Across from the verdent Peace Valley Park, nestled near the shores of Lake Galena in a picturesque part of Bucks County Pennsylvania, there is a wonderful lavender farm. Although lavender is native to the Mediterranean, it can grow where there is plenty of sun and fast draining soil. Growing 3,000 lavender plants, Peace Valley Lavender Farm specializes in 2 types of lavenders known to do better in high altitude climates such as in Pennsylvania: English lavenders and some hybrid varieties.
The English varieties grown at Peace Valley include Munstead, Super Blue and Hidcote. For home gardeners, Munstead is the easiest to grow and is popular for its sweet fragrance. The English Lavenders need to be pruned by one third while in dormancy in early spring(March) to promote more blooms and to extend the longevity of the plant. English varieties bloom in summer and if pruned, again in the fall. They tend to have shorter stems and smaller flowers. They can be propagated by seed and produce flowers of varying colors from light to dark lavender shades. Hybrids such as Grosso and Provence can be pruned in the fall as they only bloom once. Hybrids are sterile and must be propagated from cuttings. They tend to be taller with larger blooms. Grosso is a superhybrid with the highest concentration of camphor and therefore the strongest odor. The greatest problems in growing lavender for the home gardener are wet soil conditions and poor drainage. Mulch around the plants can trap moisture and is best avoided. Landscaping cloth, porous materials such as crushed rocks or simple compost are better choices if mulching is desired.
Peace Valley Lavender Farm is much more than a farm. It dries lavender flowers and extracts essential oil to create a wide assortment of products: bath, body, culinary, florals, sachets, pillows and home fragrances.
Lavender is grown for its beauty, fragrance, culinary uses and medicinal properties. Lavender essential oil is made up of 75 to 120 different components. The more flowers on a stem, the more essential oil the plant will hold. Lavender has been used for centuries to stimulate and supplement the body’s own healing porperties. It is known for killing pathogens in the air and in the body’s airways. It is revered for its hydrating, antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties. It is believed to stimulate the body’s immune system, soothe muscles, its anti-depressant power and to have analgesic properties to take the sting out of insect bites and help heal burns. Lavender should be harvested after a few days of dry weather, late morning, when one or two buds have opened. To dry, tie bundles of flowers together and hang upside down in a cool dry place for 2 to 3 weeks. Once the flower bud has dried, the cell walls in the oil glands of the plant will close and capture the essential oil. To release the oil from dried buds, simply heat, rub or squeeze the flowers. Dried lavender will release its essential oil in this way for a very long time. Make sachets out of the dried buds and use them to keep clothing fresh. The camphor naturally present in lavender makes it a natural and pleasant-scented anti-moth repellent for your woolens.
All lavender is edible. The varieties with high camphor levels, like Grasso, are less popular in culinary applications. The farm store at Peace Valley Lavender Farm sells their own kitchen herb mixes, lavender sodas, lavender cookbooks and honey infused with lavender as well as many fragrant home and body products. You can visit their online store here.
To make your own lavender sugar at home, add one teaspoon to one tablespoon of dried lavender flower buds to a cup of sugar, depending on how strong you want the flavor. Cover and let the lavender infuse the sugar for about a week. It will keep for 6 months. You can filter the buds out of the sugar if you don’t want to consume the flower buds. If you like a more pronounced lavender flavor, you can pulse your sugar with the flower buds in a food processor to grind them down into a fine texture. The lavender sugar can be used to flavor baked goods, ice cream, or to sweeten drinks such as lemonade and ice tea.
I hope you have enjoyed visiting Peace Valley Lavender Farm with me today! The farm and store is open to the public. Please visit their website for further information.