Saturday, 12 July 2008


My wife Lisa, has just finished an ITEC aromatherapy massage course, so we went to Castle Farm near Eynsford, where this weekend they have one of their open events were you can visit and get an insite into the production of the essential oils produced from lavender and a few other plant species. The lavender fields looked great and the acreage in Kent used for lavender production is the largest in the UK. I thought that all varieties of lavender were good for insects but you need to be careful as one variety is not attractive to insects. To be sure of attracting insects to your lavender plants be sure that you get Lavandula angustifolia. The picture below is a field of this type and not only bees and hoverflies loved it but also common blue damselfly and a fantastic male banded demoiselle.

I've taken an extract of info from the Castle Farm website:
'Castle Farm is one of the biggest lavender growers in the UK, producing pure lavender and lavandin oils, as well as rosemary and German chamomile. The lavender is grown on south or west facing slopes in the Darenth Valley and the varieties are harvested in sequence when they are in full bloom from mid-July to early August. The stems are cut by machine and immediately taken to the farm's 'still' where, over the next few hours, the oil is extracted by steam distillation. The pure oil is then stored for at least 6 months to mature before sale. Lavender water for ironing and scenting clothes is a by- product of the distillation process.'
Running through Eynsford on the way to Sevenoaks is the busy A225 with the traffic generally motoring past at high speed. Little do the occupants know that along the roadside verges is some great wildlife. Groups of Pyramidal orchids are still in flower looking stunning and amongst them are small skippers, meadow browns, ringlets and this unexpected marbled white.
Marbled White

There is also one incredible plant in the local area and I think this is possibly now the only place in Kent where it occurs. It has taken me a bit of time to research where it is but today I managed to find the right place. Below are a couple of shots of green-flowered helleborine, a species of orchid that is nationally scarce and certainly very rare in Kent. In this area I managed to see at least 30 plants.

Doesn't look much does it? The plant is able to self fertilise and is sometime able to perform cleistogamous (fertilisation occurring in the unopened flower). Now I'm hoping that in a week or so some of the flowers might have opened to allow me to get a photo.

This clump of plants were being used by red ants 'farming' aphids, and looked a little worse for wear but I liked the insect plant association.
I must admit to being quite excited about seeing these plants, once again being so close to home.


Greenie said...

John ,
Interesting post as usual , nice female Marbled White .
The lavender is even more colourful close up .
Will email re. Helleborines .

Cheryl said...

Hi John....Beautiful marbled white and lovely photography....

So interesting re Helleborines...what a wonderful find and as you say so close to home..

The lavender fields are stunning, the colour is so intense....I use lavender oil for many things, would not be without it.

Great post, tku....

Tony Morris said...

Marbled Whites seem to be doing OK, there out in numbers at Sandwich and here, although I haven't done a quantitative count.