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Mystic River Lavender soothes festival guests

By JANE W. GRAHAM
AFP Correspondent

RINER, Va. (July 11, 2017) — Mystic River Lavender Farm started as a retirement project for owners Janice and Keith Mileski who bought the property in Virginia’s Montgomery County in 2006.
They retired from the corporate world and started the farm in 2008.
However, they had planted their first lavender in 2007.
Janice said it takes three years to bring a lavender plant to harvest.
Once they are established they are perennials.  She said their land is well suited for the crop, a plant that likes rocky limestone land with good drainage. She said it is susceptible to root rot, making good drainage a must.
They grow both Angustifolia and Intermedia lavenders including several culinary varieties.
The Mileskis prorogate their lavender taking cuttings from parent plants and nurturing them in the greenhouse over the winter. Janice said she plants from early May through August.
She cautioned that lavender should not be allowed to bloom the first season after it is planted. This prevents the plant from using its energy to make flowers but to grow.
She also stressed the importance of using the cuttings from the parent rather than using seed to get a true strain.  Sometimes this does not happen with seeds she said.
When planting, Janice digs a whole and ads a half cup of bone meal and a little lime gravel and mixes it in the hole before placing the plant.  She waters some the first year if rainfall is short but does not find it necessary to water after that. She said the plants need to be planted far enough apart to allow good air circulation.
She said some varieties bloom twice a year while others bloom only once a year.
Keith said bees love lavender. He said he had a hive last year but the bees died and he did not replace it this year.
The popularity of lavender in this area is apparent in the formation of the Lavender ThymneTrail-Southest Virginia Lavender Trails which includes at least three lavender farms: Mystic Hills, Beagle Ridge Herb Farm in Wythe County and Beliveau Estates near Blacksburg.
An estimated 300 to 400 people visited the Mileski’s farm for its second annual festival June 24-25 to tour 18 varieties of lavender growing on about two acres of the small farm.
Visitors could walk freely among beds of the purple plants, picking their own bouquets and taking in the beauty of flowers and scenery.
Janice listed a wide spectrum of uses for the plants including helping reduce or heal a number of complaints including the following: Stress, anxiety and depression, muscle aches, insect bites, burns, headaches, psoriasis, eczema and cold scores. She also reported that they have antifungal and antibacterial properties.  The anti-bacterials were important before the discovery of penicillin, she noted.
She stressed soil testing is also necessary before planting. Lavender requires a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Their soils fall into this range.
In addition to the plants and bouquets the couple sells at the farm, area festivals and farmers markets they sell a line of body care produces. 
These include lotions, creams, sprays, soaps, dog care, etc. With amazing vistas, their location includes a serene setting to walk through their lavender fields.
This line combines Keith’s knowledge of chemistry and Janice’s interest in lavender.