Lavender U-pick farm opens for season in Niles

NILES – Fields of lavender plants waved in the light breeze Tuesday afternoon. The aroma and color stood out against the gently rolling, green hills, as visitors followed the driveway path around the house to the gift shop to grab scissors to pick their own lavender bundles.

The Lavender Hill Farm of Niles, 1219 Morris Dr., Niles, has reopened its U-pick fields for the first time since 2018. Tuesday was the first day customers could come to experience the fields and cut their own bundles of English lavender to take home.

Martha Wilczynski, owner of Lavender Hill Farm of Niles, said the farm has been operating since 2001. Due to the polar vortex in 2018, and the harsh winter conditions it brought with it, the farm has not had its usual U-pick season until this year.

“We’ve been replanting the last two years. The plants were just too small to let them bloom last year,” Wilczynski said. “The older plants were damaged in 2019 too, but they’ve come back to a certain degree.”

She counts the farm lucky as lavender matures within three years, unlike other crops. The plants are also hardier and better survive the southwest Michigan winters.

“A lot of fruit farmers lost trees,” Wilczynski said of the damage the polar vortex brought. “That’s a huge investment.”

The older plants will be replaced down the line, once the younger plants mature.

The 20-year-old farm has English lavender available to pick right now.

“They’re smaller plants, sweeter smelling with shorter stems,” Wilczynski said. “A lot of people love them.”

In July, the lavender hybrids that Wilczynski grows will be in bloom.

“We’ve got these longer stemmed hybrids. They are more vigorous and grow faster,” she said. “They bear more flowers. They’re pretty [right now], but they are not full size yet.”
The English lavender will be blooming into the first week of July, and then they will be pruned back when the higher summer heat arrives.

The Lavender hybrid plants, including the Grosso hybrid, Martha’s White and Royal Purple, bloom more heavily beginning the first week of July. These plants, Wilczynski said, bloom in sequence.

“People ask when peak bloom is, and that would around mid-July when there is overlap,” she said.

Ever since 2001, Wilczynski has enjoyed the versatility of lavender that surrounds the farm.

“It’s beautiful. It smells great. You can use it fresh and you can use it dried,” she said. “You can make so many products with it, and pretty much everybody loves the smell of lavender.”
Being able to enjoy it from bloom to dried and in product keeps her enjoying the crops all year round.

Lavender Hill Farm of Niles is open for u-pick from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The farm is open for U-pick 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The bundles of u-pick are $5 for what can be bundled together with a twist-tie provided by the farm.

More information can be found at TheLavenderHill.com and on Facebook at Lavender Hill Farm of Niles, MI.

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