A Day at Carousel Lavender Farm
It's peak season at Carousel Lavender Farm, located just outside Philadelphia in scenic Bucks County, PA. With more than 15,000 plants currently in bloom, we couldn't resist visiting the farm and bringing home a few stems for ourselves. On a recent morning, we took a sunny tour with owner Niko Christou to learn more about the long history of the property and take in the view.
Niko and his partner David bought Carousel in 2000 and spent years restoring its historic buildings, which include a spacious barn dating to 1748 and an eighteenth-century fieldstone farmhouse. They also removed a number of newer structures, including a 40(!) car garage built by a previous owner. In the 1970s, the farm was home to elephants, giraffes, and other exotic animals that were used in New York productions; these unusual residents lent the property its name. Today, alpacas and Scottish highland cattle call the farm home, welcoming guests as they explore the lavender labyrinth and rolling fields of flowers.
All buildings currently on the farm are between 200-300 years old. The airy barn is used to dry thousands of lavender bunches during the summer months, a process that was just beginning during our visit. A restored corn crib is now the space where lavender oil is distilled, and an ivy-covered springhouse serves as a wine cellar, cooled by the natural spring that runs along the edge of the floor.
Inspired by a visit to Provence, Niko planted the first lavender fields at Carousel more than eight years ago. After experimenting with different varieties, a mix of French and English lavender was selected to withstand the harsh winters of the Northeast. The fragrant French lavender is used to make essential oils, while English lavender is grown as a culinary herb, because a lower concentration of essential oil gives it a milder flavor suited for cooking. The on-site store sells products made from farm-distilled oil, along with lavender hydrosol. After distillation, a "flower water" remains; this hydrosol offers a light fragrance and can be stored in the refrigerator as a refreshing facial spray for hot days. Along with its lovely scent, lavender essential oil has a number of beneficial properties. It offers a calming effect to encourage sleep and remedy headaches, while its natural disinfectant properties are excellent for treating cuts or burns. It can serve as a natural insect repellent, and deters deer when used in gardens. And at Carousel, its vibrant blooms brighten the landscape all summer long.
The lavender fields will continue to bloom at Carousel throughout the month of July. Visit their website to plan a tour.