Each month we set out to feature Grandio customers using their greenhouse in unique and inspiring ways. If you’re interested in being featured, send us an email!
This month, we talk with Aimee Crane of Bee Loved Lavender in Aurora, Ohio. Aimee is a member of the United States Lavender Growers Association (USLGA) and runs a lavender farm that harvests and produces the plant for culinary use, soaps, and candles. Bee Loved also offers a suite of design services tailored to farmers and fellow growers with an optional barter system that trades design work for lavender plants!
Bee Loved Lavender’s official bio states “Ohio is a long ways away from France, however our name gives a nod to the country known for its breathtaking images of purple fields–a region where this aromatic plant thrives. In French, the meaning of the name Aimee is: dearly loved; beloved. This comes from the Old French Amee, which derives from the Latin amatus meaning loved. It is fitting that I, as well as our friendly bees, adore this herb. Their humming harmony is music to my ears each summer evening.”
Aimee was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule for a Q&A that covers her passion for the plant, her production processes, the challenges she faces, and how she’s implemented her Grandio Elite 8×8 into her operation.
Grandio: How did you get into growing lavender?
Aimee Crane: Since I was little, I have always been fascinated by the natural world, and have always taken an interest in gardening and plant growing. I had just purchased my first home 3 years ago, and was very interested in updating the landscaping. On the south facing side of my house, I had a perfect spot to grow something in full sun. I immediately gravitated toward lavender thinking not only are the plants beautiful and attract bees, the lovely smell of fully bloomed plants would fill my house with their scent carried on a warm breeze in the summertime. I started with only 7 plants the first year, and they thrived! I was instantly inspired to learn what varieties could grow on my property and my lavender journey began.
G: What makes lavender so special?
AC: It wasn’t until I started to research the various varieties of lavender that I began to understand and develop such a respect for this incredible and versatile herb. There are so many wonderful things you can do with lavender. Not only is fresh lavender in high demand for weddings and special events, dried lavender can be used for a multitude of things such as crafts, bath and relaxation products, home décor such as wreaths and dried flower arrangements, culinary uses (the recipes are endless and exciting to try!) and not to mention the coveted essential oil that can be distilled from lavender. Bees adore lavender which is another reason I grow so much of it to help the local population.
G: What varieties of lavender do you grow?
AC: We have tried several lavender varieties here and it has been a challenge and adventure seeing what thrives, and which ones that do not particularly like our cold, snowy Northeast, Ohio winters. I currently have 20 different lavender types, each with their own specific use, purpose, or color characteristic. My favorite ones to grow and that succeed here are Phenomenal, Dilly Dilly, Munstead, Provence, and Hidcote.
G: What are some of the challenges of growing lavender in Northeast Ohio?
AC: Lavender needs plenty of sunlight and very good drainage in order to thrive. Because I am located in a region that has some cold winters and significant snowfall in the winter, my lavender requires protection, especially from icy winds. We protect our lavender by covering the plants with frost cloth blankets in late November and remove it after our last hard frost in the spring. This blanket protects and insulates the plants when they are covered with snow, keeping them in great shape heading into next growing season. In Ohio, we truly experience all four seasons. It makes it a fun challenge to work with the plants in various weather and seasonal conditions compared to other regions that are perhaps sunny and warm year-round!
Another major challenge is learning and adapting to your soil type. Northeast Ohio has a wide range of soil types. In my yard alone, I have rich, sandy soil in one location however 100 feet away I have the heaviest clay you have ever seen. We have had some setbacks through trial and error learning if the lavender will even take with or without amending the soil, and if so, which ones? My philosophy has always been to start small and do some test plots. You learn a wealth of knowledge rapidly from being able to study these small batches of plants so intimately. From there, you can take off and start propagating the ones that truly work in your microenvironment.
G: Tell us about the USLGA.
