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My grandmother’s gardening legacy

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Flowers remind me of my grandmother, and if I had to pick only one species to represent her, it would be snapdragons.

Snapdragons from my garden

Snapdragons from my garden, 2018

She always had the most beautiful gardens, and even when they moved from their country home to the city, to be closer to us and to have a smaller, more maintainable place – they still had a HUGE lot and it was filled with both lovely flowers as well as a substantial vegetable garden.

The front yard was a small square, and on the west end, she had a container which always held a huge dusty miller plant and petunias. On either side of the front door, she planted bulbs and seasonal annuals. Tulips in spring, astilbe, red hot pokers, and of course snapdragons. Snapdragons come in all heights and colors, and she grew every variety. She loved bright fun colors and her gardens were always a pleasing mix – it gave the impression of effortless beauty, but now that I am older and garden on my own – I am certain there was indeed a lot of hard work put into the endeavor! She grew them mostly from seeds, and she never seemed to have any problems with the seeds coming up or being stolen by birds, etc. Interestingly, I do not recall that she ever grew lavender. My guess is that since lavender isn’t native to the Southeastern US, it wasn’t in her repertoire – she did seem to focus on the more traditional native plants and flowers.

purple petunia from my container garden

Petunias from my garden, 2018

The backyard had a beautiful grape arbor, with black muscadines, that tasted like sunshine in grape form. As long as you didn’t eat the skins (they tasted like poison).

The vegetable garden was massive, and it was my grandfather’s domain. Grandma grew the flowers, but Pop had a magic touch with fruits and veggies. Each season he grew pole beans, runner beans, zucchini, crookneck squash, and literally eight kinds of tomatoes. He always grew various kinds of both red and yellow tomatoes for my mom. And in late summer, we had corn, pumpkins, cantaloupes and other melons – he grew the best watermelons.

They did not travel much, but always ventured around the region to find the best in-season fruits and my grandmother would make jams from them. He would come and pick gallons of blackberries at our house, hiking out to the back reaches of the horse pasture in the hot July sun.

Both sets of my grandparents have now passed away, but when I make jam, grow flowers or tomatoes, I feel them with me in some measure. It makes me happy to realize that they instilled in me a love of beauty and a positive connection to nature and seasonality.

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Farm Feature: Pelindaba Lavender Farm

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Located on the beautiful San Juan Islands, the Pelindaba Lavender farm is one of the most whimsical and beautiful lavender farms in the Pacific Northwest. Boasting expansive fields of lavender, the farm distills oil from their own plants on site themselves. This allows them to maintain the highest level of quality from the beginning seed to the finished products that they sell.

Since the farm distills its own oil, they are able to quickly and efficiently use that fresh oil to create a variety of products that are both aroma and culinary based. From massage oils to soaps to wreaths to chocolates, there is undoubtedly something for everyone at Pelindaba.

The owner originally began cultivating the ground at the farm in 1998 as a means of preserving the land and maintaining its natural beauty. Over time, that vision quickly grew to include a desire to share the beauty of the land with locals and visitors alike : thus began Pelindaba Lavender Farm as it is known today. The name Pelindaba comes from South African Zulu culture, and means “place of great gatherings.” The farm has truly lived up to that phrase in recent years.

The farm now serves as an educational center, a retail outlet for lavender products, and a place for people to come and relax as they enjoy the beauty and aroma of the lavender plants. When asked about their visitor’s experiences at the farm, the owners answered by saying,

“We continue to hear from visitors and customers how many of the uses to which we put our lavender blows them away. Creative obviously depends on who is judging, but it is great to hear that they enjoy what we do here.”

Additionally, the owners would love to see more people becoming aware of how potent a lavender plant it is and to realize just how many products can be made from it. Those products can, in their words, offer healthier solutions to regular household challenges, which is something that everyone could use a little more of.

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Hood River Lavender is dedicated to producing and selling the purest and most fragrant lavender and lavender products possible. On the south slope of the Hood River Gorge, the soil is volcanic, meaning drainage is good and the soil is fertile and full of minerals. The area is largely dry and the sun shines often enough to keep the lavender plants happy and bursting with blooms every summer. Hood River Lavender produces at three separate farms, one of which has pick your own organic lavender fields and the Lavender Shoppe, where their products are sold all year round.
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Reader Question: Can alpha mosaic be treated?

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George B. writes: Is there any treatment for Alpha Mosaic other than plant removal? We have had a wet cool spring and the lavender bush is about 6 years old.

