First Time


If you didn't know better, you'd think that fields of lavender could be seen only in Provence, in the South of France.

Yet right outside Montreal, we discovered Bleu Lavande, the second largest lavender farm in North America, covering the hills of Applegrove, in Fitch Bay, on the outskirts of Magog.

Our visit - our first time in a lavender field - coincided with a warm and sunny July day, ideal conditions for lavender, which dislikes the cold and wet.

Records of lavender cultivation date as far back as 2500 BC. First used by Egyptians, Phoenicians and Arabs, lavender spread from the Greeks to the rest of Europe through the Romans, who were the first to call it lavender. The etymology of the word is still disputed; does it come from the Latin lavare, with reference to its use in perfuming baths or freshly washed linen, or is it related to livere and livendulo, denoting the purplish blue tint of its flowers?

Provence continues to be the major area of lavender cultivation, though the plant is now farmed in other European countries, and has spread to Australia, Japan and the United States.

Our tour guide turned out to be none other than Pierre Pellerin himself, owner and operator of Bleu Lavande. A little over ten years ago, Pellerin's doctor advised him that he needed rest and relaxation, so he bought an empty tract of land near Lac Memphremagog and set about considering what he might do with it. His goal was to become a gentleman farmer, pottering about his fields in summer, and jetting south come the winter.

He recalled seeing some purple flowers in the South of France; a Google search brought up the word 'lavender'. Ten years, a handful of inventions, a new love, and many voyages of discovery later, Pellerin is head of the largest lavender farm in Canada.

Bleu Lavande operates without the use of pesticides or herbicides, and is the only producer of True Lavender Essential Oil, as certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The farm receives thousands of visitors a year between May and October, who are treated not only to a tour of the operations, but are free to picnic on the grounds or even indulge in a lavender oil massage. Lavender oil has many other properties, leading to its use as a relaxing agent, a sedative, an insecticide, and even in antibacterial gels. A cool compress with a few drops of lavender essential oil is an effective headache cure. And, of course, the plant is widely used in perfumes and lotions, prized for its complexity; true lavender oil is made up of no less than 180 components.

A mysterious, romantic plant with a long history. How fortunate we are to have Bleu Lavande's fields on our door-step!

August 2011

Old Articles by Deniz B. Bevan:
Exotic Fruit
Ideas for Your 'Staycation'
Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby Diana Gabaldon
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin