Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Adrift in a Purple Haze

I have this crazy idea that I will replace the grass I hate to mow with a yard full of fragrant herbs and flowers that need little care or water, but can provide me with endless inspiration to create both art and tasty meals. I have a large herb garden in my backyard overflowing with mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, hops and around 20 different varieties of lavender (One can never have enough lavender!). And this year the flowers have been covered with honeybees, a welcome sight after so many years without them. So when I heard that there was a Portland, OR lavender festival in the works, I decided to travel to the lavender farms and buy the plants needed to start the transformation of my front yard and take a few (well, 106) photos of the farms.Since the Sauvie Island farms were closest, I headed to this heavenly little island in the Columbia River filled with farms and roadside mom-and-pop stands brimming with freshly picked fruits and vegetables. Once you cross the bridge onto the island, you feel the stress fall away from your mind and the smell of green-growing things brings back childhood memories of life growing up in the country. The worry and responsibilities of the real world fall away and you are surrounded by the beauty of nature.

The first farm I visited was the Sauvie Island Lavender Farm, a mall farm with u-cut lavender, plants and a gift shop with decadent, lavender-related goodies, including lavender wands woven from ribbon and an odd number of lavender stems with the flower head turned inward, creating a long lasting sachet. The air was alive with the fragrance of fresh cut lavender and the sounds of indignant chickens, whose daytime sleep was disturbed by curious children. I purchase two plants here, guaranteed to be heavy with blooms by next year.

I headed next to the Blue Heron Herbary on the other side of the island. I knew as soon as I entered the garden that this was a magical place to be. Lavender everywhere in every color, size and variety you can think of. And herbs – so many herbs – many that I have never seen before. Two small chickens roamed the property freely obviously not much concerned with the presence of humans. In fact, so unconcerned that one of them flew up and landed on top of my head and proceeded to make herself at home in my hair! The owner said these are the smallest breed of chicken in the world and come from Indonesia.

Although I arrived just before closing, the owners were gracious enough to let me wander their property and take photos to share with you all. A large garden in the front of the property filled with beds of different flowers and sitting spots where you could relax and lose yourself in the ambience of the moment. A green house area filled with plants for sale. The gardens surrounding the house filled with old, gnarled lavender plants heavy with blossom.

The wonderful gift store filled with lavender, bird and pet related items (I brought back a cat delight filled with catnip that became a nest of shredded remains in the paws of an inebriated cat). And in the back, a beautiful pond surrounded by lavender and filled with water lilies and cattails. As you passed, tiny frogs leaped from the lily pads into the water and the barn swallows buzzed by your head as they dipped and swirled above the water, collecting insects for the babies in the nest. The grounds were nothing short of amazing!!

And the best part, for those of you who live close to Portland, the owners said they would welcome any local artists or art groups to come out to the garden and make art in the midst of the beauty and inspiration of the gardens!! I know I will be back to do just that!! If you want to go, take highway 30, turn onto Sauvie Island Bridge and immediately turn left to circle under the bridge. Go 6 miles and turn right at the stop sign. It will be the first house on the left.

Sadly the day came to an end and I returned home, the proud owner of seventeen new types of lavender to plant as soon as the ground is no longer the consistency of cement.

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