I was invited by my girlfriend Carolyn for a day of lavender picking on Sunday, June 4. She sent me and our friend Kelly a link to the High-Hand nursery website pop-up event and I was intrigued and immediately started reading.
Come picnic, explore the gardens and harvest lavender bouquets… sounded like fun to me. I’d previously visited Maple Rock Gardens for several antique shows and I knew the grounds were gorgeous. I had also been to High-Hand Nursery a handful of times and knew the food was delicious. The plan was to grab brunch first at the High-Hand Cafe in Loomis and then drive on over to Maple Rock Gardens in Penryn.
I then kept reading… Come walk with the bees, um… did I mention that I tend to run and scream like a little girl if a bee lands anywhere near me?
“You’ll be standing in a field of lavender, washed with its color and fragrance. You will also be there with approximately 400,000 other airborne workers. So, let me make a few suggestions for all of you who are unsure about picking lavender with the bees.”
400,000? Did I just read that correctly? Yes… 400, 000 – More from the website…
“First of all, understand the bees really don’t care about you. They are not flying around looking for somebody to sting. They’re busy. They’re working. For a bee to make a pound of honey it has to make approximately two million visits to a flower, so trust me, they’re very focused.”
O.k. – I can do this. I can be “one with the bees.” Wear light clothing, no floral patterns, avoid fragrances, walk calmly, don’t flop around swinging your arms like a crazy person (that’s my interpretation of don’t wave your hands) – I’ve got this. No really… I can do this.
I look in my closet and my first thought is – holy crap, I have a lot of floral tops. My second thought was – I sure have tons of dark stuff – black, gray and navy clothing… last thought – probably not a good idea to wear my bright yellow/ retro New Balance shoes. People, the pressure was real. I decided on jeans, a light blue t-shirt and a mint green cardigan and I was still scared that bees would think I was a lavender bush.
It’s now share and tell time, here’s my bee story…
So I went camping with my aunt, uncle, cousin and brother when I was around 6 years old. It was my first time. We were eating lunch and I got stung in the corner of my eye by a bee. My face and lips swelled up crazy fast, but I could still breathe o.k., thank God. The nearest Mom and Pop medical facility was close to an hour away. I eventually got treated with a shot and ice and by evening I was back at the camp site. From that day on – I’ve been deathly afraid of bees. I managed to not get stung again until my early 30’s, while cleaning the tile in my pool. The bee got me right under my arm. I ran into the house and popped two Benadryl and waited to see if any swelling would happen. Nope, I was in the clear. I either outgrew my allergy, or maybe it was due to actual bee sting juice in my eye, resulting in a faster delivery method to my system.
We arrived at High Hand just before 9 a.m. to get our breakfast on. I went with the Huevos Rancheros and was not disappointed with my decision. The poached egg on top of the crispy tortilla was my favorite part. I originally ordered a wood-fired pizza, what? – it was ON THE MENU… but apparently they don’t fire up the pizza oven until 10 a.m.
After a nice/hearty breakfast, we did a little shopping at the nursery and then headed over to Maple Rock Gardens.
We parked and made our way to the entrance. Carolyn came prepared. She brought buckets, shears, a basket for my blog photos, (Love that girl) chairs for all three of us, and a few umbrellas. We were set. The weather was perfect and the views were equally beautiful.
We grabbed our map and headed towards the rows of purple. I had Benadryl in my pocket just in case.
I’m happy to report that no “Ouch Ice” was needed for our group. It was cool, they were prepared for guests with Sting-Kill packets, ice, water, shears and plastic bags – in case you wanted to just cut off your limb after getting stung. Ha-ha… they were actually provided to store your lavender clippings in the event that you hadn’t reached pro status with buckets or baskets like us – again, thank you Carolyn.
We went for the Grosso Lavender first… saving the best for last. You can see that the first 5-10 bushes in each row had already been clipped. We had to venture deep into the rows… which meant deeper into the worker bees. As we got farther down the rows of uncultivated lavender, the buzzing increased. It was a constant low hum.
The rapid wing beats of bees create wind vibrations making a buzzing sound and some bees are capable of vibrating their wing muscles and bodies while visiting flowers. These vibrations shake the pollen off the flowers and onto the bee’s body. Some of that pollen then gets placed on the next flower the bee visits, resulting in pollination – and that is your science lesson for the day.
We filled our bucket and then walked around the grounds a bit with the scent of lavender following us the entire way.
The entrance to the Alice and Wonderland Garden is one of my favorite spots at Maple Rock.
Rabbit sculptures and over-sized metal flowers filled the garden beds. The hydrangeas in other areas of the gardens were beautiful too. It was so relaxing to just stroll through at our leisure. We took a break to relax under some crab apple trees and then we started on the Hidcote Lavender. I’ve cooked with lavender before and was excited at the prospect of having a bunch to try out different drink and food recipes.
We got our second bucket filled thanks to Carolyn’s mad clipping skills. People actually thought she worked there. Yes, she is that awesome.
We put Carolyn in charge of drying out the lavender. It was a solid choice… because later that evening she texted us a photo of her first attempt at making a lavender wand. Super impressive… love it and all the Pinterest pins she’s been sending.
I’m all about making Chocolate Lavender Brownies because they were great the first time around, but I also see some wreath making in my future.
Maple Rock Gardens is hosting a second Lavender picking pop-up event this weekend (June 10 and 11). Tickets are $10 per person and you can pick lavender and enjoy the gardens from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Purchase tickets online or at the event entrance. There is a .50 added PayPal service charge if purchasing online.
Maple Rock Gardens
100 Clark Tunnel Road
Penryn, CA, 95663
Please leave a comment below if you have any lavender recipes or crafty lavender projects to share with me and other readers.