Culture / Travel

Purple Reign — Inside Texas’ Surprising Lavender Farm Culture and the Blanco Festival You Need to See

A Potent Purple Herb

BY // 06.08.21

The Blanco Lavender Festival is back on the calendar — and it’s sure to be more colorful than ever. This year’s event, set for this weekend, June 11 – 13, will mark the 16th annual gathering of Texas lavender producers at the historic Blanco County Courthouse in Blanco, Texas.

The outdoor market will feature live music, guest speakers, and about 80 vendors offering skincare products, crafts, food, and drinks, all laced with the potent purple herb. Enthusiasts come to stock up on items — including fresh pressed essential oils, sage bundles, and spice mixes — while swilling cool cups of the ever-popular Lavender Lizzie, a cocktail made with lavender margarita mix and champagne that’s exclusive to the festival.

Festival-goers can also purchase dried lavender bundles and live plants while gleaning advice from local experts. Currently, about 10 commercial lavender farms operate in the Lone Star State. The Texas lavender trail drifts mostly east from its origins near Blanco (pronounced Blank-ō by locals) over to Fredericksburg, and on to Chappell Hill in Brenham, with a couple of farms scattered further north above Dallas.

Lavender farms
Lavender farms have become a Texas phenomenon.

Hill Country Lavender, a farm outside Blanco, was the first of its kind in Texas when it opened in 1999. The generally mild winters and warm, sunny summers of South Central Texas are similar to the conditions that breed abundant lavender in the French countryside. However, growing the popular cash crop in the heart of the Texas is not without its challenges.

“The humidity and clay soil are the biggest challenges we face to growing lavender in Texas,” says Hill Country Lavender owner and operator Tasha Brieger. “We have to space our plants farther apart than they do in Provence to allow air to circulate better and to prevent fungus from forming.”

The peak lavender-harvesting season in Texas generally begins in late May. Blooms were delayed this year by the severe winter storms that ravaged Texas in February, but local growers are beginning to see flowers. Hill Country Lavender allows “u-pick” hours during successful blooming seasons for visitors who want to harvest their own fresh bundles by hand.

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This year’s festival will be the first to offer an air-conditioned shuttle to escort guests from the main event at the courthouse to the Hill Country Lavender Farm and back. For more detailed information, visit the Blanco Chamber of Commerce‘s full site.

A Blanco Lavender Weekend

Why not make a weekend out of the Blanco Lavender Fest? There are a variety of places to stay in and around town. Start your day with a doughnut breakfast sandwich or a brisket, egg, and cheese kolache, at Main Street Donuts and Kolaches. Walk it off at the festival, or meander the trails around tranquil Blanco State Park, located on the banks of the spring -fed Blanco River. The park offers fishing, swimming, paddling, boating, and camping, highlighted by a shallow waterfall area perfect for taking a dip with younger children.

The Blanco Lavender Festival can be rollicking time in the fields.
The Blanco Lavender Festival can be rollicking time in the fields.

After a sweltering morning at the park, cool off with a sweet treat at OroBianco, a one-of-a-kind Italian creamery that offers authentic Italian gelato, as well as cheeses made with locally raised water-buffalo milk. For a hearty lunch, hit up longtime local favorite RedBud Cafe for freshly made classics, or stop by the newly renovated Josie’s Kitchen for sophisticated, chef-inspired plates.

End the day with authentic Texas ‘cue served with a side of two-stepping at the Old 300 BBQ and dance hall, named for the original group of settlers brought to Texas by Stephen F. Austin around 1825. Blanco is also a haven for beer and spirits lovers, with several local breweries to sample. Need a nightcap? Real Ale Brewing Co. is a local brewery and distillery that uses water sourced from the Blanco River to create its minimally processed brews. It even infuses gin with locally sourced lavender.

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