Prince Edward County is famous for its agricultural bounty, and for a quiet family farm landscape that is increasingly a rarity in Ontario. As attractive the pastures of contented cattle and orderly orchards are, there is one crop that takes the cake for photogenic splendour. In late June and early July, PEC Lavender near Bloomfield has three acres awash in the many violet and purple hues of lavender. In addition to using their lavender harvest to create everything from shortbreads and vinegar to soaps and foot lotions, Rolande Ann Leblanc and Derek Ryles run a B&B in the historic farmhouse on the property.
Cultivating a plant that yields a popular scent to encourage relaxation and sleep, a lavender farm is actually a perfect spot for a B&B. I stayed at PEC Lavender’s B&B in early May when the lavender plants were coming out of hibernation and starting their warm weather growth. Ideally located for exploring nearby Bloomfield, Wellington, Huff Estates Winery and the Oeno Art Gallery, and Sandbanks Provincial Park, this B&B lets visitors experience a bit of the farm life so important to County life.
The community of Hillier, like much of Prince Edward County, is, at first glance, a peaceful farm community. Modest bungalows sit close to the road, many with barns next door. Freshly plowed fields give off their distinctive country aroma. Uniform fruit trees line orchard paths. However, Hillier holds many attractions for visitors. The famous Huff Estates Winery and its fantastic on-site Oeno Art Gallery, Shroeder’s Farm Market selling produce, lunch and dinner homecooked meals, and gooey, maple syrup butter tarts, and, of course, PEC Lavender.
The farm is comprised of a farm gate store, a well-maintained white farm house, and two fields of lavender. The first floor guest areas include a guest lounge with plenty of couches and chairs for a late night discussion or card game (there is no TV in the rooms or common area) and the original dining room with a harvest table for breakfast. The décor is rustic and rural in keeping with the original floorboards, thick wood beams, and historic feel of the home. The three guestrooms on the second floor have a slightly more modern feel, with calm blue and beige walls, white trim, simple yet attractive décor. Thankfully there is no floral and lace overload so common at many country B&Bs. Each suite has a queen bed and a gleaming ensuite bathroom.
I passed a perfect night’s sleep in the quiet of the country, with only the occasional cow lowing in the early evening and morning to remind you of your surroundings. Rolande’s breakfast was delicious and made use of local and seasonal products, with a hearty goat cheese and asparagus omelette, bacon, fruit bowl, her own lavender-camomile tea, and her absolutely delicious and attractive lavender shortbreads.
The farm hosts an annual lavender festival in early July when the fields are bright purple and the smell of lavender fills the air. Visitors can get a tour of the farm, listen to live music at the gazebo, take part in a craft workshop to create a lavender craft, , pick their own lavender , sample maple pork sausage on a bun, and get an r massage in the fragrant lavender fields.
Guests at the B&B can receive a tour of the farm any time of the year. Rolande will happily take you through the fields. You can pick her brain for her expertise on the best lavender plants for various purposes and areas of the province. She advised me on which types of plants would work best from my home garden and had photos of what each plant would look like when in bloom. I took home three, two-year-old plants which are now thriving in my garden.
Rolande and Derek plan to build a distillery building where visitors can watch the distilling process as lavender is turned into products such as fragrant oils. For now, though, they showcase their products in the on-site store. Neatly arranged and attractive shelves are filled with all type of lavender products imaginable. One product in particular that will appeal to chefs, is a three pack of different types of lavender florets to be used in cooking. Each has a distinct taste, from spicy to mild. PEC Lavender works with local artisans, such as a chocolatier and a jam maker, to come up with lavender-based products to sell in the store. And a local beekeeper keeps hives in the fields in return for a supply of lavender honey. There’s even a kit with a herb infuser with lavender florets and a recipe for creating a light purple lemonade to impress your guests.
After spending a restful night, filling up on a delicious hot breakfast, and picking up a few handmade lavender products, you’ll be ready to head out to your adventures armed with a better understanding of the charms of farm life in the County.