Yesterday I harvested some of my dad’s beautiful lavender (Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote Blue’). This lavender smells delicious and looks even better this year than last year (click here to see my harvest from last year). My dad said he cut back the plant pretty aggressively after the blooms were done last season which may account for the overflowing flowers this year. It was a bit challenging harvesting without disturbing the hundreds of honey bees visiting the lavender. I definitely need this lavender in my garden!
We spent some time in Oregon last week and stayed a night in Hood River. The Hood River County Fruit Loop is about one hour from Portland located in the Columbia River Gorge. We spent one day exploring part of the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile loop which connects farms and orchards. There are about 32 stops along the way.
The first stop we made was to Cody Orchards Fruit Stand. We bought some cherries from the stand to enjoy throughout the day. You can also pick your own apples, pears and cherries here depending on the season. I really enjoyed the little garden right outside the fruit stand.
The second stop we made was to Packard Orchard and Bakery. They had a little fresh fruit but seemed to specialize in jams, preserves, and baked goods. They also had ice cream. The view from the orchard was beautiful and you had a direct line of sight of Mount Hood. I did like their display of pickled veg including pickled beets, jalapeños, dilly beans, ginger pickled radish, and asparagus to name a few. If you are a sweets lover this might just be the place for you with the assortment of very large cookies, and fruit-packed pastries. I don’t eat items with processed sugar added so this wasn’t the place for me but I did enjoy the view.
The third stop was to Hood River Lavender and this was one of my favorite stops! This is an organic lavender farm with beautiful views and smells! They had rows and rows of lavender which you could cut yourself plus they had lots of other flowers interplanted. They also had a portion sectioned off for wildflowers with a trellised grape entrance. This place was buzzing with bees and butterflies. The tiny shop offered lavender oil, lotions, soaps and much more. Our last stop was Cascade Alpacas and Foothills Yarn and Fiber. We were greeted by several adorable and gentle alpacas. They had been sheered in May so their coats were not as fluffy as the alpaca I remember from my trip to Peru. However, they were still really soft. They also had a few baby alpaca born just a few weeks ago! Inside the store there was yarn from their alpaca both dyed and natural colors. They also had lots of other yarns from other places in their well stocked store. If you are a knitter this is the place for you! We bought some yarn from their baby alpaca which they label with the name of the alpaca so you know which babe offered their wool to you! Plus the staff here were welcoming and very knowledgeable. They took the time to explain how they care for their animals as well as the process of making their yarn.
If you are in Oregon, I would highly recommend the Fruit Loop and the Hood River area. There is nothing better than eating freshly picked fruit surrounded by beautiful scenery!
With lavender and my salvias in full bloom, I’ve observed so many more bees in action. The bees have definitely communicated to one another that my garden is the place to be! Last year our plants were fresh in the ground so I would only witness the occasional bee or two. I’m not sure if our plants were new to the neighborhood so not many came to my garden or the lack of bees was a sign of colony collapse. Of course this is only my second year of gardening in Sacramento so I don’t have much evidence to go off of but this year there are so many more bees in my garden. Not only are there more honey bees but there are many different varieties of bumble bees. I’ve even seen some bees that I have never seen before. I take all of this as a good sign that my garden is healthy and thriving. The lavender and salvias tend to be the biggest attractor for the bees which will mean I will have pollinators when my beans and squashes start to bloom. Plus an added benefit is that these plants are super drought hardy. They have thrived on very little water and you wouldn’t know California is having a drought looking at these plants!
My dad is growing a different variety of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia “Hidcote”) than I am growing and it smells delicious. The stems are long and easy to harvest whereas mine are stumpy and not easy to bunch together. Plus my lavender doesn’t smell as good. So I harvest my dad’s and dry it out. I use a twist tie to gather a small bunch and cut! Hang it upside down until it dries out. Then you can separate the lavender flowers from the stems. I bottled mine into an old spice jar. I opened the top and put it into my linen pantry.