Friday, August 30, 2013

Doing Good Work with Lavender-Blueberry Ice Cream

I know.  I know!  It seems as though I have nothing but lavender ice cream on the brain lately.  I just can't seem to help myself in these last dew "Dog Days" of summer where the humidity clings to me like a wet suit and the heat makes hot flashes look like child's play.  Even the dog is no where to be found in the house as I call for him to come outside with me.  After 5 minutes of searching, I find him sleeping on the floor air vent in the guest bathroom where it is now at least 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house because he is absorbing all of the cool air. So, I must venture outside on my own to check on things and do some sticky, nasty daytime chores while dreaming about cool, refreshing lavender ice cream.

This year, I found a lovely recipe for lavender-blueberry ice cream that hits the spot, just like a cold glass of freshly squeezed lemonade in the shade, only sweeter, smoother and, obviously, purple-er.  I have been making and serving lavender-blueberry ice cream, all summer long, to groups and guests visiting the farmlet and, although it takes about 2 hours to make a single quart, the effort is surely worth it, especially when you feel  your body temperature drop a degree or two as you savor it's creamy goodness.

The homemade ice cream side of the social (that's me in the center) gearing up just before the doors of the firehouse open to the public.
Loudoun County Fire Department Rescue Helicopter Crew demonstrating a little of what they do for our community.  They told us it had been a busy day and had already helped in four emergencies since the morning.
Good dog, sparky!
Last week, I participated in the Philomont Ladies Auxiliary 2nd Annual Ice Cream Social that benefits the Philomont Volunteer Fire Department, by serving up my lavender-blueberry ice cream along with a few other ladies who made their own specialties like peach-maple ice cream and blackberry sorbet. And, if that wasn't enough excitement, those who came to this community-wide event could also make their own delicious banana-hot fudge sundaes, be treated to luscious flavors of snow cones, get rides on fire trucks, witness the Loudoun County Flight Paramedics land their med-vac helicopter on the lawn of a historic home across from the PVFD, meet Sparky the fire dog, jump around in a huge moon bounce and just sit a spell with neighbors.  Small town living does have it's perks!

Anyway, in my mind, the lavender ice cream I keep serving up seems to me to be the perfect way to cool off on a hot and sunny, end of the summer afternoon.  So, stop by the farmlet and enjoy a scoop while you sit a spell in our gardens. I have plenty in the freezer to share with you so you too can feel that internal four-alarm- summertime-fire start to dissipate a little.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weathered Elegance(The Store), Serendipity(Luck), Tea and Thee(Us)!

Our new flower cart getting acclimated to her new surroundings.
I meet the nicest people all of the time and, this occasion was no exception.  It all started with a vintage flower cart perched prettily in the corner of a charming Leesburg shop window.  Yep, that's right.  A simple flower cart brought a group of artistic ladies and me together for a lovely afternoon infused with lavender, tea and thee--I mean us! Call it serendipity, karma or just good old-fashioned luck, it was a match made somewhere in the cosmos.

Photo: Our new sign is up!  Sometimes you have a "wow" moment...this is one of those times..
The Weathered Elegance store front.  Image taken from the Weathered Elegance Facebook page.
This is the kind of painting I'm talking about and this one is of Lincoln, VA.
It all started one Sunday afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, when Peter (a.k.a. P.Lorenz) said he needed to go into Leesburg,VA to take some pictures of historic buildings.  He's in the midst of one of his creative painting binges (painting a scene of a town) and this time, it happens to be the town of Leesburg, VA.  and I said I'd go along for the ride. Not wanting to take a lot of time, we split up; while he went his way to photograph a few buildings in order to get them accurately captured on the canvas, I zipped through a couple of shops, then headed to the corner where we had decided would be our rendezvous point.  I turned around only to find Peter standing half-way up the block waving me back to a store that I had just come from. I sighed and headed back and there it was, posing patiently in the window of Weathered Elegance, just waiting for us to come in and bring her home, to Blooming Hill.  Good thing he wasn't in as big of a hurry as he told me he was, or he might have missed it, too.

Donna, Owner of Weathered Elegance, pictured here, on the right.
Weathered Elegance, (I love their slogan--"The art of salvaging gracefully") located on Loudoun Street, is a shop chock full of antiques, creative arts and crafts and shabby chic decor.  Not only that, shop owner Donna, also an event planner, was welcoming and gracious and just couldn't be nicer. We talked a bit and she found out that we serve teas here at Blooming Hill and soon after, we were planning one for Donna and her Weathered Elegance friends, who together supply and apply their creative arts and tasteful decor ideas to the shop, helping Donna make this place a successful and trendy new location in Leesburg that you need to check out, if you haven't already.

