Every summer the 13 acres of mounded plants at Rodric and Elizabeth Rice-Munro’s farm slowly turn from silver-gray to green. Finally, slim wands of purple, blue and white flowers appear above them, filling the air with the spicy scent of fresh lavender.
For many travelers, it’s an aroma that instantly evokes the rocky hills of the French Mediterranean, whose sun-drenched slopes are covered in purple lavender. So what are these Provençal blossoms doing in the dunelands of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula?
Making themselves very much at home, it turns out.
“We’re right here on the 45th parallel, surrounded by water, and our climate is actually just about perfect for lavender,” said Elizabeth Rice-Munro, whose farm has been producing a host of lavender-based culinary and health care products for more than a decade. “It’s the same reason the vineyards here can produce wines that are as good as Bordeaux.”
In 1998, Rice-Munro and her husband planted several varieties of lavender on their hilly farm near the scenic village of Northport at the peninsula’s tip. Their company, Leelanau Lavender Breezes, almost immediately created a sensation with its array of culinary teas, essential oils, sachets, bouquets and body care products—but it has also become a seasonal Mecca for visiting flower-lovers, painters and photographers who are as attracted by the sight and smell of the flowers.
Despite the plant’s seasonal growth, the farm welcomes visitors 12 months a year, Rice-Munro said.
When to come:
In Northern Michigan, lavender usually starts blooming in late June or early July. And thanks to a cool spring, this year July is a safer bet. Once the first flowers begin to appear, there’s a wait of about two weeks before the fields are harvested. Michigan Lavender is located at 9981 E. Johnson Road, 231-386-9256.