.
Lavandin is more voluminous and productive. It can be cultivated on plains or plateaux at an altitude of up to 600 metres. More than 90% of the lavender fields and lavender products are and come from lavandin. It is mainly used as a fragrance in various products such as soap and washing liquid.
One hectare of true lavender gives 15-20 kg of essential oil while one hectare of lavandin produces about 60-150 kg of essential oil. Lavandin yields 3-10 times more essential oil than true lavender does!
The cultivation of lavender in high Provence is not a pure coincidence. In antiquity, the Greeks and Romans had already used it in cosmetics and perfumes. In the Middle Ages, it was proved to be an efficient substance against the Black Death. In the beginning of the 20th century, it became the “Blue Gold”! In Grasse, the development of the perfume industry triggered a gradual increase in the demand of fragrant plants. The harvest of spike and true lavenders has become widespread and organized. Many farms live on lavender. The emergence of new markets in the 2000’s, especially “well-being”, has further encouraged the quality production of lavender. Today, it is used in perfumery (perfume, household products, soap or washing liquid), aromatherapy, decoration and cuisine (honey, nougat).
True lavender and lavandin are grown mainly in the departments Vaucluse (especially in the town Sault), Drôme, and the southern Alps region. These areas are favourable for the growth of quality lavender and lavandin.
Lavender is a quality plant that can be used in many ways. It remains an emblematic symbol of Provence and represents an art of living.