Nestled in the middle of our beautiful wine country a purple field puts a break on the green of the growing vines. That is, until the lavender is being harvested which usually happens by the middle of July. This year the harvest happened a little bit later and I got lucky to see the lavender gardens at Matanzas Creek Winery in full bloom.
The first view coming down from the parking lot is stunning, and if you want you can actually stop here and take it all in. Wouldn't it be wonderful to just hang out in these chairs, perhaps with a glass of wine?
But it's the lavender that I want to see and so I follow its call down into the gardens.
The lavender gardens have been here since 1991. Originally, a two acre lawn occupied this area - but dry California and lawn doesn't really go together. Lawns are a water sucker, and water is something we don't have in abundance where we live. When you make wine you need the water for that process, but when that water is not available, something has to go - in this case the lawn. Instead, drought tolerant lavender went in and it has become a beautiful and wonderfully scented magnet; plus its harvest fits perfectly into the wine making cycle since lavender is harvested long before the busy grape harvest starts. These two seem to be made for each other.
The lavender is hand-cut at full bloom for use in culinary, bath, body and home products. Can't you just smell it by looking at these stems?
Of the many varieties, only Provence and Grosso Lavender are grown here. Provence Lavender is stronger scented and has a deeper color whereas the Grosso Lavender is for culinary purposes. You can see the two different kinds here - the darker, purple one being the Provence Lavender and the lighter, bluer one the Grosso Lavender.
As you can see they grow more Provence Lavender than Grosso. And there's a lot here that reminds me of Provence. This house for example, that sits above the winery:
These two images certainly remind me of Provence a lot:
Did you know that lavender has been used for over 2000 years? The Egyptians used it in their mummification process and they also perfumed their skin with it. The Romans used it for cooking and added it to the water used for bathing (ah, those Roman baths!). Growing Lavender commercially started in the Victorian area with Queen Victoria's interest and passion for lavender, that was quickly followed suit by English ladies who scented themselves and anything else possible. There was a constant demand for lavender and this demand started the history of the English Lavender, that is botanically called Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis.
I love this combination of the Hot Poker's orange and the lavender's purple
In modern times, lavender was re-discovered by René Gatefosse, a French chemist who was one of the founders of aromatherapy. He accidentally burned himself in his lab and immediately immersed his arm into the sweet essential oil of lavender and noted the quick healing. The oil was also used in World War I as a wound dressing for injured soldiers.
Next to the gardens is this interesting fountain that was highly attractive to the birds. Just watch these tiny hummingbirds, they are having a blast.
Last year I missed the lavender bloom because I was in Turkey and Ireland around that time. I'm very happy that I was able to enjoy it this summer.