Purple haze

  • Story and photos by Sharon Wootton / Special to The Herald
  • Saturday, July 10, 2004 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The sun-washed days of Sequim produce more than happy tourists and golfers. The star of the valley in July and August is lavender in more than 100 varieties, the fields of purple softening the browns of an arid summer.

The Sequim Lavender Festival from July 16 to 18 celebrates the plant and all its uses with a street fair and eight-farm tour.

While the valley is humming with visitors, the fields are humming with bees.

What: Sequim Lavender Festival, farm tours and street fair with more than 125 vendors.

When: July 16 to 18.

Farm tours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cost: $6 admission button includes tour buses; children under 12 free. Buy buttons at the Street Fair or at the farms.

Street fair: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 16 and 17 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 18 on West Fir Street (take Sequim Avenue exit off Highway 101). No dogs allowed; dog-sitting service near the food court.

Information: 877-681-3035 or www.lavenderfestival.com.

“Honey bees are pretty docile,” said Lost Mountain Lavender owner Barbara Hanna. “They have a pretty singular mission, to get the pollen and nectar.”

A beekeeping friend of the Angel Farm owners has a theory about the bees.

“We’ve been all over the fields and all over the flowers when we’re harvesting,” co-owner Cathy Angel said, “and we have never been stung.

“His theory is the lavender’s properties make you feel mellow and stress-free, and maybe it does that for bees, too.”

So unless you’re like the worker at Jardin du Soleil who is allergic to bee stings and wears a beekeeper’s suit, lavender-picking is not a risky activity.

Which is good news for the 30,000 or so lavender-lovers who will come to the festival.

“One of the things that’s so appealing is that it really touches on a lot of the senses,” Hanna said. “It has a very distinctive smell, it’s very calming and relaxing, it’s an attractive plant and there are so many products made with lavender.

“The plant looks great in the yard and it blooms all summer for you and adds beautiful color. Cut it fresh, dry it for floral arrangements, or use the buds for cooking or sachets.”

Lost Mountain has as much diversity as any lavender farm in the Sequim area, with more than 120 different lavenders and 1,200 plants in an acre, a U-pick section with about 1,000 plants, and the rest in a sample plot to showcase the diversity.

“People are shocked because they have this image of a purple lavender plant,” Hannah said, “but when they see the variety of colors and sizes that lavender is available in, they’re very surprised.”

July and August are the best months to gather lavender, but the festival is a chance to attend workshops and demonstrations, see artisans’ work, take a farm tour, sample food by local restaurants and hear music at each farm.

Here are a few of the offerings at the eight farms on the tour:

Angel Farm, 5883 Old Olympic Highway. See a classic wood barn on a pioneer farm, eat grilled lavender-pepper sausage, name the bud-cleaning machine, watch demonstrations on lavender wreaths and everlasting bouquets.

Cedarbrook Herb Farm, 1345 S. Sequim Ave. The state’s first herb farm has more than 70 varieties. Options: workshop on lavender baskets, lecture on five lavenders and their uses (take home five plants), sip lavender martinis, buy lavender mustard and goat’s milk soap.

Jardin Du Soleil Lavender, 3932 Sequim-Dungeness Road. See gardens surrounding an 1880s home, watch demonstrations on essential oil distillation and lavender crafting, attend a book-signing by Sharon Shipley, author of “The Lavender Cookbook.”

Lost Mountain Lavender, 1541 Taylor Cutoff Road. See demonstrations on wood-turning and custom-made sterling beaded toe rings, paint a souvenir tile, eat lemongrass lavender ice cream, have your face painted.

Olympic Lavender, 1432 Marine Drive. Indulge in white chocolate lavender cheese cake, learn about chicken raising, make lavender wands and hearts, see a beehive demonstration, check out handmade concrete lanterns.

Port William Lavender, 1442 Port Williams Road. Have your picture taken in a lavender field wearing an old-timey hat, de-bud lavender, make linen sachets, see a history display, check out lavender Christmas ornaments.

Purple Haze Lavender, 180 Bell Bottom Lane. Activities include a lavender massage; book signing by Mary Lou Sanelli, author of “Women in the Garden”; artisans with cedar furniture, metal garden gates, copper work, lavender paintings.

Sequim Valley Lavender, 184 Coulter Road. Drive through 25 acres of lavender, tour five greenhouses with more than 50 varieties and a petting zoo, enjoy a car show, eat lavender-chicken tamales and check out demonstrations.

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