About Red Rock Ranch & Farms High Altitude Lavender
Wonderfully fragrant, invigorating, and rich with healing properties, lavender has been cultivated from the beginning of recorded civilization.
Grown in gardens worldwide, the fragrant purple lavender flowers are used for dried floral arrangements and potpourris. When dried and sealed in pouches, lavender can be placed in your closet to freshen clothes and deter moths. Of course, this is only the beginning of what this beautifully utilitarian plant has to offer. With a floral yet slightly sweet flavor, lavender is used as a culinary herb.
Red Rock Ranch and Farms, located in Concho, Arizona, has over 45,000 lavender plants and twelve different varieties growing in the fields. As one of the largest growers of lavender in the western hemisphere, Mike and Christine Teeple started planting lavender initially as landscaping for their 130 acre ranch. In addition to the 45,000 plants in the ground, the lavender farm propagates around 10,000 to 15,000 plants in the greenhouse for sale to local people who need plants that are acclimated to grow in similar type climates and altitudes.
Red Rock Ranch and Farms grows several types of lavender including the French lavenders, Provence and Grosso and the English lavenders, Royal Velvet, Buena Vista, Vera, and pink Melissa. The lavender is grown and harvested by hand each summer.
Red Rock Ranch and Farms’ lavender is grown in the pristine climate of the White Mountains of Arizona at an elevation of 6,100 feet or 1860 meters. Lavender grown at high altitudes exhibits a higher ester content than lavender grown at lower altitudes. The environment and ecosystem of the White Mountains is optimal for producing intensely fragrant lavender with a scent that endures. Compared to lavender grown elsewhere in the world, Red Rock Ranch and Farms’ lavender would best compare to the lavender grown in the Provence area of France. The lavender grown in Plateau de Vaucluse, on Mt. Ventoux, is grown at an altitude of 6273 feet or 1912 meters. Which to our knowledge, is the highest altitude where lavender is commercially grown in the world. This would make our lavender at Red Rock Ranch & Farms the second highest altitude lavender that is commercially grown in the world.
Lavender loves not only the altitude of the White Mountains, but also the climate. The lavender plants are nurtured in ideal growing conditions: organic soil, clean air, and the purest spring water. “At the time we started it, people hadn’t been planting in higher elevations. As it turns out, lavender is very tolerant at this elevation and attracts bees, hummingbirds and the beneficial bugs and even deters what one might consider the bad. This makes it a one in a million type plant that everybody loves to have. One of the reasons we wanted it for landscaping for our orchards is because rabbits and deer don’t like it,” notes Mike, “After planting the plants and letting them go through some harsh winters and summers, we realized that they survived and actually did quite well due to the fact that they like to go dormant. Here, where they go dormant, all the strength is not being put into the plant itself, but rather in the root system which is important for lavender and keeps them healthy. Like the lavender grown at high altitudes in France, our plants have a plant life of about twenty years. Another thing that we found is that the spikes (which are where the flowers appear) produce three to four hundred spikes per plant which is unusual because most plants yield about two hundred spikes. We are averaging two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand bundles of lavender a year.” Another benefit of high altitude lavender is that it holds its flowers better which allows for a later harvest. “In he coastal areas, they have to harvest them when they are about three quarters budded due to the climate. If they harvest any later when the flowers are coming out, when they are dried, they will lose the flowers and they fall off,” explains Mike, “The health and strength of our plants allows us to almost let the whole flower come out before we harvest. We then put them in our specialty drying barn to cure and dry. The flowers are very strong on the plant so we get more of a budding performance out of the plant.”
The plants and fields are all on a highly economical automated drip system with each plant requiring about one gallon of water per week. He says th e real work comes at harvest time. At harvest time, two methods are used for drying. One method is to cut and dry the lavender in the fields to be used to make the lavender oil. The certain varieties that are used for the beauty of the plant are hung up and dried in the lavender barn where the darkness helps to keep the dark purple color. A myriad of lavender products is made from the dried lavender and the lavender essential oil that is steam distilled at Red Rock Ranch and Farms.
100% pure high altitude lavender essential oil and lavender hydrosol is produced from our state-of-the-art distillation system. High altitude lavender essential oil has a well balanced fragrance that is superior to many others and is often the choice of aromatherapists. Lavender plants are grown in our greenhouse nursery and are for sale. A myriad of Artisan-crafted products is created from our freshly harvested dried lavender.
Uses of Lavender
Lavender has been extensively used for its medicinal properties as an antiseptic and as well as for aromatherapy. Due to its antiseptic properties, lavender was used in hospitals during WWI to disinfect floors, walls and other surfaces. During the height of the Plague, glove makers would scent their leathers with lavender oil in an effort to ward off the Plague. Interestingly enough, this story could have some validity as the Plague was transmitted by fleas, which lavender is known to repel. Lavender oil is extracted from the flowers which can be added to balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics and topical applications. For instance, an infusion of lavender can be been used to soothe and heal bug bites. Bunches of lavender are said to ward off insects (which make it a fantastic addition to your garden). If applied to the temples, lavender oil soothes headaches and is frequently used as an aid to sleep and relaxation. It is commonly added to bathwater and pillows. In Iran, lavender is the traditional treatment for skin burns and inflammatory conditions.