For the second year in a row, Deborah Williamson has started to associate the scent of lavender with chaos rather than calmness.
The month of May has plenty of preparation to keep her and the family busy for the upcoming five-week lavender season.
For many, lavender season means buying fresh plants or products designed to help us relax and to add purple touches in their homes. But for Williamson, owner of Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Catlett, it means it’s time for packaging lavender-based products, preparing the fields with walkways for visitors and tying together the many facets of Summer Bloom Fest Deux (happening this year June 29 and 30).
The festival is in its second year after gathering over 1,500 guests on a late June weekend in 2018. It quickly became one of the largest lavender celebrations (if not the only one) in the area of its kind.
According to Williamson, there’s a reason for why there’s few lavender farms in the area. “Virginia has the exact wrong soil and the exact wrong climate [for lavender],” she says.
Williamson knew going into the development of the land that creating a farm similar to those she saw in Europe wouldn’t be easy. Believe it or not, NoVA is fairly different from the Mediterranean temperament that lavender plants prefer. The high humidity, long bouts of rain and heavy clay soil have killed dozens of the bushes over Seven Oaks’ tenure.
Last year was one of the wettest and toughest years on record for the family farm, but they still managed to pull together the inaugural Bloom Fest celebration with artistic vendors, kids’ activities and sweet lavender treats. Dozens flocked to the farm for their own taste (and smell) of all the farm had to offer.
But even after leaping the hurdles of weather, plant loss and the event’s initial organization, the festival wasn’t without its own mishaps.
“It was an unseasonably hot weekend,” says Williamson. Temperatures soured into the 90s. More people showed than they had prepared for. Items were sold out within the first two hours, and to top it off, one of the food trucks scheduled was offering brick oven pizza, making the area even hotter.
Williamson and the family received quite a bit of feedback from their first year and decided there was much to be improved for this year’s event. A shadier area for picnics with several local, trustworthy food trucks. More kids activities, such as a baby bunny petting zoo and workshops on how to create your own lavender wand. Lower prices for admission (it was originally $20 per car and is now $14 per vehicle or $7 per adult) and even more lavender treats to choose from.
“There’s a lady that makes our lavender jam and [last year] she made lavender sweet potato biscuits,” says Williamson. “They’re buttermilk and she was serving them with her hand-picked fresh fruit jam. They were delicious, but they sold out within the first two hours. So this year, she’s making the motherlode.”
Williamson believes this year’s event will be smoother and much more enjoyable. Guests are encouraged to experience lavender through even more homemade desserts, pick-your-own stems for 15 cents each, lavender-infused beer from Powers Farm & Brewery and potted lavender plants (starting at $10 each).
So will Williamson ever re-associate the serene scent of lavender with its relaxing qualities? Maybe once the event concludes, but until then, she knows there’s a meaning behind the madness.
“I think [the farm family] falls into despair sometimes. You know, we wonder why are we doing this kind of stuff. But then, as soon as everything’s in shape and June rolls around and our customers start coming in, we remember why,” says Williamson. “Because it’s just very showing to know that you’re providing a service that brings people so much pleasure and joy.”
For more information, visit sevenoakslavenderfarm.com. // Seven Oaks Lavender Farm: 8769 Old Dumfries Road, Catlett; June 20-30, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. both days; $14 per vehicle (bring up to 8 people in your car!), $7 single adult, $5 child (4 years old and up)
The summer’s hot, but the events on our radar are even hotter. Don’t miss out on everything NoVA has to offer. Subscribe to our things to do newsletter here.