Welcome to The Lavender Loft
Two and a half years ago, Mark and I landed in this beautiful place called Oregon. We started our time here in a rental in the Tigard area while we looked for our new home, and on a snowy day in January, I started dreaming of what the future could look like in our new home and then shared it with you here (“Chasing Dreams and Letting Go”). Here’s what I said:
My dream is to have five or so acres, with a few acres of different varieties of lavender, as well as keep bees, plant a big organic garden, maybe host a few events, and eventually have some guest cottages.
A lot has happened between then and now, but I am happy to report that many of the items on that dream list have come true, with a few adjustments:
The only thing left on the list is getting some beehives. I’d better get to it!
Lavender and Soil Amendment
One of the reasons we love lavender is that it is not a fussy, demanding plant. However, there are a few things that we can do to make our lavenders happy, and amending our soil is one of those things. There are a few reasons to amend the soil around your lavender plant: 1) creating favorable soil texture, 2) balancing pH levels, and 3) adding nutrients.
Creating Favorable Soil Texture
Soil texture is an important consideration in lavender health. While the ideal soil texture for lavender plants is loose, sandy loam which contains large particles for air and water to move through, it is possible to amend your soil to create a favorable environment for your lavender plants. Of course, what you will add to your soil depends upon the type of soil that you are wanting to amend. If your soil already is loose and allows for the movement of air and water, then you may not need to amend at all. However, if your soil is heavy and clay-like, it would be important to amend your soil to help create more space for your lavender roots to extend. There are several ways to amend:
Balancing pH levels
Soil pH “measures how many hydrogen ions are affecting plant roots. The more hydrogen ions in the soil, the more acidic the soil will be” (Bader 116). The pH scale runs from acidic (pH of 0-6) and alkaline (pH of 8-14). Different plants require different soil pH but Lavender plants happen to thrive right in the middle, in a neutral pH soil of 7. To test the pH of your soil, use a pH test kit to help you to determine how to amend your soil in order to achieve that neutral pH.
Lavender doesn’t need much fertilizer to thrive, but you can add specific kinds of fertilizer to the soil to achieve specific objectives:
Source: Sarah Berringer Bader’s The Lavender Lover’s Handbook
Lavender in the Garden
We all know how beautiful lavender is and how good it smells, but lavender is beneficial to the garden in many other ways as well. Here are a few:
In addition to the benefits to your garden, lavender has many uses in your home:
With over 450 varieties of lavender, you are sure to find the right plant for your garden. Below are some good resources to help you choose the lavender that is right for you!
The Lavender Lovers Handbook by Sarah Bader
Lavender: The Grower's Guide by Virginia McNaughton
US Lavender Growers Association
Oregon Lavender Association
The Portland Nursery
On Dreaming Big Dreams
I am happy to announce that Little Lavender Farm Products are now available at Red Ridge Farms in Dayton Oregon! And what a wonderful circle we have circumnavigated to get to this point.
Exactly two years ago, on July 20, 2016, Mark and I began our "Great Oregon Lavender Adventure" to visit and learn from the lavender farmers in the area as we were building Little Lavender Farm in San Diego. Our first stop just happened to be Red Ridge Farms, where we stayed for 3 days in the beautiful guest apartment above their gift shop. That first day, as we pulled into the driveway at Red Ridge, (again, exactly two years ago) I remember looking around at the grounds, with the vineyards in the distance, the lavender field surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers, their knot garden, olive groves, the wisteria vine draping over a giant arbor, and the expansive view of the valley below -- and thinking that this was the closest thing to heaven I’d ever seen.
We had no idea at the time, not even an inkling, that just a few short months later, we would be relocating to Oregon. We had no idea as we explored the Willamette Valley, that this would soon become our playground. We had no idea as we drove through the town of Dundee that our future friends and neighbors were waiting for us. I couldn’t even imagine a life where Red Ridge Farms would be the place we would take our visitors, that this place would be such a special and constant part of our lives. That seemed just too much to ask for -- too big a dream. But when the opportunity to make this a reality presented itself, we said a prayer (or 20), took a chance and jumped right in.
So today, when I drove the 7 minutes from my house to Red Ridge, walked into the gift shop, said hello to the owner, Penny Durant, and saw my products displayed for sale in their gift shop, my heart was so full of gratitude for this community, the wonderful people that live here, and the support and encouragement we have received from from so many as we continue on our little lavender adventure.
Today I can say that sometimes dreams do come true. So don't ever be afraid to dream big, You just never know what might happen.
Lavandula angustifolia "Felice"
A few months back, at an Oregon Lavender Association meeting, Andy and Melissa Van Hevelingen were sharing their wisdom about all things lavender, as well as showing some varieties of lavender they had found on a recent trip to England -- one of which was an angustifolia called “Felice.”
