Lots of lavender

June 18, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

FAIRFIELD, Pa. - "It's sensory overload," Tom Wajda said.

Wajda is talking about the herb that is the centerpiece of this weekend's Pennsylvania Lavender Festival at his Willow Pond Farm in Fairfield, 10 minutes west of Gettysburg, Pa.

Tom and Madeline Wajda (pronounced Vy-da) bought their 32 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge's Mount Liberty with their late 18th-, early 19th-century stone home in 1994.

They'd had little herb gardens all over the world during 32 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, living in India, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Senegal, New Zealand, France, Canada and Washington, D.C.


In 1995, they retired, moved and started a business. The couple gives the word "retirement" a whole new meaning.

Willow Pond Farm Herbs and Everlastings, an organic farm, propagates and sells herb plants and grows more than 100 varieties of lavender. New lavender plants - 1,400 - are scheduled to arrive for planting Monday, June 21 - after the festival, Tom Wajda said.

The different varieties of lavender at Willow Pond range in color from white to pink - to lavender, of course - and to darker shades of purple.

The Wajdas call the plants a wonderfully fragrant woody perennial and report that it has more than 2,500 years of recorded use.

Lavender has been used as a fragrance, insect repellent, mood tonic and food flavoring.

Pilgrims brought the plant to the colonies in the early 1600s. Lavender flowers were sewn into caps and thought to be a comfort to the brain at that time.

Madeline Wadja, who studied cuisine in France, makes herbal jellies and vinegars. To make herb-infused honeys, she heats honey and pours it over fresh herbs.

"It's very sticky," she laughed.

Garden tours will show off Willow Pond's antique roses, scented geraniums, salvias, medicinal herbs, biblical and dye plants, edible flowers and culinary herbs. Along the road is a row of apple trees the Wajdas planted. The deer nibble at the apples, but luckily for an herb business, they don't eat herbs. Some gardeners plant lavender among other plants to deter deer. Rabbits, however, are nesting everywhere, Madeline Wajda said.

The weekend festival will include presentations on organic gardening, growing, cooking and crafting with lavender. There will be sessions on aromatherapy and the psychotherapeutic effects of lavender. Louise Hyde of Well-Sweep Herb Farm in New Jersey will present programs on crafting with lavender, and there will be two "make-and-take" lavender craft workshops each day, for a $10 fee. Activities for children are scheduled throughout the festival, and you can pick your own lavender or purchase some to take home.

Frank Cassel, "The Banjo Man," will provide folk and bluegrass music from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., Straight Steel & Wire will present Americana and country music.

Herbal-style picnic lunches will be offered daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and herbal treats and beverages, including cookies and lemonade, will be available at all times.

Should you miss the festival, you can visit Willow Pond by appointment or from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays until Christmas and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays in November and December. Call 1-717-642-6387 or go to on the Web.

If you go...

If you go ...Pennsylvania Lavender Festival

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, June 20

Willow Pond Farm

145 Tract Road

Fairfield, Pa.

Admission, shuttle from school and parking are free. For information, call 1-717-642-6387 or go to www.palavenderfestival.

com on the Web.

Directions: From Hagerstown, take Md. 60, turn right onto Pa. 16, continue east through Waynesboro and Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. As you reach the bottom of the hill east of Blue Ridge Summit, turn left onto Pa. 116 and continue 3.7 miles. Turn right on McGinley Drive. Willow Pond Farm is one-quarter mile on the right.

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