Anne-Marie Manders spoke on the establishment and operation of Warratina Lavender Farm at Wandin Yallock.
- Warratina was established as a lavender farm in 1991, having previously been an orchard.
- Two types of lavender are grown: aromatic lavender (Lavandula intermedia), flowering in mid-late summer and used in oils and essences, cosmetics etc; and edible lavender (L. angustifolia, L. dentata), flowering up to the end of November and used in small quantities as a flavouring, mainly Munstead and Edgerton Blue.
- Best time for planting is in late May-June, when the ground is wet, or at the end of winter when the danger of frosts has passed. Plants are set 1 metre apart. They grow best in full sun, in well-drained soil to which a little lime is added every 2 years. A little Dynamic Lifter can be used as fertilizer, but relatively poor soil is OK. Very little watering, if any, is required.
- Very important: Cut back hard every year after flowering: in late summer (most lavenders) or November (L.dentata), but be sure not to cut into the dry wood, only into the foliage.
- After harvesting, the lavender is bunched and dried on ceiling racks for 3 weeks. Some are sold in this condition to wholesale florists interstate; other lavenders are stripped mechanically, sieved to remove sticks and leaves and frozen to kill any insects.
- Warratina lavender products are sold at garden shows, markets and other expos. They range from flavoured foods such as honey, shortcake and ice cream to hand creams, shampoos, lavender sachets etc.
- Tourism is a very important part of the business and the gardens surrounding the sheds and café have been developed as show gardens. The best time to visit is November – January. Warratina is open every day of the week except Tuesdays.