I love lavender. It’s one of my go-to essential oils and a good lavender foot soak with salt is THE BEST! So, when my husband surprised me with a special mother/daughter lavender farm tour and workshop in Thomson, Georgia I was thrilled! Of course, it is more fun to travel as a family so I asked if he and one of our sons could tag along.
When we arrived at our hotel Friday evening, we were given two wonderful gift bags full of information on what we could do during our stay as well as treats and Thomson, GA swag (like a fun tumbler, luggage tags, vinyl stickers, and a drink cozy) and a couple of gift cards to use in the area (which we were delighted to take advantage of to stretch our dollars!
I’ve never been to Thomson before, but it’s a quaint town just outside of Augusta that is evidently known for a local music event called the Blind Willie McTell Music Festival (note: this Jazz festival is coming up Sept 23, 2023) and the Belle Meade Hunt Opening Meet which it hosts annually the first Saturday in November. There are also some large nurseries in the area that grow and ship out to the local region that used to have a large plant sale once a year, but when I checked out the event Web site, they hadn’t had the event the past three years for some reason. Bummer. Love me a good plant sale.
Saturday morning we enjoyed a complementary breakfast at our hotel (nice spread with plenty of options) and then headed toward the fishing area where we planned to drop-off my husband and son at the lake which was five minutes away from where our tour and workshop was to take place at White Hills Farm.
Our Tour, Workshop, and Luncheon at White Hills Farm
The owner, Amy, was friendly and made us immediately feel welcome. She has a beautiful shop on site where she hangs her lavender bundles to dry. You could smell the lavender in the air and the cool A/C was a welcome already at 10 am in the morning.
She immediately took us on a tour of her gardens where we saw not only the lavender she grew, but also rosemary and other herbs, veggies, and legumes.
Varieties to plant in the Southeast and how to plant
When she showed me her newly planted lavender bed, she said that lavender likes sandy soil with good drainage. She recommended a mix of 1 part sand, 1 part potting soil, & 1 part compost. She recommended to water daily at first & then wait a day, water, & then 2 days, water, & then 3 days, water, and so forth until established continuing to spread time out between waterings while watching the young plant for any stress. In the Southeast, you will want to look for varieties that tolerate heat and humidity of course. She likes the varieties “Grosso” and “Lavendula X Intermedia” (aka: Provence) for cuttings & “Lavendula Angustifolia” aka: English Lavender for culinary use.
We grabbed a refreshing cool drink of Hibiscus Tea with lavender simple syrup and went out to harvest some lavender from her established hybrid lavender plants which were buzzing with busy bees. Amy showed us how to harvest, focusing only on stalks with larger flower bud heads and cutting the stem low, but where it was still green. If you cut down into the woody area, it will not continue to grow stalks from that area.
Workshop on how to make your own bundles to dry
We sat down to make bundles of our lavender to dry and a little vase to fill with culinary herbs Amy had collected while we walked and talked earlier on the garden tour. We were then treated to a nice lunch under two 100 year old pecans. The shade was lovely and the spread was beautiful and tasty as well!
My daughter and I had quite the laugh when one of the farm cats jumped up onto the table to try and sample our chicken salad. Another farm cat came along and soon the two were vying to compete for the food they knew was close by. Lunch and entertainment! LOL
Tips for Drying Lavender for Herbal Use in Tinctures, Salves, Sachets, and More
When drying herbs, you can make bunches to hang and secure them with a rubber band, but don’t make too large or you may get fungal issues in the center of the bunch. Your lavender needs warm air circulating around it to dry well. Amy also had some screens positioned to dry other herbs she was growing in her garden in her workshop and store area. If you use screens, just make sure you don’t use metal screens, but nylon. If you have a dehydrator (how I dry mine) lay out (flowers still on stem, without overlapping) & keep heat circulating 90°-100°F for 24-48 hrs until stem is crispy dry. Defoliate (strip) petals from stem and store in an amber jar with a lid that seals in a cool dry place until you are ready to use.
Ideas for using culinary lavender
Amy also kindly shared some ideas for using lavender to enjoy with food:
- Make a lavender simple syrup and add to most any beverage (teas, juice, cocktails, or sparkling water). If you’re wanting to try making your own lavender simple syrup, you can grab the recipe here.