Alpha mosaic is a virus which attacks all areas of the plant. It is often difficult to diagnose b/c the symptoms can appear AND fade away very quickly. It is transmitted most often by certain kinds of aphids, and through the air from other infected plants.

Unfortunately, I would recommend that you dig up the plant and burn it. Please DO NOT place it in your compost pile or in the city/county yard waste bin (if you have one of those). The disease transmits easily and your best bet at containing the infection in your own garden is to burn the uprooted plant. If there were any seedlings from this plant, you may want to dig those up as well, as seeds are a path of disease transmission.
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An extended holiday…

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It has been awhile since I last posted! Life, as it sometimes does, got in the way of the plans and ideas I had for this site, and delayed me a little bit. I am back now, and getting back into the swing of lavender-related things, especially now that it is summer here!

I have two plants now from the lavender seeds I tossed out last year, and while they’re very small, they did flower this year already. That was a pleasant surprise. And while I haven’t been posting visibly on the site, I have been working on some behind the scenes stuff that I hope to show you all in the coming months!

Thanks for reading and for sticking around. I hope to have some new content up soon.

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Farm Feature: Helvetia Lavender Farm

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Every summer, the lavender growers in the Willamette Valley and the surrounding areas participate in the Oregon Lavender Festival, a time of fun and lavender blooms. When lavender fields bloom, the explosion of color is magnificent. Lavender varieties come in deep purples to white, and every color in between. At Helvetia Lavender Farm, there are 60 different varieties, from the French lavenders that are best known for their aromatic uses to the English lavenders that are best for culinary uses.
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Dot from NC writes: In zone 5, N. C. when is best time to plant lavender, and then to harvest it for a variety of uses?

For your zone, I recommend planting the lavender in early spring, after all chance of frost has passed. [click to continue…]

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Reader Question: What are the uses of lavender leaves?

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Dot from NC writes: What are some uses of lavender leaves?

Lavender is a very versatile plant, with many aromatic, culinary, and home uses. But, most people still focus on just the buds. [click to continue…]

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Reader Question: Does lavender attract bees?

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Dot from NC writes: Does lavender attract bees of any kind? If so, which ones.

Lavender attracts many bees, and most often the beneficial ones like honeybees, mason bees and bumblebees. [click to continue…]

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Farm Feature: Applegate Valley Lavender Farm

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From the moment you step foot on the Applegate Valley Lavender Farm, you’ll know you’ve stepped into more than just a place where someone is growing lavender. The farm itself has been passed down through the family, and where there were once cow pastures, which doubled as a private golf course, the family now grows lavender. But the animals are not all gone, as you’ll notice immediately. Cows, sheep, chickens, and other fuzzy friends are all happily clucking, lowing, and barking about, filling the farm with a sense of liveliness and constant motion. Applegate Valley Lavender Farm is a fun and comfortable place to visit, a treasure of southern Oregon.

Of course, the passion for lavender is also abundantly clear. Among the rare breeds of chickens on the farm are Lavender Orpingtons, a very uncommon breed that has a lavender grey color (http://applegatevalleylavenderfarm.com/OurFarm.aspx). And of course there are the fields of lavender itself. At Applegate Valley Lavender farm a variety of lavenders are grown and harvested. From French varieties that are best used for fragrances, essential oils, and bath and body products, to the best English varieties for culinary uses. They even have a few recipes on their website for you to try, including the award winning Butterscotch Pumpkin Muffins with Lavender Honey Butter (http://applegatevalleylavenderfarm.com/things.aspx). If that doesn’t get you excited to try baking with lavender, maybe you should stick to savory uses.

Lavender has actually been used for cooking and teas for a very long time. Lavender salts and peppers are great for making salad dressings, marinades, or bread crumbs for encrusting lamb or pork. There are actually an incredible variety of lavenders, and most lavender producers agree that it is the English lavenders that are best for cooking. Lavender tea used to be incredibly popular in England, and was favored by royalty. Today people are using culinary lavender to make lavender mocha lattes and lavender hot chocolate.

And of course, the aromatherapy uses of lavender are most well known. Bath salts, bubble baths, soaps, lotions, and essential oils made of lavender are incredibly popular, and for good reason. Lavender has the distinction of being the best herb for inducing a sense of calm as well as alertness. No chamomile sleepiness with lavender tea or lavender baths. Just the sensation of a clear and calm mind.

Applegate Valley Lavender Farm is obviously tended with care and a lot of fun. There are many signs that show how much the farm is appreciated by the owners and the community, and that everyone who visits is meant to have some fun, find the lavender products they want, and maybe even buy some fresh eggs as well.

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