A few weeks back we wrote about the Lavender Festival at Red Rock Ranch and Farm in Concho, AZ. Planning for a last-minute houseguest for July 4th weekend, we decided on a road trip (shout it out), and a visit to northern Arizona and the lavender fields.
The drive for our California visitor did not disappoint, she relished the heat and the beauty of the changing scenery, from Sonoran desert cacti to the tall pines and aspens of the Sitgreaves. We passed through the people-lined streets of pioneer towns, the residents and weekenders lining up for parades conjuring the best kind of Americana.
Our first stop was the so called cooking demonstration. The room was filled with curious visitors, lavender products, and lavender flavored food samples. Christine Teeple, who owns the ranch along with husband Mike, introduced the crowd to the farm, and the ideal conditions in their location to grow high altitude lavender.
We browsed the shop, which had been picked clean by this last day of the festival. Herbs de Concho, a blend of Provence lavender buds, herbs and Concho chili peppers and bottles of lavender oil made it into our basket.
Mike Teeple greeted guests outside and continued the informative talk that had begun inside with Christine. Mike described the benefits of lavender: a natural sleep aid, its calming qualities, and distillation of lavender for lotions, fragrances and use in skin care.
Mike, retired owner of an international construction business, has always grown his own vegetables. One of the joys of his international business travels was to source and bring home seeds for his garden. If you live near Concho, ask Mike about benefiting from the harvest of vegetables at the ranch.
We had packed our own picnic, and settled on the lawn to feast in the aromatic setting. The wind was intense, reminding of us the monsoon season to come. Allergic to bee stings, I am usually cautious while enjoying outdoor settings. Mike had noted the calming effect the lavender had even on insects, and as he passed his hand over a lavender plant resplendent with insects, they did seem to be enchanted and calm.
The Teeples were wonderful hosts who made themselves available to all visitors. Last year Christine estimated they had about 1500 visitors during the six-day festival. This year, the Teeples estimate they may have had over 2500 guests. We packed up and headed out, calmed by the beauty of the ranch, the joy of being in nature, and the scent of lavender that filled our car.
Tips for lavender gardening in the valley:
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Dig deep: Plant your new plant at least 18 inches deep. Loosen compacted soil and add compost or organic material to enrich the soil. Avoid chemical fertilizers.
Partly sunny: Plant lavender and other herbs in a location ideal for morning and mid-day sun. Avoid location with intense all day or afternoon sun for young plants.
Watch the water: Water deeply and allow soil to dry between watering. Cut back watering in cooler winter months. As plants mature over the years, they will tolerate less water.
Cut and air dry: Do not cut blooms until plants are well established. Never cut more than 1/3 of plant's blooms at one time.Do not cut blooms during the heat of the day.
Bundle your cut blooms, tie on bottom. Rinse in cool water to remove dust. Shake off excess water. Hang cuttings upside down, out of direct sun light, and dry.