Kim, my friend and also the owner of Loudoun Valley Herbs and tea lady extraordinaire, whipped up one of her culinary collages of lavender-infused teatime sweets and savories and, VOILA! The ladies of Weathered Elegance, Loudoun Valley Herbs and Blooming Hill came together, here at the farmlet, for a summer afternoon tea on the porch, all thanks to a simple flower cart.  I told you it was serendipity, an unexpected and charming surprise that was meant to be.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pretty In Pink--Lavender, That Is!

"I believe in pink. I believe in miracles.  I believe in pink." So says Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the classic 1960's film, Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Pink--The color of a late summer sunset, bunny rabbits' noses, fairy roses, satin ballet shoes and, pink is the color of lavender, too--at least a dozen different varieties, that I know of (probably more) and, all members of the Lavandula angustifolia family.

The many shades of lavender plant flowers range from whites to dark purples and, in between, shades of creamy, luscious pinks abound among the blues and the grays and they are growing in popularity.  The pink varieties of lavenders I grow here at Blooming Hill are 'Melissa', 'Miss Katherine,' 'Chelsea Pink,' 'Coconut Ice,' 'Jean Davis' and 'Hidcote Pink.'  Last month, I came across one very small, recent cutting of 'Elegance Pink' hidden away in a nursery greenhouse as I was browsing and the owner of the place gifted me one to add to my pink mix so, we will see what that looks like next year.

Sadly, there is a bit of bad news when it comes to pink lavender in that once dried the soft blush of pink they started out with, fades to a nondescript grayish tone.  However there is always a silver lining in that pink lavender bundles perk up with a pink aura immediately when tied with a pink ribbon.  And, there is even better news as all of these "pretty in pinks" possess a fragrance that is sweet and mellow with citrusy top notes, making them very nice culinary varieties, for those who like to cook with lavender. This year, I am separating out pink angustifolia's from the purples and have prepared jars of "Just Pink Lavender" to sell for culinary use.  We harvested about 3 pounds of pink lavender blossoms and, although it doesn't sound like much, believe me, it is quite a bit.

New varieties of lavenders are discovered or developed rather commonly nowadays and pink lavenders are no exception to this rule.  However, who could blame lavender for taking on its very close cousin, pink, with its innocent beauty?  One of my very favorite of pink lavenders is an American cultivar called 'Melissa' (L. angustifolia.)  An early bloomer in my garden, Melissa is a profusion of creamy pink flowers on top of short stems, at her peak bloom time and, to me, the freshly cut bundles could easily be used as bridal bouquets, needing no other flowers or foliage added for adornment.  'Hidcote Pink' is quite similar to 'Melissa' but not quite as prolific.

Another favorite pink lavender is 'Miss Katherine'. Even though she is a fairly new introduction to Blooming Hill (only a couple of years), she is a lovely lady who will never wear out her welcome.  'Miss is Katherine' is a bit more sophisticated looking than other pink lavenders, in my garden, as her stems are longer, and her deeper, mauve-pink color stands out quite vividly against the purples that surround her.  'Miss Katherine' is a long bloomer and her color and fragrance make her a winner among lavenders.

While light pink flowers can convey delicacy, they also exude confidence.
Then, there is 'Chelsea Pink and 'Jean Davis,' also known as 'Rosea,' both beautiful and dainty plants. 'Chelsea Pink' has light pale pink flowers while 'Jean Davis,' an older variety, flounces nice, true-pink flowers, here at Blooming Hill. Both plants have short to medium length stems and are lovely accents that have taken up residence in the cut-flower beds.  Even though they may be smallish plants, not growing more than 18 inches total in height, they are certainly not shy and flaunt their "princess-like pinkness" while peeking through the cosmos, zinnias and geraniums.

Finally, slow grower 'Coconut Ice,' a cultivar introduced to the lavender world from New Zeland back in the late 1990's has been in my garden for seven years now. It came with all sorts of promises of pink and prettiness, which I might add took four years to bloom, here at Blooming Hill and is one of the smallest lavenders that I grow.

'Coconut Ice' sports creamy white and pink blossoms, here in my gardens, and it does not produce a lot of flowers.  Oh---and did I mention that these persnickety girls took four years to bloom while most lavenders will at least bloom very happily in their second year, if not the first year, depending on when you planted them in the growing season?  Yes.  I know I mentioned it already, but I'm still not over that and these darn plants have been part of the lavender beds here for going on 7 years--I know.  I said that, too. Go figure! While it was worth the wait to see 'Coconut Ice' bloom, she seems to be a very sparse plant.

Nothing but pure, pink lavender buds, strained and ready to go.
Did you know that giving pink flowers to someone conveys thoughts of purity, innocence and sweetness?  When you see these pink lavenders in bloom you would be totally convinced and taken in by their wily, feminine ways.  If you have lavender in your garden, make sure you add a pink one to your collection and enjoy all of the perks that come with "pretty in pink!"