Monday, June 20, 2011

For The Love of Lavender

Two weeks into the lavender harvest and I am overwhelmed, knee-deep and loving every minute of trying to keep my head above the purple haze that surrounds the house. By some stroke of celestial fate, the weather this week has been cool and forgiving after a blistering weekend of high humidity that just about did me in by last Sunday evening after a weekend spent at the Virginia Herb Fair in Middletown, Virginia where I had a wonderful view of their hillside lavender field nestled into the confines of a lush labyrinth carved into a grassy knoll.

In between the Virginia Herb Festival, keeping house, keeping cool, visiting a lovely lavender farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia, golf and so many other must-do tasks, I get caught up in daily, I spent my time among the lavenders happily welcoming back into my gardens and lavender beds what seems to me to be throngs of bees this year for the first time in several years. I am not sure if there is a beekeeper nearby or the bees are finally winning the fight against the harsh virus that has claimed so many hives in recent years, but I am overjoyed to see them busily flitting and buzzing from blossom to blossom, intent upon their duty and seeming every bit as overwhelmed as I am in just playing catch-up for all of the lost time not spent among the lavender. The trouble is that these guys don't very much posing for pictures.  However, there was one big guy who seemed intent on mugging for the camera--, so I could not resist.  To quote Martha Stewart, the bees "are a good thing" and, bees coupled with lavender, are even better!

White Oak Lavender Farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia was my midsummer treat to enjoy with purple and pink eye candy lined up in perfectly coiffed long rows of fragrant lavender blossoms named Provence, Royal Velvet and pink Melissa--all favorites of theirs and mine--waving lazily in the sunny afternoon breeze. I had felt quite proud of my own lavender collection, always boasting of over 500 plants to those who care to ask me about them until the owner of White Oak said they currently tend 6000 plants--yes. I said 6000 with their goal being 10,000 in the next few years. My head was spinning just thinking about the work involved in that. I am a bit jealous, too. After all, who wouldn't want 10,000 lavender plants in their yard to gaze at and breath in day after wonderful day.

However, reality set back in while on the phone last  week with my sister, Chris, who wants me to send bundles of lavender to her for the bridal shower we are hosting for our niece, Jennifer this coming weekend in Chicago. "Can you provide bundles of lavender for the guests' party favors?" she asked coyly.  "Sure," I said. "How many do we need? Twelve, maybe fifteen," always eager to please my older sister. Then, silence. "There are fifty on the guest list," she said and I could tell she was smiling even over the phone. GULP. "Fifty?!". Well, okay fifty bundles coming up and to be sent ahead of me for the shower of our beloved niece. I had to call for reinforcements and get the troops organized and focuse on that project this past week.  Obviously, there is no time to loose as it is in any case when lavender is concerned. Packing and shipping it will be another story altogether.

To top off the first two weeks' worth of harvesting lavender, I hosted 11 people who came  to hear Kim Labash, owner of Loudoun Valley  Herbs, talk about the "Edible Herbal Bounty" that can be found in the garden. She prepared and served a delicious and creative lunch from this bounty...YUM!  Her presentation was out in my gardens under the shade of a tent as well as dogwood and pink pussy willow apropo. Kim topped off the luncheon with mint, lemon and luscious lavender sorbets with the piece de resistance being creamy lavender ice cream...OH MY!  And, to wash it down, we all had some elder flower cordial she had also made--Kim is such an imaginative cook.  Before we all knew it, lunch was over and it was back to work, work, WORK!

The past two weeks, it seems to me, have been too busy to think beyond lavender as it must have been for Peter, too.   On Father's Day, he informed me of the three to four new lavender beds he has in mind to create in the back yard and he'll need at least seventy more plants to fill them. Another big gulp from me, followed by a hard swallow and say I can manage that with the cuttings of Hidcote Blue, Mitchum Gray, Seal, Alba Provence, Gros Bleu and others I have growing in the greenhouse which, he assures me, won't be any problem at all to tend and harvest as we go. I, of course, am contemplating at this point either death by lavender, cloning myself or growing another six pair of hands, whichever might be the easiest, while he and Tucker sit in a Zen-like state together as they bundle lavender for the shop. Well, more lavender beds always look do-able when you are in the "zone" and who doesn't love it's bewitching aura and intoxicating scent? Anyway, didn't I say, somewhere back in this post, that I wouldn't mind 10,000 lavender bushes in my yard?  

So, it seems to me that it is time to cross another lavender bridge and start branching out...spread my wings even more, so to speak, and boldly go where I have  never gone before when it comes to growing, tending and crafting lavender...maybe not 10,000 plants worth but how about, oh, let's say maybe 800 plants worth?! I'll continue crafting lavender soaps, potpourris, beautiful bundles and keep on collecting different varieties of this wonderful plant searching for the cream of the crop, although I suspect that includes every last one of them.  Sounds like I'm choosing death by lavender-- many, many years from now, that is--way too much to do and to enjoy in life around here.  Wait a minute...why am I doing this?  Of, yeah, for the love of lavender, of course!  If you have the tme to stop by and visit Blooming Hill, one of these days, you will understand.

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