- Make infused sugar or infused salt (add several sprigs to a jar of sugar and let it sit up to six (6) weeks
- Add lavender buds to your scrambled eggs or omelette while cooking (eggs and lavender pair well together).
- Add to salad dressings and marinades.
- Cook in lavender when making jams and jelly.
- Decorate tops of cakes, cupcakes, desserts.
- Bake with lavender (for most recipes, add about 1 Tbsp ground lavender to recipe.)
- Roast chicken or port with a little lavender (and rosemary , too!)
Lavender Simple Syrup Flower Essence
- 1 Way to Heat Purified Water Amy recommended a Pyrex glass measuring cup
- 1 Container with lid to store simple syrup in fridge when not using
- 1 Mixing Spoon
- 1 1-cup measuring cup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup purified filtered water
- 8 or 10 sprigs dried lavender
- Add boiling water to sugar in a a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and stir (or boil together in small saucepan on stove.)
- When sure is dissolved, break apart lavender stems and add to sugar mixture.
- Let steep for 30-60 minutes until desired taste, then strain out lavender.
- Lavender syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.
1 cup lavender simple syrup (recipe above)
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice from 4-6 lemons
4 cups of filtered cold water Combine all ingredients and taste. Add more syrup or juice if desired. Serve chilled or over ice. Beverage ideas for herbal syrups:
- Make a simple syrup using fresh mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, organic rose petals, hibiscus, or your favorite herb.
- Add to unsweetened black or green tea.
- Add fresh fruit juice and syrup to unflavored carbonated water (such as La Croix, Perrier, or soda water) to create your own bubbly sodas.
If you’re interested in visiting Amy’s lavender farm, White Hills Farm, and staying in Thomson, you can enjoy the same package we did by using this link. Be sure to let them know you heard about it from Grow Your Health Gardening! (We don’t get a kick back, but it helps them know how to best serve future interested visitors.)
Thomson, Georgia has some good local eateries
A few other highlights from the trip included eating at a barbecue place called Pigg-ah-boo’s. It was recommended by Amy whose husband liked to smoke meat as well. My husband makes amazing barbecue as well, so we love to try out other barbecue places while traveling. To be honest, when we first arrived I had my doubts. There was no one else there and the place lacked ambiance. But we sat down and soon others started to arrive to get food as well. Everything tasted fantastic!
The next day we tried Fernanda’s Grill and Pizzeria because it was one of the few restaurants opened (and was also one of the recommendations Amy gave us. The food there did not disappoint either and we ate well! The above pizza pictured is called the “Fahgetaboutit” and was super filling. The service was good and we didn’t have to wait long to get our food on Father’s Day even though the place was busy.
Travel midweek and call ahead for tour of Georgia’s first all-robotic Dairy Farm
We tried to check out the first robotic dairy farm in Georgia, but you have to organize a tour in advance and minimum is $100 for them to even give a tour. They only tour through the week, so if you’re a week-end traveler, skip this option or call in advance to make arrangements.
Fun shopping, but shop before 3 pm on Saturday!
We did find some cool vintage stuff at a place called Aunt Tique and Uncle Junks. It was so nice that they stayed open until 6 pm as most of the shops in town closed at 3 pm and were closed on Sunday. I picked myself up a few vintage medicine glass pieces to put herbal tinctures in at a later date.
All in all, a fun week-end getaway. If we were to go again, I would research places on our interest list and when they are open/closed because we missed out on some neat looking gift shops because of our Saturday morning plans and didn’t realize most of the stores shut down at 3 pm on a Saturday and then are closed on Sunday. I also wish the hotel’s pool had been open, because our kids would have really enjoyed swimming. But we were glad to know that fishing wasn’t too far away, because the guys really were able to relax lakeside for a few hours each day which was nice. I also loved the farm tour and am planning where I can plant some of the cultivars that Amy recommended. I would eat at the same places again and try to squeeze in a few more local restaurants instead of opting for familiar chain eats near the hotel our first night.
Part of the fun of traveling is trying new foods and seeing new things, so getting our game plan ahead of time would be helpful. If you want to visit Thomson, GA, check out this page they have created for out-of-towners visiting. If you live in the Atlanta area, be sure to check it out sometime! And don’t forget to plant some lavender this year!