Archive for June, 2010

Joie de Lavande, Bleu Lavande and Pruning Lavender

June 29, 2010

Visit date: June 17, 2010

In Ontario and some of Quebec, the warm spring and rainy weather has many plants flowering ahead of schedule. Even so, I was a little early to see the lavender in full bloom at these two farms. If you arrive in the next few weeks the lavender should be beautiful. If seeing the lavender in all its glory is the reason for your visit, then call the farms ahead and check on the bloom status.

Bleu Lavande is nearly 1 1/2 hours south of Montreal, almost to the Vermont border. I had forgotton how beautiful it is in that part of the province and if you can visit, plan to stay in the area for a few days. Although it is out in the country, it is easy to find. Don’t worry if you’re not confident with french, all their signage is bilingual and so is the staff.

When I first read a newspaper article about the farm it said they had 100 acres in lavender. The movie at Bleu Lavande says they have 42 acres in lavender, still making them one of the largest lavender farms in North America. They sell two varieties of lavender plants that they grow from seed from New Zealand at the farm: L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and L. angustifolia ‘Vera’. The blooming size plants are in gallon containers. I picked up a L.a. ‘Vera’ and will have to extend one of the flower beds to make room for it.

Their store was a lovely as I remember and I picked up a variety of products. They distill their own essential oil right at the farm.

Mulching Lavender in Winter
There is always something new to learn about lavender and at Bleu Lavande I learned that they winter protect their lavender with straw. They have a machine that spreads it out on the rows of lavender and people follow along with a plastic net that they stake into the ground to hold the straw in place. In the spring, they have another machine to take the straw off. I’m often asked if you can protect lavender the way you do roses for the winter and I have spoken to people who do cover their lavender for the winter, but I had not heard of it on this scale. If you do, just be sure to remove the mulch in the spring, before it gets soaking wet, or your lavender will rot underneath.

Joie de Lavende
This smaller farm is about 40 minutes from Bleu Lavande and very easy to find. I took exit 90 from Hwy 10 and stayed on 243 to go around Lake Brome. As you near the lake there is a tourist information place, but it was closed when I was there. The lake is very pretty and there is public parking if you want to go for a walk. There are hotels and Bed and Breakfasts and it looks like it would be a lovely place to stay. As the road comes around the lake you come to the town of Knowlton and is it ever pretty! There is free public parking, nice looking shops and lots of places to eat. I didn’t have time to shop as I was on a lavender mission, but I had a lovely lunch at one of the bistros.

To find Joie de Lavande, simply stay on the main road you came in on and go through the town and then there it is on the right. Their lavender was in bud so I missed seeing their field in its full glory. (I had anice photos, but it wouldn’t load into this post!) They have 4 different lavender plants for sale – also in gallon containers and from a local nursery. The one I purchased here is called L. angustifolia ‘Ellegance Purple’. It has a beautiful dark purple flower. The other varieties were: L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and L. x intermedia ‘Grosso’. They have a small gift shop and one of their feature items is local honey infused with lavender, which I am having on my toast this morning for breakfast! There are lovely places to sit and enjoy the lavender, but what I liked the best is the nice display garden featuring the 4 lavenders they sell so you can really see the difference between the varieties.

Pruning Your Lavender
Mature lavender plants should be pruned each year. Some people do it in the spring, some now. When you are cutting off the blooms, cut off a good 1/3 of the plant. Try not to cut into the woody part of the stems, but into the green part. Yearly pruning will keep your plant nicely shaped and producing more blooms. Once your plant has finished blooming, cut the flowers off as soon as possible and you will get another bloom.

T’is the season to get out and enjoy these farms. Growing lavender is a very labor intensive crop, so support your local farm.
Next time: Prince Edward County Lavender, then Lavender Blue (south of London Ontario)

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Lavender Festival and Rhubarb

June 12, 2010

Sunday June 27, 2010 Lavender Blue, south of London, Ontario is having a lavender festival in the afternoon. They are located east of an adorable town called Sparta. You can find directions on their website at http://www.lavenderblue.com. I’ll be there to autograph books and answer your lavender questions. Please stop by and say ‘Hello’. They have one of the prettiest shops I’ve seen with beautiful lavender products, so I’m looking forward to shopping!

This week I’m going to visit ‘Joie de Lavande’, south of Montreal, Quebec. At the Royal Winter Fair last year I met owner Mark and am really looking forward to seeing what he and his wife are up to because their products look gorgeous. (You can read about this encounter in last November’s blog.)

Next on the tour – Bleu Lavande, also in Quebec but closer to the Vermont border. It is one of the largest farms in eastern Canada, with nearly 100 acres in lavender. I was there a few years ago, but in September when there was no blooming lavender to see. They too have an amazing store so if you can get there, go prepared to shop.

In Ontario, our gardens are weeks ahead of where they would usually be this time of year. I have roses in bloom that normally would not bloom until the end of the month. I’m not sure if the Quebec lavender farms will be early as well.

Some of my lavenders did not make it through the winter, however those that did are fully budded and waiting to bloom! I lost a few blue varieties, so have plenty of pink ones and a white one. I’m going to have some fresh bouquets when a few of the flowers actually open. My roses are incredible this year

Cooked Rhubarb with Lavender and Mint
A friend brought me some rhubarb from her garden. I put it in the fridge and forgot about it until yesterday. I have 3 different mints in the garden: Orange Mint, Spearmint and Peppermint. If you grow mint you know one thing – if you have some mint, you usually have a lot of mint. This year I am determined to use it and if you have a good mint jelly recipe, please let me know. I tend to get creative with recipes and I decided to add some to the rhubarb.

Rhubarb preparation
I can’t give you the exact measurement, but I would guess I had 3 -4 cups of rhubarb. I put it in cold water on the stove, brought it to a boil and in a few minutes the rhubarb was soft and mushy. I drained off the water and put it aside. As it cooled I stirred in 2 tablespoons of Splenda®, just to take the edge of the tartness. In hindsight I wish I had waited until after I’d added the herbs because I might not have needed any.

Mint
I did not want mint leaves in the rhubarb, just the flavor. In about 1/2 a cup of boiling water, I put about a cup of chopped peppermint leaves and stems. In a minute they were soft. I removed them from the heat and mashed them around in the water. When the water had cooled a little, I tasted it and found it quite minty. Basically I had made a very strong mint tea. I put about 3 tablespoons of the liquid into the rhubarb, stirred and tasted. You could add as much as you like.

Lavender
I took the fresh buds from 3 lavender stalks. I used a purple lavender that came with the name L. angustifolia ‘Sarah’, but the flower stalks are too small to be that variety, so I’m not sure what it is. I took the flower heads only. The flowers were closed because none of my lavender is open yet. I stripped the buds from the stalk and stirred them right into the warm rhubarb.

I was pleased with the end result. It was rhubarb with a little more depth of flavor. The next time you are in the kitchen, remember the herbs in your garden and include a little in what you are making.