AC: As a new lavender grower and enthusiast, it was highly recommended to me by local, successful lavender farmers in my region to join an organization known as the United States Lavender Growers Association. Through USLGA, I have been able to connect with an impressive network of growers and industry leads all with the same goal of advancing our knowledge of lavender and supporting growers large or small across America. USLGA was formed to support and promote the United States Lavender industry and allows a collective voice for lavender growers and those interested in, or doing business with, lavender in the U.S. It supports lavender farms, connects growers to buyers and provides continual education for both lavender growers and lavender users. We are excited to be celebrating our 6th year anniversary this April.
G: How have you implemented your Grandio Elite into your operation?
AC: Working inside my Grandio Elite is one of my favorite places to be! This spring, it will be transformed into a lavender nursery as I work to propagate many of my plants. I started a few test flats of cuttings this fall in the Grandio Elite to see if I could get the plants to root and what measures I needed to take to maintain and monitor the temperature inside the greenhouse. It is exciting to have a greenhouse that can be used to nurture and grow young cuttings from pruning my lavender in the spring, and then have them ready to plant in the fall for next season. This upcoming spring will be the first season where I will be able to complete this growing cycle, which allows me to multiply my current plant count and expand.
G: What measures have you taken to continue growing in your greenhouse through the winter?
AC: This winter, I had plans to use my brand new 1500-watt greenhouse heater. However, after receiving a quote from my electrician, I realized I was not going to be able to afford to run power from my house to greenhouse underground properly as I had planned. Doing some research, I learned that other successful growers use of all things, bubble wrap to insulate their greenhouses! This winter, I gave it a shot and lined my Elite panels with super duty bubble wrap with ½” bubbles. The larger the bubbles, the better to trap the heat in. It has been keeping the temperature inside several degrees warmer than outside, and my herbs and lavender are doing great! I still plan on installing my greenhouse heater in the future as I would like to have a consistent temperature for propagating. This cost-effective solution has been working in the meantime.
G: How has your greenhouse changed the way you work?
AC: My goal that I am working towards now is to make my hobby farm self-sustaining. Utilizing my greenhouse is a huge part of that. I needed to create a system to be able to protect and grow cuttings from existing lavender plants in order to grow my rows and expand my plant count. This will save me time and money in the long run as I will not have to continue to purchase new plants as much from local greenhouses and nurseries while my field is becoming established. Since having my Grandio Elite, I have had several inquiries from other lavender growers about the success I am having with my greenhouse, and hopefully have inspired others to purchase one!
G: You offer a range of lavender-based products, what is your favorite to produce?
AC: Harvesting our culinary lavender varieties, drying it, and then debudding and cleaning the lavender buds to be used for cooking and baking is by far my favorite thing to produce. You truly feel like a farmer and take pride in knowing that you spent time cultivating the land to prepare for the plants, raise them to produce incredible buds and blooms, and then rejoice in the reward of harvesting the flowers for later use in various desserts and dishes. Our culinary lavender is one of our favorite products by customers, and I have plans to grow and harvest more of these types of lavender plants in the future.
G: What resources do you recommend for anyone looking to get started growing lavender?
AC: One of the first things to do is to check out the USLGA website and take a look at our member map. From there, you will be able to see any farms or growers in your area. I highly recommend taking a visit and see how lavender is grown locally to you. Each of the regions of the US has very different conditions, climates, and soil types, and our members can help answer many questions and offer many lessons learned to help you on your growing journey.
Another organization I belong to that I highly enjoy is the Herb Society of America. Living in Northeast Ohio, I am very fortunate that the headquarters of this organization is located right in Ohio! The Herb Society of America has incredible member benefits and has inspired me to learn about additional herbs that I can try that pair well with my lavender.
Finally, I recommend reading up as much as you can about lavender, and then jumping in and seeing what works for you. You learn a great deal from testing plants out and observing them right at your location. Remember to start small, and prepare to be enchanted by this incredible plant. Your knowledge and experience from trial and error will be one of your most valuable resources. Happy planting!