i love lavender That’s where I said it. I can’t think of anything more heavenly than visiting a lavender farm. It’s been five years since I first visited Mystic River Farms in Riner and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect post COVID day trip. Talk about beautiful! Rolling green hills, silence and tranquility and more lavender plants than you can count. Mystic River feels like an undiscovered treasure.
Some things have changed, others have stayed the same or even gotten better. Mystic River Farms owners Janice and Keith Mileski are still going strong. Last time I was there they had more than 1,000 plants. In recent years, they’ve expanded their lavender beds even further, adding a few new varieties, bringing the total number of varieties available for picking to more than 20.
Among the other changes they’ve made over the past five years, Janice and Keith are focusing their efforts more on “U-Pick” and focusing their presence on more local events. Their U-Pick season began on June 11 and will last at least five weekends, maybe longer: Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. If you are unsure when U-Pick ends, check their website or Facebook page, or call first.
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If you choose U-Pick, you can harvest a bunch (or more) to take home and dry or enjoy fresh. I say “several” because now that we’re all looking to socialize a bit more, I’d rather take a hostess gift of a bunch of dried lavender than the traditional bottle of wine. Lavender is always a hit!
The best time to harvest lavender is between 9am and 12pm (in the morning after the dew has dried) when some of the flower buds have opened. To dry, try cutting the stems as long as possible and bundle 50-75 stems with rubber bands so you can hang to dry in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Using fans and a dehumidifier can help. Keep your bundles small to avoid mold. You can always combine smaller dried bundles into one large dried bundle later.
Aside from U-Pick, Keith and Janice can be found in a number of local locations. These include the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market (Saturdays), Steppin’ Out (Aug. 5-6), Old Salem Days (September 10), Roanoke Junior League Stocked Market (Nov. 11-13) and the Christiansburg Lions Club Holiday Craft Show at the Rec Center (December 4). So there will be many ways to fix your lavender!
For those looking to purchase live lavender plants for their garden, Mystic River can help with that as well. Lavender is a great choice for sunny, well-drained perennial gardens in Virginia. Eight varieties of live plants are for sale this year, ranging in color from the traditional blue/purple to pink and white: Royal Velvet, Grosso, Thomas, Super, Hidcote, Sachet, Melissa (white) and Edelweiss (pink-white). . Preferred by gardeners for its classic shape and beautiful, long-lasting, fragrant blooms, lavender can also be enjoyed in lavender-based products such as creams, candles, and sachets. Visitors to Mystic River or the venues listed above can enjoy lavender in all of these forms and more.
I was particularly pleased to confirm my suspicion that deer don’t seem interested in eating lavender. You will wander established lavender beds but rarely stop to eat. So I’m adding lavender to my list to find plants that can survive our local wildlife.
When deciding to plant lavender in your garden there are a number of factors to consider: plant variety and selection, planting spacing, location, soil amendments, mulching, watering and pruning to name a few. While some of these things may seem obvious, I can honestly say that lavender, which I have grown in the past, would have been much happier if I had delved deeply into some of these issues. Luckily I met Keith and Janice! Her love of lavender inspired me to learn more.
For more information and to schedule a visit, visit their website at www.mysticriverlavender.com.
– Submitted by Susan Perry