The Lure of Lavender

Make an herbal wreath and get a lavender fix at Lavender Fields Herb Farm in Glen Allen

For anyone in love with lavender, Lavender Fields Herb Farm is the place to go. An herbal wreath-making class and lunch was all the excuse a friend and I needed to spend the better part of a beautiful fall day at the farm. Since I’ve passed by the road leading to the farm before, it was a treat to finally discover what a hidden gem it is.

A sixth-generation family farm, Lavender Fields Herb Farm is bordered by the Chickahominy River in Glen Allen, north of Richmond. Stan and Nicole Schermerhorn and Shaun and Liezel Mercer live and work on the farm. Nicole and her nephew, Shaun, are Australian, and their irresistible accents made the farm seem more off the beaten path than it really is—a few minutes away from I-295 and Glen Allen’s burgeoning growth.

Nicole led the herbal wreath-making class, which is among many classes offered regularly at the farm. We began with a blank canvas—a ring of floral foam, pre-soaked in water. Our first step was to create the background of the wreath with an outer ring of evergreens angled in one direction—boxwood, abelia, cedar and holly are all good choices. Cutting stems at a 45-degree angle increases the surface area exposed to water, keeping the greenery fresher. Leaves should be trimmed from the lower portion of the stems. Avoid inserting any part of the leaves into the floral foam, since they will turn brown from direct contact with moisture.

After we completed the outer ring, Nicole instructed us to create an odd number of focal points for color, texture and interest—three or five, depending on the size of the wreath. Shaun and Nicole invited us to explore the herb garden for inspiration, pointing out a wide variety of plants to cut such as lavender, basil, rosemary, eucalyptus and olive. For colorful accents, we chose plants with stems sturdy enough to insert into the floral foam—globe amaranth, celosia, Mexican sage and chili peppers. Then we filled in any remaining open spots with greenery angled in the opposite direction from the background. Once finished, we hung our wreaths, stepping back to critique and tweak uneven spots.

We learned that when the floral foam begins to dry out, soaking it in a sink or a pan of water will keep it fresh. The evergreen elements of the wreath may last for several weeks; tender flowers and herbs can be replaced as they wilt to extend the life of the wreath. Wreaths can also be laid flat on a table as an aromatic centerpiece.

After working up an appetite making our wreaths, it was time for lunch, which was served on an enclosed sunporch. The farm offers their signature lavender lemonade and a selection of ice cream, including custom lavender and honey flavors made locally by Bev’s Ice Cream. Other flavors are also made locally by Gelati Celesti.

Lavender Fields Herb Farm also offers afternoon tea; both lunch and tea are available by advance reservation only. Although lunch was tasty, its presentation could be improved with real plates, silverware and glassware instead of disposables. It would also be more appropriate for the bagged lunch, provided by a chain grocery store, to be made by a small catering company specializing in locally grown, organic food that would fit better with the small, family-owned farm.

A trip to Lavender Fields Herb Farm is not complete without browsing in the gift shop. Of course, they offer all things lavender—teas, soaps, soy candles, sachets, honey and culinary blends. The farm also boasts Central Virginia’s largest selection of USDA certified organic herb plants as well as vegetable plants and organic gardening supplies.

Although Lavender Fields Herb Farm doesn’t have vast fields of lavender as the name implies, they offer farm tours and classes on cooking, planning herb and vegetable gardens and container gardening throughout the year. The owners are very friendly and eager to answer questions about growing lavender and other herbs. If that’s not enough to lure you, go to simply sit by the river, sip lavender lemonade and revel in the country farm atmosphere.

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