Garden On, Vashon

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That Feel-Good Experience at Lavender Hill Farm

July 14th, 2013 at Sun, 14th, 2013 at 11:21 am by Karen Dale


I’ve often thought of Lavender Hill Farm as one of my “Happy Places.” Its fields of purple bloom and views of water and mountain make for wonderful paintings, and the fragrance coming off all those lavender flowers naturally lifts the spirit. 


I’m not alone in seeking out that mood-altering experience. When I visited Saturday after lunch, about a dozen others were in the U-pick field snipping their $5 handfuls of lavender wands. Daddy and his little princess.  A couple on a “one-year-later” date. A crew from Seattle, coffee cups in hand from the Burton coffee stand just down the hill.


“I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for eight summers now,” said Cathy MacNeal, owner with partner Tom of this lavender farm and Craftsman bungalow. The fields were originally planted by Theo & Gary Christman, but recently Cathy & Tom, with help from gardener Randy Olson, have replaced many aging bushes in the upper and lower fields. “In this upper field, Theo had planted 200 plants. We replaced them with 90 English lavenders and a central staircase perfect for a bride’s entrance to her wedding. Because we’re certified organic, we’ve been installing groundcover cloth on paths to keep weeds down, but those 90 plants have filled in so completely, you can barely see the cloth.”

As we stand talking by the “Potting Shed” where you can buy a glass of lavender lemonade or have them make you a lavender wreath, Cathy tells me that business is good. “Lots of folks come here during Strawberry Festival for a respite, get some quiet.” I can see why: when you’re fried, it’s refreshing to sit in the shade of the big hazel tree or in Tom’s new woodland garden and sip a cool drink.


A pair of Vietnamese aunties and their young nieces arrive, get their snips and quickly descend into the bee-buzzing lavenders—Provence, Grosso, Silverleaf, Betty’s Blue, Folgate, and Royal Velvet. It’s a girly excursion, full of squeezy hugs and photo ops. “Ooo, I like THIS one,” squeals 7-year-old Emily when she spots the rabbit-eared Spanish lavenders at the bottom of the field.

The 1930′s Arts-n-Crafts bungelow is now run, 10.5 months of the year, as a vacation-rental-by-owner through With 6 bedrooms and 3 baths, it can sleep at least 11 people. When the family’s in residence during the lavender season, they also house an intern—this year it’s Audrey Hutchinson from Colorado, who first read about the farm in a 2008 New York Times article. I asked her what she most enjoys about the farm.

“I like waking up and cutting lavender when it’s cool. The bumblebees come out, and they think they’re going to work, but they end up just napping on the flowers. They’re so sweet, so I just cut around them.”

The Little Princess is ready to buy her bunch, so Cathy serves her in the garden cottage where she also sells her sachets, oils, culinary mixes and lavender-themed knickknacks. If you want to come enjoy the field, the u-pick, the cool shade and that glass of lemonade, get yourself down to Burton before the end of the month and grab yourself a generous handful of happy.





gardens on the south end of Vashon Island, on a sandy hilltop overlooking Quartermaster Harbor. "Garden On, Vashon" shares what the Island has to teach us about gardening HERE—from making soils to sowing seeds to raising plants to harvest, cooking, preserving, and designing new ways to cultivate your little chunk of Vashon Island. To contact me, email, or leave a comment.

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