Well, I had to have it. I mean really...what are the chances? My wonderful mom, Felice, was such a supporter my lavender growing endeavor (of all of my endeavors really), that it seemed fitting (and miraculous!) to have a field full of Felice lavender as a tribute to her, not only because of how supportive she was but also because, like lavender, she made the world a more beautiful place and she made those around her happy. But after looking online for a seller and realizing that this variety was only sold in Europe and couldn’t be shipped, I contacted Melissa Van Hevelingen about maybe, possibly buying any Felice that she could propagate from the plant she had brought back with her. She graciously said yes -- but cautioned that the Felice were turning out to be a little persnickety and she wasn’t sure how many, if any, would take. So I tried not to get my hopes up (but did anyway). And then a few weeks ago, after several months of crossed fingers and silent prayers, Melissa delivered five beautiful Felice lavender to me and I couldn’t be happier. (Thank you Melissa!) I am hoping that eventually those five will turn into fifty so that I can have my field of Felice, but for now I am thrilled with those five.
But what do I do with five? They have been in the greenhouse for a few weeks because I have been struggling to figure out the perfect place for them. Should I go ahead put them out in the field with the hope of adding to their number? Should I create a little memorial garden for Mom on the side yard? Should I plant them on the hill with the fruit trees? Nothing seemed quite right.
And then a few days ago, I was harvesting some very happy, healthy lavenders that are planted by the front patio overlooking our lavender fields. This is where we entertain our friends while looking at the beautiful view of the mountains, and where we drink our morning coffee as we watch the hot air balloons go up with the sun. This is where we sit in our Adirondack chairs and sip a glass of wine after a long day and watch the sky light up from the sunset. This is where we watch the fall colors, and catch snowflakes, and pick blackberries and listen to the birds. This is where some of the best parts of our life happen And I knew that was exactly where the Felice lavender should go -- not off in a field or in some quiet memorial garden, but right in the middle of everything, right there in the middle of our lives, as Mom always was.
So this weekend, I will move the lavender that is already there and plant the Felice lavender in its place. I know it’s not the same as having Mom here again, but just maybe, when I’m sitting on the patio enjoying the day and accompanied by that beautiful purple Felice lavender, she will feel a little closer.
Well, Summer is over and as I sit inside on a rainy Fall day here in Dundee, Oregon, fire blazing, my heart is full of gratitude for this place and for a productive summer full of dreaming, planning, learning, tilling, planting, harvesting, and pruning.
May was all about the planning -- and waiting for the rain to stop for a few days so that the earth could dry out. We spent many a soggy afternoon walking our property, measuring possible rows, using stakes and twine to help us visualize and then draw up a little map of the space we imagined, complete with areas for picnic tables, hammocks, Adirondack chairs and a farmstand. In the meantime, I also researched which varieties of lavender would work best for what we wanted to do and contacted several growers in the area, hoping they might have some plants to sell me.
A Circle of Purple Sunshine
On a sunny summer day in Dayton Oregon at Red Ridge Farms, I and a group of 40 or so women set about making our very own lavender wreaths. Maybe you’ve seen them in gift shops or home furnishing stores -- those often expensive, wispy bursts of purple sunshine that transport you to a softer, simpler existence. But they aren’t difficult to make and can be easily and cheaply done in a few hours using lavender or any number of plants/herbs/tree branches from your own yard. If you’re interested, here’s a step by step of how to make your own lavender wreath (although most of the same principles apply to any other kind of wreath making).
The Joy of Discovery
One of the very fun things about moving into a well-loved house is discovering all of those previous acts of love. Especially when it comes to the garden: the rose bushes hidden among the blackberry bushes, the bird houses scattered throughout the garden, the brilliant purple iris that emerges on a grey day, the absolute joy of peonies, the fruit trees and the guessing game that comes with that (I know it’s a cherry tree...but what kind of cherry? What kind of pear? What kind of apple? What kind of grapes?) -- and, of course, a giant tractor tire filled with rhubarb.
Cooking with Lavender
Lavender is wonderful for sachets and soap and lotions and salves and wreaths...but cooking? As much as I love lavender, it certainly wasn’t the first thing I reached for to flavor my recipes. Sure, I had made lavender lemonade and lavender shortbread, but that was the extent of my lavender culinary experimentations. So when I heard that the wonderful Nicole Callen from Norwood Lavender Farm and Chris Mulder from Barn Owl Nursery were offering a "Cooking with Lavender" class, I had to sign up.
The class took place at the Barn Owl Nursery, where, because of a pretty intense rain/wind storm the day before, the power was still out. So we all huddled together in Chris’ drying room with her pellet stove blazing and the sound of the generator in the background, and on a cloudy cool day in April, our culinary horizons were expanded.
Sometimes the place you thought was your place isn’t your place after all. That "awesome barn" farm we fell in love with? Well...it came with an equally cool log house -- but one which would have taken a LOT of time and a LOT of money to make it what we wanted. Which would have meant a lot less time and money for growing lavender. And that’s what I want to do.
So we said goodbye to that place and grabbed onto a different, more realistic, equally exciting one. This new place also has land (though not as much), and a barn (though not a cool old wooden one)-- but it also has a house that has big windows to a big view, a perfectly sloped, open field for growing lavender, a greenhouse (!), a guest apartment, two goats, one chicken, and lots of fruit trees. A move-in ready farm! On top of that, it is surrounded by wineries and the beautiful red hills of Dundee. And, most importantly, it was “Mom-approved.” So we close escrow in a few days and I can hardly wait to move in.
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife, writer, and lavender farmer who lives in Dundee Oregon .