Lavender Fields Forever

Forget an expensive trip to Provence, France. A day trip to Lavender Fields Farm is all you need if you long to wander through blooming rows of purple lavender, enjoy the beauty of this sweet smelling herb, pick your own bouquet of flowers, rest under the shade of a tree, and experience all the flavors, fragrances and healing qualities of this amazing purple flower. You can cut your own flowers in the fields, check out the quaint cottage store which offers everything from potted plants to scented soaps or attend one of a dozen demonstrations on lavenderís many uses in the farmís restored nineteenth century barn. The storeís ambience with its delicious smells, soft music, homespun displays and warm lighting provides a warm, welcoming, folksy, not over-powering atmosphere, where a person can feel comfortable lingering a while and trying out the products.

The historic five-acre property, located on Cool Springs Road near the intersection of Martin and Fisher Roads, is all that remains of a large tract of land deeded to the Warrington family in 1776. The old farmhouse, built over the foundation of a previous dwelling, dates from the 1890ís and is being beautifully restored. The quaint cottage store and greenhouse were completed in the spring of 2004 and the old barn and milk house were restored in the fall of 2005. Everything is done by hand from planting to harvesting, to hanging the lavender in bundles to dry and creating value added products from the flowers in their workshop.

ďWe are often asked why a farm devoted only to lavender,Ē says Marie Mayor, one of the three partners. ďLavender, highly popular in Victorian times, is enjoying a resurgence as modern herbal medicine has found the herbís calming properties indispensable in the manufacture of antiseptics, muscle soothers and massage oils. Lavender evokes memories of days gone by, the scent of a grandmotherís house, of sweet-smelling lingerie drawers and comforting bubble baths. Itís referred to in the Bible as spike and was cherished in ancient Rome for its distinct, delicate aroma and used in bathing, healing and calming fevered brows. Cleopatra used it to entice, Queen Victoria used it as a perfume, and Florence Nightengale used it as an antiseptic. Today the ancient Mediterranean plant is providing medicinal benefits as an antifungal, an antiseptic, an insect repellant, a calmative, an insect bite soother, and a blister preventer for burns. Lavender smells good when blended with citrus scents, aromatic herbs such as sage and peppermint, spices like cinnamon and cloves, and flowers such as chamomile, roses and calendula. Lavender can be used as an herb in cooking. It is used in aromatherapy, and has been shown to positively affect psychological and physiological clarity and calm in the brainís hypothalamus.Ē People like to plant it by the entryways of their beachside homes and take cuttings for fresh flower arrangements for their tables.

Lavender is very easy to grow in and around Delmarva because of its favorable Zone 7 climate and soil. The only way to kill the plant is by over-watering or planting it in a shady spot that tends to hold moisture. Remember lavender is native to the Mediterranean and prefers dry, sunny, windy and southern exposures best. Therefore, when planting, place in a sunny location with well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (7.0 to 8.0). Add a little lime if the soil is too acidic. The sandy loam of Delmarva is the ideal soil. If you are planting in clay or richer soil, mix in about one-third builders sand to insure drainage. We recommend mounding up the soil a little around the plant to further assure good drainage. Although not necessary, adding a little bone meal when planting will give it a good start. Never fertilize lavender and plant it at least 24 inches apart to allow for adequate air circulation and growth. Although weeds donít bother it, it does not like those that hold water around its roots. Lavender is a drought-tolerant plant, but good irrigation or adequate rainfall is important for new plants and good flower production. The best time to plant your lavender is in the early May or early September. Lavender has few if any insect pests and few fungal illnesses as long as itís roots do not sit in water. Prune lavender plants yearly in either the early spring or late fall after flowering to maintain their shape and keep the plant from becoming woody and sprawling. Prune plants by cutting about one-third of the plant. Lavender is a long-lived perennial and with minimal care and pruning, a typical productive life is 10-20 years.

The woody evergreen shrub blooms in Delaware from May until fallís first frost. The plant is of the genus Lavandula, sharing the family Labiatae with herbs such as thyme, mint and sage. The height and girth of lavender can range from dwarf to giant, flower color from white to pink and every shade of purple, foliage color from light gray to green and scent from medicinal to heavenly. Mature plants range in height from 12-32 inches, in shape from spherical to bushy to spreading. The sandy soil, mild winters, broad open exposures and the salt-sea breezes of the Delmarva Peninsula create the ideal climate for growing most types of lavender. In the first two years of the farmís operation, over 1,000 plants of 24 varieties were planted. The rows of lavender when blooming vary from white and pink to shades of violet and deep purple. The test gardens have varieties of English, French and Spanish lavenders and the perfect lavender is always being sought for its many uses: aromatherapy, perfumery, culinary, floral and landscaping.

Products offered for sale include lavender plants, loose lavender, dried flower bundles, fresh summer bouquets, potpourri; body care products such as body powder, bath salts, scented soaps, essential oil, shea butter, body butter, skin polish, salt scrub, lotions, headache relief and deep therapy hand cream; household items such as candles, linen spray, sachet bags, relaxation pillows and dryer bags; craft items such as wreaths, paper folds, embroidered linens, pottery and glassware, wands, fire starters, stationary, bookmarks, post cards; and culinary items such as lavender vinegar, honey, sugar, jellies, jams, cookie mix, tea bags, herbs de Provence, and dried culinary lavender. Many people have never tried lavender as a culinary spice. Besides complementing the flavors of lemonade, sorbet, cookies and other sweets, lavender adds spark Ė and a bit of mystery- to vinaigrettes, marinades and pasta sauces. Often lavender is combined with other herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme. The lavender flavor is almost unidentifiable. Then every few seconds you get a little burst of something that makes your palate sit up and pay attention.

Lavender Fields Farm is the only lavender farm in Delaware and is a wonderful place to visit while you vacation on the eastern shore. It is located one-half mile south of U. S. 9 between Lewes and Georgetown at 18864 Cool Springs Road. The ideal time to visit is July, the peak of the bloom season and the fragrance of lavender hangs heavy in the air. The store maintains regular hours 10:00 to 4:00 every day June 1 to October 1 and on Saturdays and Sundays, from October1 to December 31, but will open almost every day if the weather is nice and someone is working in the fields. Other times visitors can call for an appointment at either 302-684-1514 or 302-684-1602.