Purple fields above the lake at Purple Mountain Lavender.
By Mary Jo Gardner. Photograph provided by Deb Davis.
One never knows when a passion will be discovered. Deb Davis shares the journey she took to find hers. “We moved to Lakeside and decided to grow something in a section of our 40 acres.” With the help and support of her husband, Purple Mountain Lavender evolved and was established in 2004 in Lakeside above beautiful Flathead Lake.
Deb grew up in Ohio and moved to West Virginia, Louisiana, and then settled in Montana with her husband Gregg, who is a professor at FVCC. She taught grades kindergarten through eighth for 29 years at area schools including West Valley in Kalispell and Lakeside Elementary. Deb has also been a fitness instructor and personal trainer at The Summit Medical Fitness Center. She currently teaches Tai Chi classes and is a wellness coach in the Journey to Wellness Program, which she finds rewarding. Deb enjoys cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking and kayaking in the summer with her husband and friends.
Deb and Gregg ended up choosing lavender for the mountaintop farm for a couple of reasons. It is a drought-resistant plant. (They don’t have an irrigation system so they hand-water.) It’s renowned for its hardiness, ease of growing, and attracting wonderful seasonal visitors such as butterflies, bees, and praying mantis. It not only has a vivid color and fragrance to create a beautiful bouquet, but is also used in lotions, soaps, perfumes, and for culinary purposes. Over 1,100 plants in 30 varieties grow at the farm, with the majority of varieties being true lavender, or Lavandula angustifolia.
While lavender is a hardy plant, it comes with its share of challenges. Plants are not grown from seeds, but instead are purchased as 3”-6” plants from professional nurseries and must be suited to our climate zone. Lavender farmers across the country are currently dealing with a disease called phytophthora, which is a root rot. Once in the soil, it is fatal to lavender plants. The plants must also be protected from furry admirers like deer, rabbits, voles, and gophers.
Deb’s lavender is usually ready by July 4th depending on the severity of the winter, spring rains, summer heat, and rainfall. Friends, family, and lavender enthusiasts help cut, bundle, and hang the lavender in the barn to dry. If you are interested in learning and working with the harvest process, the farm is always looking for volunteers!
Purple Mountain Lavender is a year-round business. Four weeks before the first frost, the plants need to be cut back. Wintertime means tending to the dried bundles and producing lavender products. “I spend a lot of the winter bottling, packaging, creating, and making new products with the help of a couple of my special friends, Rhonda and Violet,” Deb explains. Lavender is known as a calming and relaxing herb, and Deb fills her barn with de-stressing products like eye pillows and bath sachets. She recently developed a lavender cocoa mix.
Most of Purple Mountain Lavender’s business comes from word of mouth and repeat customers. As a teacher, Deb emphasizes “hands-on” learning and demonstrates that by being a family-owned business where she, her husband, and friends do the planting, harvesting, and production of lavender products using their flowers and essential oil distilled on the farm.
Purple Mountain Lavender also offers workshops and classes during the summer months:
Cooking with Lavender workshops create the experience of using culinary lavender in everything from cookies, to seasonings used in salad dressings, chicken and fish. A local ice cream shop makes a seasonal Lavender Honey ice cream in the summer using Purple Mountain Lavender. Infused syrups can also be made using culinary lavender and added to a variety of beverages.
Personal Care workshops teach how to make and use products including all-natural body lotion and hand sanitizer. Other classes include Making Your Own Lavender Wreath, lavender ideas For the Home, and demonstrations on Distilling Lavender Essential Oil.
A variety of lavender products are offered in the Barn Store: dried lavender bundles, seasonal fresh cut lavender, lavender lotion bars, lavender sachets, lavender pillows, culinary lavender, lavender bath tea, and lavender calm roll-on oil. An apiary is soon planned for the farm since lavender makes a delicious honey. Purple Mountain Lavender products are also available from their website.
You’ll find Purple Mountain Lavender at the Huck Days Festival in Swan Lake on August 11th from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. A new event for this season is “Fine Dining with Lavender,” a multi-course dinner prepared by a chef who will use their culinary lavender in each entrée and pair it with the appropriate wine and beer. It’s scheduled for July 24th.
Special occasions such as bridal parties and family reunions at the farm can be arranged. Photographers and artists are welcome. Call for an appointment. The farm also schedules tours and talks during the weekends in July from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. These are free of charge but reservations are required, so call or text ahead to make sure Deb is available.
Visitors are welcome to come, relax, and enjoy Purple Mountain Lavender and its beautiful lavender field and spectacular views of Flathead Lake. Fill up your senses with the beauty and fragrance of lavender.
Find more about Purple Mountain Lavender at purplemountainlavendermontana.com, or by calling 406-212-5626. You can also subscribe to their email list to be the first to know when the lavender harvest is ready and receive updates on workshops and events.
About the Author: Mary Jo Gardner is a fifth-generation Flathead Valley resident, and serves on the Board of Directors for Citizens for a Better Flathead.