Lavender fields blossom from coast to coast

Egyptians used it in embalming. Romans added it to bath water. Today it's a culinary wonder. Let us celebrate lavender. Photo: (Courtesy of Oregon Lavender Festival)

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2013 — Sunny Provence isn’t the only place with endless fields of lavender reaching to the horizon. If your travel budget does not stretch all the way to the south of France this summer, consider visiting one of these state-side celebrations of the versatile herb boasting flowers in every shade of purple.

Lavender is not just for making fragrant sachets and other aromatherapy items. Producers across the country are experimenting with culinary lavender beyond honey (think: ice cream and tisanes, just for starters).

*First on the calendar is the 10th annual Arizona Lavender Festival. It kicks off June 20, 2013, at Red Rock Ranch and Farms, Concho, Arizona (map). Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through June 30, and admission is $5 per person.

Lavender tours will be held at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. each day, with cooking demonstrations and tastings at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. daily. At 1:30 p.m. each day, there’ll be different presentations on growing and using lavender (hint: the lavender ice cream demo and tasting is June 29).

*Gather your own bundle of lavender any day from June 21 through 24, 2013, at Sharp’s Crossing Lavender Farm, 1495 County Road 2300 North, Champaign, Illinois (map).

Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and each bundle that you pick will cost $6.50. More lavender-related products will be available in the Barn Shop. Wand demonstrations and lavender wreath-making classes also are planned.

*June 22 is “Lavender Thyme” at the Beagle Ridge Herb Farm, 1934 Matney Flats Road, Wytheville, Virginia (map). 

Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. that day, you can take a garden tour, cut your own bunch of lavender and learn to grow, use and cook with lavender. All activities are free, and an “herbal lavender lunch” is available for $9.50 (by reservation).

*The third annual Colorado Lavender Festival takes place July 12 through 14 in Palisade, Colorado (map).

Hosted by the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, the event will include both self-guided and guided lavender field tours plus a lavender distillation.

*Tastes of lavender cuisine (including lavender ice cream) are promised during the fifth annual Central Coast Lavender Festival, set for July 13 in City Park, Paso Robles, California (map).

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.

Plus: more than a dozen downtown restaurants are preparing lavender dishes from sweet to savory along with lavender cocktails and desserts. 

*Twenty-two lavender destinations — farms and nurseries — will open their doors July 13 and 14, 2013, for the Oregon Lavender Festival. All are in the region Southwest of Portland — or head straight for the lavender-centric goodies at the Artisan Fair in downtown Yamhill, Oregon.

*The only thing more delightful than fields of lavender? Adding artists and their wares to the natural beauty.

That’s the point of the “Artists Invasion”, scheduled for July 27 and 28 at Lavender Wind Farm, 2530 Darst Road, Coupeville, Washington (map).

Artists “invade” the farm on Whidbey Island with their colorful tents and arts. There are food vendors and musicians, too. Admission is free, and hours both days are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

*Whenever you’re wandering the Pacific Northwest during the growing season, consider stopping at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, Oregon (map). Among its 23 gardens (all of which are open to the public for self-guided tours) is a Lavender Collection and Demonstration Garden, first planted in 2003.

A joint project of the Jackson County Master Gardeners and the Herb Society of America, it features 80 different varieties of lavender. The garden covers approximately 4000 square feet and contains about 250 labeled plants. The botanical names of many plants are displayed and additional reference information is available in the Master Gardener office located inside the Extension building.

*Thinking about getting serious about growing the herb? You are invited to join lavender entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from coast to coast at the United States Lavender Grower’s Association’s inaugural conference October 18 through 20 in Virginia.

Known more formally as Lavandula, lavender is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family. It is native to the Eastern Hemisphere, and is found from Cape Verde (off Africa), Europe — especially the Mediterranean, and southern Asia.

Read more about visiting gardens, plant shows and flower extravaganzas at Road Trips for Gardeners.

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Susan McKee

Susan McKee honed her craft as a general assignment reporter for more than a decade at a major metropolitan daily newspaper before fleeing corporate journalism for the peripatetic life of a freelancer. She's since been to every continent (except Antarctica) and has written about her adventures for dozens of print and online publication on everything from snorkeling off Malaysia to dog-sledding in Norway to exploring classic Chinese gardens in Suzhou. 


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