Saunter through the Lavender in the Village Festival in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque where you can taste a variety of treats, test scented lotions and salves,
and pick up bundles of fresh lavender.
Written by Jackye Meinecke
ON TRIPS TO PROVENCE, I SAVOR LAVENDER ICE CREAM at least once every day. The middle of the morning, the heat of the afternoon, on crepes after dinner—I simply adore lavender ice cream. I also cannot resist lavender honey, lavender in tea, and lavender in many other dishes. Then, of course, I can’t resist the scent of lavender in lotion, soap, and perfumes. Inhale some of that same Provencal scent and flavor at the Lavender in the Village Festival in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.
More than 70 artists and agriculturists are spread out under a sunny sky with a backdrop of distant mountains. As you stroll through the festival, stop to sample a variety of treats, pick up bundles of fresh and dried lavender, and test scented lotions, salves, and other potions.
Taste lavender in a variety of forms such as cookies and scones, lavender honey, and even lavender hot sauce. I hope there will be lavender ice cream or gelato. Better yet, treat yourself to a lavender cocktail (my favorite this summer is lavender bees knees), lavender sangria, or lavender beer. Enjoy all of these lavender libations while relaxing listening to local musicians.
Allow time to attend cooking, craft, and lavender growing demonstrations and lectures. Observe the process of lavender steam distillation in a copper still provided by Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, the sponsor of the education tent. Lavender distillations will run throughout the day.
If the scents and flavors of lavender haven’t relaxed you into a coma, enjoy open-air yoga classes. Classes are free for all attendees, 50 minutes long, and will be held in the grass, beneath an open-air canopy. Please bring your own mat.
Drop off the kid(s) and go take a yoga class, take in the art, pick up some lavender, learn about lavender distillation and recipes, sip some fine wine and enjoy the music. At the Lavender Fest Kids Camp, kids will take a yoga class, get a personal audience with butterflies and birds of prey, and make cool crafts with lavender and wood.
The Mission of the Lavender in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque is to preserve and enhance Los Ranchos public open space and stimulate an interest in sustainable agriculture, with an emphasis on educating the public, including such matters as historic agriculture, lavender and its uses, and fostering community spirit.
The Lavender Festival is held from 9am-5pm at the Agri-Nature Center, 4920 Rio Grande Blvd NW. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at lavenderinthevillage.com or at the event. Tickets are $8 or $3 for ages 4-12.
Growing Lavender at Home
In Provence, I was astounded at the horrible soil in the lavender fields. It was coarse with little organic matter and rocky with white stones throughout. Yet the photogenic purple fields were exquisite to see and to smell.
Observing the growing conditions in Provence gave me hope I would eventually succeed at growing lavender—despite many failed attempts. However, I have seen many healthy, gorgeous lavender plants growing in local gardens. Why are some gardeners so successful while others are not?
Lavender thrives in poor, rocky and slightly alkaline soil that is fast draining. That pretty much describes the soil in most of Las Cruces. Lavenders prefer soils similar to the Chihuahuan Desert native plants.
In Southern New Mexico, it is no problem finding a garden spot with the minimum six hours of sun per day lavender plants require. In fact, in our gardens, these bushy shrubs wouldn’t mind some shade for part of the day.
Choosing the best lavender plants for our conditions will improve the chances of success. Since our winter temperatures can drop to the low teens or lower, we should select the hardiest lavenders. English lavenders (Lavendula angustifolia) such as ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’ are the most cold hardy. Also look for English lavenders such as ‘Royal Velvet,’ ‘Vera,’ and ‘Phenomenal.’ Lavender crosses such as ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’ (Lavendula intermedia) also perform well in Southwest gardens.
Once established, lavenders thrive on abuse. Overwatering is the number one cause of death for lavender plants. In our dry climate, lavender requires a deep soak when the soil is completely dry. Lavender also doesn’t need extra fertilizer while growing.
Prune your plants by one-third to one-half every spring to keep them compact and neat looking. Remove older branches as they become woody. Then prune again in early summer to harvest the lavender to dry for cooking, flower displays, and other uses.
Harvest lavender just as the lowest flowers on a stem open, cutting it just above the first set of leaves. Cut your stems early in the morning when the fragrance is strongest. Then hang cut lavender in bundles upside-down in a cool, dark place until dry.
When you grow lavender in a perennial garden, plant it with other full-sun plants such as lantana, salvia and artemisia. It also grows well in an herb garden with oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage.
In addition to scent and practical uses, lavender also provides additional advantages in the garden. Lavender attracts butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects to the garden, making it a great choice for pollinator gardens. It is a natural pest repellent so is a good choice to plant near patios and porches. The scent deters mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and other problem insects.
SEE MORE LAVENDER EVENTS in new mexico AT LASCRUCESMAGAZINE.COM/Lavender