The History of Lavender in Blanco
2005 Blanco Lavender Festival Cover
Photo by Robb Kendrick
Over the years, many people have assumed that Blanco's rocky limestone land wasn't worth much in terms of agriculture. Robb Kendrick thought otherwise.
While Kendrick, a National Geographic photographer, was shooting a story for the magazine in Provence, France, on perfume making around the world, he noticed that the lavender there grew in rocky soil. The hilly terrain and the scorching hot summers were also similar to the Hill Country.
"I kept thinking that so much seemed the same that maybe lavender would grow at our place in Blanco," says Kendrick, a co-owner of Hill Country Lavender. Kendrick got advice from French lavender farmers, and when he returned to his property west of Blanco, he tested several lavender varieties.
The variety that grew the best was Lavandula intermedia, also known as Provence lavender.
In 1999, Kendrick and his wife, Jeannie Ralston, planted 2,000 plants in front of their home. In May 2001, those 2,000 plants bloomed. The couple began by selling fresh-cut blooms to Central Market and florists in Austin and San Antonio. They also began welcoming the public to their field and invited visitors to cut their own lavender. "The field was too beautiful to keep to ourselves. We had to share it," says Ralston.
Kendrick and Ralston also shared their experience with others interested in farming lavender. More than 130 people from across the state and the country (as well as one person from France) have attended the couple's six seminars on lavender farming. Many of those have planted their own lavender fields in the Blanco area, bringing a new regional crop to the area.
Ganell and Charley Pemberton were among the folks who attended the seminars. In October 2000, they planted lavender on their property and started a new farm called Lavender Hill. Seeing the potential for marketing, Charley asked the Blanco City Council in 2003 to seek designation as the state's official "Lavender Capital of Texas."
The first Blanco Lavender Festival was hosted in May 2005. To help put on that first festival, the Blanco Chamber of Commerce received a grant from the Department of Agriculture through its Texas Yes! Program.
Later in 2005, the Blanco celebration was officially named the "Lavender Festival of Texas."
Currently, there are more than 10 lavender farms in the Blanco area with more being added every year. Nine, including Hill Country Lavender, will be open to the public during the Blanco Lavender Festival.
Blanco's role in the Texas lavender industry has grown even more, thanks to Klepac Greenhouses, which has grown potted plants for more than 50 years. In 2004, the company devoted some of its greenhouse space to growing lavender seedlings for regional sales to lavender farmers and retail outlets.