Southern Oregon Lavender Festival Continues July 7-9, 2017
With our sunny, dry summers and need to find beautiful landscape materials that don’t provide a smorgasbord for the abundant deer population, lavender has become a Southern Oregon landscape favorite bordering many streets and yards. But lavender is not native to Oregon. Where did it come from and how has it become so popular here?
Lavender is native to the hills surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It thrives in the rocky sun-drenched soils of Greece, Italy, southern France and northern Africa. Known for its antiseptic qualities, lavender was used for washing and medicinal purposes. History indicates the Romans carried it with them as they conquered Europe. In the Middle Ages, lavender was a favorite of Queen Elisabeth and she encouraged the development of lavender farms. Queen Victoria further popularized the herb in England in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Shakers and others brought lavender from England to the US in the late 1700’s.
There are now, world-wide, about 30 species and hundreds of cultivars, all belonging to the genus Lavandula.
Oregon has long-been a pioneer in the lavender industry. Oregonians Dr. Don Roberts, Andy & Melissa Van Hevelingen and Jim and Dotti Becker are world-renowned lavender experts and have developed many of the popular lavender cultivars used today. Jim and Dotti Becker came to Southern Oregon in 1977 and worked at a produce farm in Williams where their “citified” family learned how to grow food for the first time. They became hooked on plants and convinced the farmer that they worked for to add herbs and flowers to the fruits and vegetables in his gardens. The first plants they collected for their own enjoyment were scented geraniums. While they knew nothing about lavender at the start, within a couple of years they grew 4 different lavender varieties: Spanish, English, wooly and French, thinking they were growing the whole list of lavender varieties. It didn’t take long to discover a whole new world of varieties, and upon this discovery, Jim and Dotti were hopelessly bitten by the lavender bug. No one else seemed to be growing lavender in southern Oregon at that time so the lavender market was wide open for them. The Goodwin Creek Gardens collection of lavender grew to about 12 varieties in 1983, and then to 25 varieties in 1994, including their own new cultivars, Chelsea Pink and Goodwin Creek Grey. They now carry over 100 varieties of lavender. This year their son, Eli Becker, joined the business. Goodwin Creek Gardens is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is known internationally for their “Goodwin Creek Grey” lavender.
In 2003, Jim and Dotti Becker assisted in the creation of the only herb garden in the Pacific Northwest that is registered with The Herb Society of America. In 1996 The Herb Society of America (THSA) began sponsoring a series of depositary plant collections which were to be administered by units or individual members of THSA for educational, research, exchange and conservation purposes. Ellen Scannell, a local Master Gardener and member of THSA, became intrigued with the idea of a lavender garden in southern Oregon. She contacted the Beckers and they offered to donate the lavender cultivars for the proposed garden. Ellen also shared the idea with Mike Howell, the Director of the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (a partnership of Jackson County and Oregon State University) who enthusiastically provided land for the garden on the SOREC grounds. By the spring of 2003, with the added assistance of Cora and Haydn Lee and a $500 grant from the Jackson County Master Gardener Association, the garden was planted. Now there are over 80 varieties (cultivars) of lavender and more than 200 lavender plants on display in the Lavender Demonstration Garden.
Anchored by the Lavender Demonstration Garden in Jacksonville and Goodwin Creek Gardens in Williams, The Southern Oregon Lavender Trail was created in 2012. By this time, 4 lavender farms had been planted in the Applegate Valley. Those farms, the nursery and the demonstration garden joined together to attract lavender-loving visitors to the area. The annual Southern Oregon Lavender Festival has become such a hit that it will now be held during two weekends this summer to better manage the crowds that attend.
This year, the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail includes two farms in addition to Goodwin Creek Gardens and the Lavender Demonstration Garden. The first on the trail as you leave Jacksonville is Lavender Fields Forever in Ruch. Lavender Fields Forever was planted in 2011 by John and Bonnie Rinaldi but was recently sold to Bob Sibbitt and Caryn Gehlmann. Bob retired to the Applegate Valley several years ago from northern California. Caryn is an aromatherapist who works with numerous clients in the hospital, hospice and healthcare industry. The lavender farm will be a great complement to her existing business, Essential Three. This year they will be continuing the work started by the Rinaldi’s and will be adding their own touches to the farm—including lavender ice cream! Lavender Fields Forever is one of the only farms in the country where you can harvest and distill your own lavender essential oil. Unique, all-natural handmade lavender products are available in their farm store along with U-pick bouquets. Many lavender classes are offered at the farm throughout the summer.
In the heart of the Applegate, on Thompson Creek Road, you will find The English Lavender Farm run by Derek and Sue Owen. Lavender was first planted on the farm using natural, organic methods in 2012 in fields previously used to grow Christmas trees. The lavender clearly loves their soil, the south-facing hillside and the high altitude giving it the best growing conditions for the highest quality English Lavender. They have more than a dozen different lavender varieties and over 6,000 plants in total. Their crop is harvested by hand and steam distilled in a traditional copper still. Derek distills every almost every day they are open for the season starting as soon as the flowers are at their best. Their essential oil is used in almost everything they make and Sue and Derek hand-craft their unique lavender products right there on the farm.
All of the venues along the Southern Oregon Lavender Trail have shady picnic areas and wonderful photo opportunities! In addition your will find U-pick lavender bouquets, exquisite lavender products and crafts, essential oil distillation and potted lavender plants. Come and enjoy the sight, smell and taste of lavender in the Applegate Valley. The venues are open in June, July and possibly into early August (since the onset of the bloom this year is somewhat later than usual!) Each venue may have slightly different hours, so please check individual websites or Facebook for hours and information about classes, special events and other happenings on the Trail.
The Southern Oregon Lavender Festival continues July 7-9, 2017. There will be fresh lavender to cut, craft vendors, wreath-making, lavender- inspired food and lots of unique lavender products for sale. Bring your camera and come join the fun!
The English Lavender Farm
8040 Thompson Creek Road, Applegate OR 97530
541-846-0375 / www.englishlavenderfarm.com
Open June 2-July 31, Fri-Mon, 10:00am-4:00pm
Open on festival days 9:00am-5:00pm
Lavender Fields Forever
375 Hamilton Road, Jacksonville OR 97530
541-702-2250 / www.lavenderfieldsforever-oregon.com
Open June 16-early August, Fri-Sun, 9:00am-4:00pm
Open on festival days 9:00am-5:00pm
Goodwin Creek Gardens
970 Cedar Flat Road, Williams OR 97544
541-846-7357 / www.goodwincreekgardens.com
Open March – September, Fri-Sat, 9:00am-5:00pm
Open on festival days 9:00am-5:00pm
OSU Lavender Garden
569 Hanley Road, Central Point OR 97502
Open daily year-round for self-guided tours