Anyone driving down Route 27 in Edgecomb with their windows down this summer might have gotten a whiff of lavender as they drove by McKay Road.
Just across from McKay Road, at 771 Boothbay Road, there’s an intriguing-looking house sitting at the bottom of a slope that rises up behind it.
There are over 300 lavender plants growing on that slope.
Ramone Hanley-Warren and her daughter, Brittany Warren, are growing and harvesting the lavender for their new cottage industry, Cottage Lavender Co.
Hanley-Warren said the decision to start a lavender business on the land her family bought 17 years ago was born out of her love of gardening and herbs.
“Every time I planted lavender, it did really well. And we had all this property up here, which you can’t get to really easily because of the steep slope, so we thought, why not put it to good use?”
Two years ago she and her daughter, with helpful input from her husband, Mark Warren, came up with the idea to start a lavender farm. “As soon as we decided to do it, everything started to make sense,” she said.
The plants on the tilled land of the slope are now around a year and a half old. They are thriving in the loose, relatively arid soil, in sunshine all day long.
The plants don’t like water sitting at their feet, so the slope is perfect. “And lavender is deer-resistant and drought-resistant, and insects don’t like it,” Hanley-Warren said.
Cottage Lavender Co. is the definition of a small family business. Mark rototills the land where the lavender is planted, and he mows and pulls weeds. He built a gardening shed near the top of the slope. “He has a lot of ideas for the business, too,” Hanley-Warren said.
Two grandsons have been helping by picking rocks from the soil, and Brittany’s 3-year-old daughter, Presley, whom her mother calls a “free spirit,” frolics in the lavender, presenting great photo-ops.
A neighbor has set up a couple beehives at the top of the land, where bees gather nectar and pollen from the lavender. According to the U.S. Lavender Growers Association, bees love lavender in bloom. The jury is out on whether the resulting honey will have a lavender flavor.
The majority of the lavender harvest is sold in bulk, but the women are making sachets and pillows, and other items, including wands, from lavender stalks woven together with pretty, lavender-colored ribbon. Scrubs, cleaners, bath salts, and lotions are in the plans for the future.
Hanley-Warren said marketing the lavender can be tricky. “When it’s first harvested, we make some beautiful items with a fresh, strong aroma, and then, of course, they dry, which is awesome, but it’s a different product then. We’re trying to figure that out,” she said.
When not working on getting their business up and running, Warren teaches yoga classes at Crow Point Yoga in Boothbay Harbor. Hanley-Warren has a small landscaping business and works at Damariscotta Pottery. She’s also a painter and has a gallery in the house.
Hanley-Warren said that when the lavender was in full bloom this past summer, it was a sight to behold. “It was beautiful – like a purple haze,” she said. The second bloom of the lavender has begun, but she said it won’t be nearly as prolific as the first.
She said her farm is relatively small in comparison to other lavender farms. There are big farms in Provence, France, but Maine is starting to produce its share of the fragrant flowering herb.
With her landscaping business, her job at Damariscotta Pottery, her painting, and her new lavender company, Hanley-Warren is leading a busy life. But if given a choice, she said she’d like to just gather lavender and drive around in a pickup truck to farmers markets and other venues with her daughter and granddaughter.