Lavender grown at Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois is Lavandula Grosso, the same plants that are grown all over the Provence for their intense fragrance and sustained deep purple colour.
What better than to stand on the roof terrace on a warm summer evening and smell the delicious aroma of lavender at Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois? The plants are growing as we speak and before long it will become a reality. The weather in Pouzols-Minervois is perfect for growing them.
Lavender needs very little watering to develop into healthy plants that are half-circles with a size of 60 cm. The flower spikes on Lavandula Grosso are 20 cm. The flower heads are big and contain lots of nectar to attract bees and butterflies.
We grow our plants both on the roof terrace, alongside our olive trees, and in the flowerbeds on the lower terrace. In both locations, the plants get plenty of full sunshine.
Although you may spot the odd field of the purple plants in the region around Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois, the Provence is really the heart of the French lavender industry.
Acres of plants stretch as far as the eye can see in the Provence, to the northeast of Montpellier. They are grown for their oil, which is used in perfumes, soaps and other products.
These plants are also mainly Lavandula Grosso, the same variety we grow. The flowerheads retain their intense fragrance and colour long after they have been harvested by small tractors that fit over the plants. That makes them ideal for use in potpourri.
Other regions have tried to cash in on the lucrative trade too. Central Bulgaria has plenty of cheap labour, land and sunshine matching that of the Provence for its fields.
Since 2010, Bulgaria has expanded its lavender fields six-fold, to 20,000 hectares. At the same time, production of lavender oil rose to ten times its original size, outpacing demand in the cosmetics industry.
This has led to overproduction and quality problems that have caused a sharp drop in the price of lavender oil from Bulgaria.
In many cases, farmers in the northeast of the country who had previously grown grain switched to lavender in the hope of better returns. Without the proper skills to run a successful lavender business, they cultivated large areas of non-certified varieties of lavender.
The Bulgarian government is now trying to persuade the industry to focus on quality instead of quantity. Central Bulgaria has many smaller farms that already focus on producing high quality lavender oil.