Day Trip: Soleado Lavender Farm
Experience the plant's healing properties at a painter's paradise.
Stop and smell the lavender during peak bloom at the Soleado Lavender Farm this June and July.
Located less than an hour away from Arlington, the fragrant farm sits at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain in the stunning Agricultural Reserve of Montgomery County. Visitors popping in for an afternoon can pick lavender bouquets and enjoy an outdoor picnic, or make a special trip for one of Soleado’s monthly events. Lavender, of course, is at the core of these events, which include “For the Love of Lavender” yoga, photography workshops, painters’ days and lavender plant-care sessions. On certain scheduled evenings, guests can also enjoy an extravagant “Lavender to Table” dinner, where the farm joins forces with Geppetto Catering to stage an elegant three-course meal with live music, hors d’oeuvres and lavender-infused cocktails.
Known for its calming effects, lavender is an ancient remedy used for easing both physical and emotional pain. “It’s very, very helpful for people who are going through loss or trauma,” says Soleado co-owner Sophia Watkins, adding that breathing in the purple plant’s aroma has also been known to help with muscle spasms and chronic pain.
Of the nearly four dozen known species of lavender, Watkins says the farm grows seven varieties of English, Spanish and French lavender, all carefully selected for their high oil content. The plants are beautiful and delightfully fragrant on display. Watkins points out that most varieties can actually be used for culinary purposes, too. “People will come out to pick lavender, but they end up taking it home to use in baked goods, lemonade or mixed drinks, so there’s this whole culinary side of the experience,” she says.
Watkins (who grew up on the farm) and her fiancé, Kevin Salmeron manage the property. Both are painters, and their art both influences and is influenced by the setting. “We get this big influx of people who come to the farm to photograph and to paint, so there’s really this wonderful cycle that has happened where we have created this landscape from an artistic standpoint and then people come and paint it,” Watkins says.
Visitors can shop for handmade soaps, soy candles, lavender satchets, body lotions and other products made from the essential oils of plants grown on site. Watkins says the shop’s lavender honey is both a personal and a fan favorite. “I think people get into the fact that it’s very rare around here,” she says. “There are just a handful of lavender farms on the east coast, and of those, only a couple produce lavender honey.” The honey is harvested when the flowers reach peak bloom—which this year is predicted to arrive in late June and last just a month (depending on the weather).
Soleado Lavender Farm is located at 23611 W. Harris Rd., Dickerson, Maryland. The farm is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on select Fridays and weekends seasonally: May-July and Sept.-Nov. Check Soleado’s website and Facebook page for announcements regarding peak bloom, monthly events and “Lavender to Table” dinners.