“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,
when I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen.
who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so.”
Even before the row upon row of lavender bushes at the Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm greets visitors to the 8-acre property, the heady perfume of the plants works its magic on the senses.
Known for its ability to sooth and relax, those who enter the fragrance rich garden are helpless to its powers – especially when paired with a warm and balmy day, as The Pear Tree was treated to when we dropped by to meet owner Andrea McFadden.
Andrea started growing lavender on the South Kelowna slope in 1994, after she inherited her father’s former apple orchard.
The trees were close to 35 years of age at the time (the end of their life in the world of orcharding), and therefore needed to be taken out and replaced. But because the property was so small, Andrea started thinking of what she could plant in their stead that would be better suited to a hobby farm.
It was while researching that she came upon an article about a fungus killing lavender in France. It reminded her of the crisis in Europe before that, when another fungus caused great consternation among winemakers as it attacked their grape vines. The North American rootstock, however, was resistant. Could the same be true of North American lavender?
If nothing else, Andrea rationalized, producing lavender would give her the power to sell a finished product, cutting out the packing house middle man that orchardists must go through to sell their crops.
She started with a quarter-acre test block of five varieties of the hardy herb. With that, she began to experiment with lavender jelly, herbs de Provence, and scented sachets.
The products were a hit among her growing cliental, which included a few local chefs.
Today, she maintains 2.5 acres and more than 60 varieties of the fragrant herb, plus beds of oregano, lemon balm, calendula, spearmint, thyme, savoury, basil, rosemary and roses.
“When I think about it, I love growing things, making products people enjoy having, and meeting the people who come up here,” Andrea told The Pear Tree.
The farm is now a popular tour destination for visitors to the Okanagan – especially those who want to take a moment to catch their breath and unwind a little bit while taking in something new.
In addition to offering U-Pick opportunities, she uses her crops in a variety of products, including soaps, teas and bath products. The farm also sells lavender infused lemonade by the glass, and ice cream made by the Marble Slab Creamery using Okanagan Lavender essential oils.
So far, the farm has operated – production, retail, storage and business – out of a number of small out buildings spread around the property. But at the end of the month all will be consolidated into one big, new, air conditioned building that will accommodate retail and production (with a window from one to another so visitors can get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes), and workshops. As a result, Andrea expects to extend the season into November this year.
Not that the lavender itself will hold out quite that long. The plants are in their glory the first three weeks of July – so if you want to see them resplendent, you’d better hurry over. However, even after all the blooms have been cut away, those interested in the educational side of the business – aspiring lavender gardeners, for example – or the retail portion will have lots to experience still.
The property is also coming into bloom as a wedding destination. To accommodate, Andrea recently added an area for small weddings – a little pond with a ceremonial peninsula and an area for seating.
Since lavender means “devotion” in the language of the flowers, it seems like an appropriate place for a couple to celebrate their life together. That, and you don’t find backdrops like this just anywhere.
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier