The lavender life Dave says being a lavender farmer is kind of like be- ing a dairy farmer. “You can’t leave,” he says. “There’s always something to do.” “If it’s warm, you’re doing something outside,” adds Judy. “For years, I took care of all the plants myself. I’m 61 now, so I’m trying to stay out of the sun as much as I can. I still take care of it, but I do have some part-time help and David does all of the mowing.”
The couple regularly travels to local garden and
craft shows, where they share tips on how best to grow lavender in Oklahoma—a plant, Dave says, many people still don’t believe will grow here. “In the Stone Bluff area, we’re fairly high,” says
Judy. “The soil and the microclimate around this area seem to be good for lavender and grapes. Lav- ender doesn’t grow in clay soil. Out here, we have a gentle slope with rocky, sandy soil.” Judy says lavender grows best in areas with lots of sunlight, and she cautions against overwatering. “It’s the same plant family as rosemary, sage and mint,” she says. “Most people kill it by overwatering.”
Ready for a rejuvenation Sitting on the winery patio, overlooking row after row of grapevines, Judy sighs. “Out here, all the things you can do, you’re only limited by your own imagination. We love this place, but we’d like to see someone have it who’s young and full of creative ideas.”
The couple acknowledges that the property may
not sell right away and are quick to say they have no intention of closing Lavender Hill. “We’ll keep it going if we don’t sell it,” says Judy. Dave laughs, “It’s a terrible place to have to retire, but I think we could tough it out.” After spending years cultivating the fi elds and building lavender into a big business, they hope to fi nd a buyer who will continue to build the brand. “It could be a much bigger business,” says Dave. “I just don’t have time, nor does Judy.” Twelve years after their fi rst lavender planting, the Wheelers are proud of what they’ve accomplished. “It’s been a great time,” says Judy. “We’ve had a lot of support in the state, but I feel like I can do some other things, too.” For the fi rst time in years, the Wheelers have start- ed to imagine what life could be like away from their 100-acre farm. “We love to travel,” says Dave. “We want to go every- where—Europe, South America, Argentina, Brazil. There are a lot of places we haven’t been.” They also hope to fi nally have time to visit their
four children and two grandchildren. “It would be nice to be able to pick up and visit them every once in a while,” says Judy. “We haven’t been able to do that.” The Wheelers may not know exactly how they’re going to reinvent themselves, but they do know one thing: they’re ready for a rejuvenation.
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Growing lavender in Oklahoma
Lavender Hill owner Judy Wheeler’s top tips on how to grow lavender in the Sooner State.
✓ Plants require adequate sunlight, at least six hours per day.
✓Soil should be loose and well drained. Try to mound the soil and add lime.
✓ Fertilize annually with fi sh emulsion. Do not use manure.
✓ The biggest cause of plant failure is overwatering. Drip irrigation is best.
✓ Try not to plant where there is over- head sprinkling.
✓ Prune annually, usually in early fall. Cut back by one third, careful not to get too far into the woody center.
✓ Choose varieties that grow well in Oklahoma’s climate, like Grosso, Provence and Hidcote. OL
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