By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Lavender food, lavender oils and, especially, lavender smells will fill the Dungeness Valley for the 17th year during Sequim Lavender Weekend, beginning Friday.
The Sequim Lavender Growers Association and the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association will stage festivities through Sunday.
Rising fuel costs resulted in buses for farm tours being cut, but the city of Sequim and the two organizations have arranged for a special shuttle bus to take lavender lovers to the many events throughout the city through the weekend.
The 17th Sequim Lavender Festival Street Fair, organized by the growers association, will include more than 150 lavender, craft and food booths in downtown Sequim.
The street fair will be on Fir Street between Sequim and Third avenues.
It will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
The street fair also will include a juried street fair of art techniques and media, photography, pottery, metalwork, leatherwork, carvings, jewelry, fibers and precious minerals and rocks.
A wide mix of summertime song stylists will perform at the Lavenderstock stage all weekend.
Food vendors will serve up lavender and summer-themed foods throughout the weekend.
Admission is free.
The Sequim Lavender Arts & Crafts Faire in the Park, organized by the farmers association, will run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Carrie Blake Park, 202 N. Blake Ave.
Northwest gardening expert and media personality Ciscoe Morris will give a special presentation at 11:15 a.m. Friday after opening ceremonies.
A full slate of musical acts will take the stage at the James Center for the Performing Arts throughout the weekend, with a special jazz lineup set for Friday.
The faire will include lavender booths, juried crafts, a wide array of food vendors, hot air balloons and activities from Morning Star Balloons, the Washington Tractor Antique Tractor and Logging Exhibit, and a Kids Faire, sponsored by First Federal and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.
The faire also will offer a special pet-sitting service to watch animals while celebrants participate in lavender events.
Admission is free.
The growers association's Sequim Lavender Festival Farm Tour includes seven farms: Blackberry Forest, Graysmarsh Farm, Martha Lane Lavender, Nelson's Duckpond & Lavender Farm, Oliver's Lavender Farm, Peninsula Nurseries and The Lavender Connection.
Farms will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Admission to the farms is free.
The farmers association's Heritage Lavender Farm Tour takes visitors to six lavender farms around the valley: Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, Lost Mountain Lavender Farm, Olympic Lavender Farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Victor's Lavender Farm and Washington Lavender.
Farms will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Advanced tickets for the tour are available online for $10 through Thursday.
Tickets will be $15 during the weekend, with active duty military tickets $10. Children 12 and younger will be admitted for free.
The city has designated the activities of both the farmers and growers associations as Sequim Lavender Weekend at http://tinyurl.com/lavenderweekend.
The growers association website is at www.lavenderfestival.com.
The farmers association website is at www.sequimlavenderfarmersassociation.org.
With a steep plummet out of the Olympic Mountains' north face and a trail toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Dungeness River has made alluvial fans and carved terraces across the valley, covering them with rich, loose soil, perfect for lavender growing.
“You pretty much put it in the ground and then just watch it,” said Jordan Schiefen, who owns Jardin du Soleil Lavender with her husband, Paul.
Arturo Flores, manager of Graysmarsh Farm, praised the lavender plants for their ability to thrive in the Dungeness Valley's sandy topsoil with little to no maintenance.
“The only thing I've got to do to this thing is water every once in awhile,” Flores said.
“Give them some space and leave them alone.”
Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to visit the Dungeness Valley from Friday through Sunday to see the plants in their violet glory during Sequim Lavender Weekend, which includes the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association's Lavender Farm Faire and the Sequim Lavender Growers Association's Lavender Festival.
Aiding the plants even further is the Dungeness Valley's moderate, dry climate, which is similar to lavender's Mediterranean origin.
Sequim is in Zone 8 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map, the standard used by gardeners and growers to determine how a plant will do in a particular climate.
Zone 8 climates, which are semi-Mediterranean, have mild temperatures in the winter and summer with low levels of humidity.
“The humidity attacks the inside of the plants, the crown and the root,” said Paul Jendrucko, also known as “Dr. Lavender.”
This year's weather has been even better for the lavender plants, Jendrucko said.
A La Niņa weather pattern over the past couple of years meant wet, long, cold springs on the North Olympic Peninsula.
That, Jendrucko said, meant the lavender blooms were delayed until after Sequim Lavender Weekend traffic had dispersed.
The end of La Niņa means this year's plants are ready as the lavender celebration gets under way.
“Our farmers are enjoying, if you will, a bumper crop of visitors because of what happened to our weather,” Jendrucko said.
The soil in which all Dungeness Valley crops, even lavender, are planted is the remnants of thousands of years of geological forces, said Bruce Pape of Sequim, a retired soil scientist who taught at Central Michigan University before moving west.
“We live here in the Olympic Peninsula, where the soil's fantastic,” Jordan Schiefen said.
Their particular soil was left behind by the river fairly recently, at least in geologic terms.
“The dirt down on the valley, that's been there for about 2,000 years,” said Pape, also a Washington State University Clallam County Master Gardener.
Pape said he moved here, in part, because of the forces of the Dungeness River.
“This place is a physical geographer's dream,” he said.
The river carried most of the finer materials out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with many of them ending up part of Dungeness Spit.
What was left on the valley floor were rocks, sand and other coarse materials that allow moisture to easily drain through the ground.
It's new soil, Pape said, that is not fully developed when viewed in profile.
“But give it another few thousand years,” he said.
With that soil and climate taking care of the plants, little is left to do for those who tend to them.
“The work isn't in the growing; it's in the harvest and the processing and the distilling,” Jordan Schiefer said.
“And the weeding,” Paul Schiefer added.
He admitted to becoming a bit obsessive about seeing unwanted vegetation in his lavender rows.
“I just see every one,” he said. “It drives me nuts.”
Flores said he leaves choppings off the plants on the ground after the harvest, as the residue acts as a combination mulch and herbicide.
After the festival, workers will take to the fields with sickles to harvest the lavender off the plant and put it into bundles.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.