Every summer a fragrant lavender bloom cloaks the Sequim-Dungeness valley in northwest Washington state. The third full weekend of July, the town of Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”) hosts the annual Sequim Lavender Festival—a relaxing three-day-long party of U-Pick farm tours, downtown street festival dance parties, local art, live jazz and blues, lavender ice cream, wine, martinis, and margaritas. Even furry festivalgoers get to calm down with local lavender-filled dog bandanas.
“Sunny Sequim” is an ideal location for lavender, which requires full sun and minimal irrigation. Unlike the dewy, temperate rain forests found elsewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, Sequim is located in a microclimate called the “blue hole.” The Olympic Mountains affect a “rain shadow,” over the northeast end of the peninsula, creating a unique environment not unlike the dry, coastal, Mediterranean regions of Provence.
In the late 1990s when developers were encroaching upon local failing farm land, a small group of women looked to lavender as a sustainable agricultural alternative. What began with these women selling their first harvest at a small downtown tent in 1996 has since flourished into a festival with an estimated 30,000 attendees.
At 1,000-acre Graysmarsh Berry and Lavender Farm, guests can pick fresh blueberries, blackberries, and lavender while gazing at the snowy Olympic Mountains to the south. Winding through the knee-high lavender labyrinth at Washington Lavender Farm affords a deep blue overlook of the orca-podded Strait of Juan de Fuca. Victor and Maribel Gonzalez of Victor’s Lavender Farm are known for their Friday night barn dance and homemade lavender tamales, made with lavandula angustifolia, a particularly sweet smelling species cultivated specifically for culinary use.
Some farms host free workshops on lavender oil distillation and offer charming farmstays where guests are more likely to experience an early morning sighting of the California quail that often nest along the protective edge of local lavender fields. Lavender production requires no pesticide application and very little maintenance, making Sequim’s flower farms an herbal oasis for wildlife.