Lavender Festival to be fragrant fiesta

Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms hosting event on July 20

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More than 2,000 lavender plants will perfume the air at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms on July 20, when they are especially celebrated with what is planned to be an annual event — the Lavender Festival. Loved for hundreds of years for its fragrance, lavender has historically been grown in Provence, France, where fields of it thrive in bright sunshine.

In recent years, Colorado growers — and others in the West — have discovered that lavender responds happily to our dry, sunny days and cool nights, and it is becoming a significant alternate cash crop for some farmers.

Palisade, home to those luscious Colorado peaches, is also experiencing a surge in lavender culture.

We learned from a Colorado Public Radio broadcast from Grand Junction recently that Colorado State University agriculturalists have reached out to area farmers as they expand into lavender culture.

And that each variety has a distinct fragrance!

It’s therefore an especially appropriate plant for Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms to feature as the property, once a farm, develops into a showplace for plants that will also work well for the local home gardener. The 750-acre property southwest of Littleton offers both formal gardens and a natural area along Deer Creek — the water source that drew the original farmer to the site. (Longtime residents may remember it as Chatfield Arboretum, but the Farms name is now the established one.)

The festival will not only display its neat rows of purple and blue flowering plants, but it will offer demonstrations and sales by craft, food and beverage vendors throughout the day. Did you know Breckenridge Brewery made Lavender Beer?

There will be sachets, of course and creams, body butters and other skin care products, offered by local artisans.

And for those who want to dig deeper, there will be a session called “Anti-Aging Lavender Herbal Skincare” ($53 non-member, $48 member), which will give the participant products to carry along home, with recipes from 10 a.m. to noon. Register ahead for this.

And, looking around the gardens will offer ideas on how to incorporate lavender plants into home flower beds as well, where they will grow and flower happily year after year. The grayish leaves and blue/purple blooms blend really well into beds of mixed flowers, as well as reliably returning each year, with a bit of trimming and grooming. Just try to avoid transplanting them once established — they don’t adjust well to being dug out and moved.

While at the venue for the Lavender Festival, visitors can enjoy touring the historic Hildebrand House and other farm buildings, as well as the old school house that was rescued from what is now the bottom of Chatfield Reservoir.

A special dye garden, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Handweavers, is also located here and one can learn about this traditional craft at a future class, if interested. (We have enjoyed giving hand-dyed fabrics as gifts after purchase from the Handweavers’ annual fall holiday sale in Englewood.)

Also of interest: “One Fell Swoop,” the “Stickwork” sculpture installed this spring, designed by Patrick Dougherty and built from locally harvested saplings of willow, chokecherry and other trees. Kids and their adults will enjoy wandering into this curvy structure. It will remain in place until it deteriorates naturally, Dougherty said. He has created more than 300 of these distinctive pieces internationally.

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