The purpose of these walks is to acquaint myself and my nose with the smells of whatever environment I’m in, to pay more attention to these smells, beautiful or not, and to attempt to describe them. Think of them as meditations based on the sense of smell.
Saturday afternoon, November 29th. Lavandula Swiss Italian Lavender Farm.
On Saturday, Olly Technic and I visited Lavandula Swiss Italian Lavender Farm near Hepburn Springs in Victoria, Australia. Lavandula is a favourite spot of mine, and we’ve been visiting this idyllic attraction for many years now, mostly to eat the delicious lavender scones on offer, but also to admire the various lavender, vegetable, and flower-filled gardens, as well as the original rustic stone farm buildings. Lavandula has a distinct Tuscan or Provençal feel, and is gorgeous to visit on a hot day, with its shady lawns, café set under the trees, and a burbling creek. Naturally, Lavandula makes a perfect location for a smell walk. On this occasion, I’m combining my smell walk with a photo essay, so you can admire just how beautiful Lavandula is to look at, as well as to smell.
It’s a very hot day, and as it’s technically not quite summer both Olly and I are overwhelmed a bit by the heat of the sun. No matter, it adds to the Tuscan feel of Lavandula, and provides amazing light for taking photographs. After driving over the cool, shady creek and finding a car park, we walk up the driveway towards the first stone building, which is both the entry point to the gardens and a shop filled with Lavandula’s own culinary and beauty products. On the way, we pass a giant white rose bush (the size of a tree), covered in blooms redolent of fresh-cut green apple. Walking through the shop, I notice the sweet, herbal, hay-like smell of cut, dried bunches of lavender for sale, and the syrupy smells of confectionery and jam scented with lavender.
As we walk out to the gardens, I spot a small pond with lotuses growing in it. Sadly, the flowers have no discernible smell, but I take a photo anyway as it’s beautiful.
We move on, towards the lavender gardens, passing by an enormous tree covered in open white blossoms. These have a subtle fragrance, rather savoury, with a subtle almond-honey note from the yellow stamens.
As we walk down the slope towards the lavender, I notice the crushed green smell of living grass underfoot. We reach the lavender, planted in rows in gorgeous, Italianate garden beds, bordered by tall, slim Italian Cypress trees.
There are at least four or five varieties of lavender growing at Lavandula. Sadly, none of them are labelled, so I can’t correctly identify them. The first one I come across is a deep shade of purple, herbal, almost camphoraceous and quite sharp in smell. The stems smell just as strongly as the tiny purple flower buds do. There is also a powdery, sweet softness to this lavender that reminds me of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
The next variety of lavender is a paler shade of purple with “rabbit ears”, which means this is probably a Spanish lavender. This lavender reminds me instantly of Guerlain’s famous perfume Jicky, which features lavender over a warm and animalic vanilla-amber base. I wonder if the creator of Jicky, Aimé Guerlain, might have used this variety of lavender in his creation. It has an animalic, sweet, herbaceous, dry and slightly fecal character.
Planted next to the lavender, we spot a kind of petal-free daisy, bright yellow and luminous in the bright sunlight. It smells similarly bright, and reminds me of lemon essential oil, crossed with the smell of a standard daisy, and dried chamomile tea.
We walk past some glorious pink roses next, which have a rich and complex smell: I detect musk, baked apple with cinnamon, and powdery marshmallows. I stick my nose into a bloom and inhale deeply.
Olly rushes on to sniff the massive rosemary hedges up ahead. They smell herbaceous, oily, woody, camphoraceous and cool. Sadly, the very pretty hollyhocks across the path from them have no smell.
Next to the rosemary we discover garlic plants, just beginning to flower. The buds (just opening) smell like a more woody, earthy form of garlic, not as sharp as the cut cloves smell, but having a pungent intensity of their own. They remind me a little of spring onions too. The flowers are striking and sculptural.
Across from the garlic plants I find fresh peas in their pods. I rub a leaf of one plant and bring my fingers to my nose. It smells just like a green pea, only more intense, fresh and raw.
We are tired from the intensely hot sun and take a rest on a bench under some shady trees next to the Petanque court. I take a moment to inhale deeply and think about some of the background smells at Lavandula. I smell my own sunscreen, dust and humus under the trees, and grass. While there is lavender growing everywhere, we are not yet at the peak of the flowering, so the smell isn’t really wafting strongly on the air yet.
We decide to investigate the other main garden bed and set off, passing some freshly watered soil, which has a strongly earthy, dank and almost mouldy fragrance. Olly discovers another variety of Cypress, and is very excited about the smell. It is unusually complex and reads almost like a perfume, with top, middle and base notes. The top note comprises of a zesty, fresh, almost minty crushed green smell, there are oily, cool, pine notes in the middle, and a woody base.
Wowed by the cypress, we move towards the lavender beds, sampling a variety of white lavender with subtle pink-purple accents. This one has a more “classic” lavender smell. It’s sweet, herbal, a little bit camphoraceous and has a dry, hay-like aspect.
There is also a softer purple lavender which is only just starting to flower. It is quite herbal and medicinal in smell and isn’t as sweet as the other varieties.
We pass through the majestic rose arbour, covered in literally thousands of pink blooms and radiating its scent at least five metres around. It is another crisp, apple-scented rose, but here we have a faint odour of decay as well, as the blooms are starting to die off.
Past the rose arbour lies a rose garden, but my nose is tiring, and I can no longer concentrate enough to smell and differentiate between them all. I do spot another lavender plant though: this one is a hit with the bees, so I let them do the sniffing for me, and take photos instead.
We’ve had enough of the harsh sun and decide to retire to the cafe for some lavender icecream before a lazy stroll on the shady lawns by the creek. The creek smells of algae and dirty stagnant water, but it is a smell I’m fond of, having grown up by a creek as a child.
We wander through the vegetable gardens, not finding much of olfactory interest, until I spot a tomato plant. It’s our final smell of the day, and we rub the leaves with our fingers and inhale the earthy, green, sharp, pungent smell, similar to that of a tomato fruit, but much greener.
We make our way across the lawns, encountering the little wonky wooden caravan that I love so much, and the gaggle of geese that are just as much an important part of Lavandula as the lavender itself. I get too close to one, and he gives me the evil eye, snapping his beak and honking wildy.
We climb the stairs back up to the entrance, snapping a few shots along the way, and buying some fragrant goodies before heading home, sunburnt and hot, but happy after a fulfilling and rich smell walk.
Lavandula is about five minutes drive from Hepburn Springs, in the beautiful spa country region of Victoria. Find out more about Lavandula at their website, and pay a visit for the magnificent smells, sights and lavender scones!