For the Love of Lavender
Mary Rose loved lavender—the shape, the smell and the color—so much that her daughter Rose Fairman, EMG Class of 1998, named her Clarke County business in her memory: Mary Rose Lavender & Design. “In the beginning, it was all about lavender,” Rose said. “More than 1,000 plants and 14 different varieties.” Although lavender, fresh and dried, is still the wand that holds it all together, Rose has expanded her business to include myrtle and basil topiaries, rose- and lime-scented geranium trees, succulent bowls, wreaths, air plants, moss-covered wire forms, sachets and pressed flower note cards. She’s even working on a terrarium lamp. Once she figures out how best to maintain the plants inside the glass base, she’ll end up selling it. If something catches her fancy—a vintage goblet, a piece of pottery, a chandelier—she’ll figure out how to turn it into a “living” gift.
“Over the years, I’ve adapted the business,” said Rose, who started her company in 2014. “I learned the hard way that lavender is susceptible to fungal disease. I love lavender, but I’m a one-person operation, and I was constantly planting and replanting.” Now, she buys most of her plants wholesale. She orders different varieties of lavender plugs in the early spring and re-pots them as they grow. This gives her a sufficient supply for her wreaths and sachets. “There are hundreds of varieties and hybrids of lavender that it’s best to propagate by cutting,” she said. “Plants grown by seed may not be true to the parent plant.”
Rose decided to enroll in the NSVMG program when her children were in school. “I saw an ad for the program,” she recalled. “I’ve always liked gardening and thought the knowledge would serve me well.” She earned her first volunteer hours by starting the former Shoots & Roots horticulture program at the Berryville elementary school. In addition to her business keeping her busy, Rose is enjoying the couple of days a week she spends caring for her one-year-old grandson. She still finds time to volunteer at the Blandy Community Garden and often donates her lavender and topiary creations to NSVMG events and projects.
Recognizing that she can’t do it all—garden, design, market and sell—Rose has made accommodations to fit different phases of her life. The success of her cottage business is a testament to her flexibility and creativity. Her small greenhouse is filled with interesting container plants, and the adjacent workshop houses vintage and unusual finds she repurposes into sale items. Her creations are regularly displayed and sold at Hip & Humble in Berryville, as well as at area garden fairs, including Garden Fest and the Blandy Seed Exchange.
That’s how things are today, but Rose is always thinking ahead. Maybe if she could find the right part-time help, she would change things up again. Rose’s motto could be: “There is nothing permanent except change,” attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (who likely used lavender in his bath water). “My business is constantly evolving,” she said.
Touted as a treatment for anxiety, stress and insomnia, lavender has been used consistently through the ages for its pleasant aroma therapy. Read about lavender through history and Rose’s own brief summary lavender varieties that grow well in the Shenandoah Valley with her guide to nearby lavender farms.
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