The intoxicating scent beckons travelers on Route 25 to its sea of ravishing purple. That's the lure of lavender at Lavender by the Bay, an East Marion farm where patrons can pick their own plant bunches from the field.
"It's absolutely gorgeous. I could smell it from a half-mile away," says David Luhrs, 44, of Randolph, Mass., who, with wife Danielle, 51, met his Bay Shore parents at the farm one recent afternoon. "We've got a 6 o'clock ferry, but we made sure we had enough time for this."
WHAT TO EXPECT
As the only lavender farm on Long Island, Lavender by the Bay attracts both locals and out-of-towners. With 17 acres of about 25 lavender varieties, there's plenty to select for baking, planting or scenting your home. Peak lavender picking is through this weekend, but lavender should be available through July 15.
You know it's ripe when the bees are all abuzz. They extract pollen and carry it to the farm's 20 hives to produce lavender honey, says Serge Rozenbaum, who owns the farm with his wife, Susan. "Listen to the music of the bees," Serge says in a thick Parisian accent, standing in the field. "It's like a helicopter landing zone."
While bees may make some nervous, Susan says they're not drawn to patrons; they're after the lavender. She keeps lavender oil nearby just in case, because it is "very good for insect bites." That's part of the spiel offered to new lavender pickers. Patrons receive a wicker basket and sickle, as Susan briefly instructs on how to harvest. "You want to cut as long a stem as you can, without cutting into the woody part of the plant," she says. Then visitors are free to let loose in a roped-off area.
For Mae Weed, the fields were a great backdrop for photos, in which she posed wearing a brightly colored floral dress. "I wore this just to come here," says Weed, 49, of Bayside. "It's a pretty beautiful site."
Meanwhile, Weed's 9-year-old son, Adam Murray, was happy to get active. "It gets your body running," he says. "And you get to bring home a reward."
AT THE FARM
Lavender plants bloom in neat rows, sprouting nearly knee-high above black ground covers that keep the weeds away (the Rozenbaums don't spray pesticides). The stems sway from side to side when an afternoon breeze hits. It's a scene that looks like an impressionist painting -- something far more expansive than the garden the Rozenbaums started 20 years ago on sandy soil at their Southold residence. When friends and neighbors tired of the free lavender, the pair put it on a bench in front of their home with a can and a "Lavender for Sale" sign, Serge says. "We went to the beach and when we came back there was money in the can, and we realized there was potential," he says.
At the farm's store -- full of lavender honey, sachets handmade by Susan and even lavender cake -- potential is evident. Crystelle Cava, 28, of West Islip, browsed for goodies with husband Mario and 14-month-old Graciana. Crystelle Cava keeps bushels of lavender in her kitchen, satchels in her drawers and buys baking lavender for lavender lemonade and scones. "I actually have it over my linen cabinet too, so whenever I take the sheets out . . . it brushes against the lavender," she says. "It's just so relaxing."
Lavender By the Bay
7540 Main Rd.
(Rte. 25), East Marion
INFO 631-477-1019, lavenderbythebay.com
U-PICK COST $7 per bunch