Country Gardens: A Lavender Life
May 15th, 2009
I’m sending a huge *virtual* bouquet of aromatic lavender to the lovely and wise Oregon grower Sarah Bader. Sarah is the subject of a story I wrote for the Summer 2009 issue of COUNTRY GARDENS magazine – out on newsstands now.
Another big bouquet goes to James Baggett, the awesome editor at Country Gardens who asked me to interview Sarah and write the piece. He has an uncanny knack for finding just the right story subjects for moi. And Sarah was a perfectly wonderful plantswoman to profile.
She is the purveyor of Lavender at Stonegate in West Linn, a village about 20 minutes outside Portland. As you’re planning summertime excursions, think about a thoroughly enjoyable detour to Stonegate. Sarah, her children, small staff, neighbors and friends – not to mention lavender enthusiasts from around the country – celebrate the season with several fun events, plant sales and u-pick opportunities. Just think, an aromatic escape that feeds your eyes, fills your head, and and nurtures your spirit. One step onto this farm and you’ll be cramming your hatchback full of dozens of lavender varieties. [UPDATE: Lavender at Stonegate's "opening day" for the summer season is May 22nd. The Summer Lavender Festival weekend is set for July 11-12. You can check the web site for other events and open hours.]
Just to give you a whiff of Sarah’s lavender life, I want to share the opening lines of my story, “Purple Haze.” Laurie Black photographed the story. I’ve had the chance to collaborate with Laurie on a past article and I do love her work! Here it is:
She lives and breathes all things lavender. When gentlewoman-farmer Sarah Bader isn’t working side by side with a few employees to propagate lavender cuttings and harvest armloads of the aromatic herb, she’s walking along hazy purple rows to evaluate her best-performing lavender cultivars. She gardens with lavender, cooks with lavender, perfumes her home with lavender, and is even writing a book about lavender.
Sarah calls her West Linn, Oregon, farm Lavender at Stonegate. About 20 minutes from Portland, the venture takes its name from a hand-carved stone pillar near the entry of her 5-acre parcel. Sarah began growing lavender as a hobby – a way to make her agricultural property productive after its original hazelnut orchard suffered from blight. Inspired by a visit in 2002 to the Sequim (Washington) Lavender Festival, Sarah started with 380 Lavandula sp. plants. She laughs at her beginner’s ambition: “I wanted to try growing 10 to 15 kinds of lavender. I jokingly called that first effort ‘my learning curve field’ because I couldn’t plant in straight rows.”
I called Sarah this morning to see how she thought the final story and photography turned out. She was so pleased.
Pleased, too, that Country Gardens readers from all around the country, coast to coast, have already begun to contact Lavender at Stonegate with inquiries about special events this summer, about buying and growing lavender – and to tell Sarah what an inspiration she is to them.
That’s exactly how I feel every time I talk with Sarah. She is an inspiration.
The final lines of my story capture this woman’s strength, passion and engaging spirit:
Sarah’s philosophy is summed up by a hand-lettered sign that hangs in her greenhouse: “We have the honor of assisting the creator in making little miracles every day.”