Ana Thomas’s Lavender Bliss Cottage thrives in Delaplane
It’s hard to find someone more enthusiastic about anything, or as busy, or as knowledgeable, even though she insists she doesn’t know much and has so much to learn, as Ana Thomas of Lavender Bliss Cottage, one of the few lavender farms in Fauquier County. Bubbly and outgoing, Ana said, “There’s just not enough time in the day to tell you all I want to explain about my lavender.”
Due to Ana’s passion for nature, she and her husband Jerry escaped city life and moved to their dream farm in Delaplane in 2018, and set about deciding what to grow on it. Originally from the wine region of the Country of Georgia, Ana’s plans originally didn’t include lavender. She wanted grapes, for wine, as her father had in Georgia while she was growing up. “But then I started researching and learning that I would need to dig a well, put up a deer fence, and everything else which amounted to so much work and money. And my husband had just had an ankle injury. So I thought, “Why don’t I start with something I can do without digging a well, and then slowly switch to the grapes in time?” That’s when I decided on lavender. I called our small farm Lavender Bliss Cottage because it reflects my love of lavender and a quaint country setting.”
Ana, whose first bachelor’s degrees are in botany and chemistry, dove into the world of lavender, teaching herself from books and experimenting as she went along. “In the spring of 2019, my husband Jerry, with his injured ankle, and my son and I, the three of us planted about 89 experimental lavender plants. Each lavender plant takes at least 10-15 minutes on your knees to plant. This year, we’re going to have over 300 organically grown lavender plants all planted this way. We treat them like babies.”
Ana, a full-time OR nurse at Fair Oaks Hospital, is the main force behind Lavender Bliss Cottage, and there is more to it than just growing the plants. She is passionate about producing quality lavender products to her own exacting standards. “My husband is my right-hand man, But I’m the one who makes all the products and designs. Who can help me? I really can’t trust anybody, honestly. Someone asked me once, ‘Why don’t you train somebody?’ I decided I’d rather do high-quality products myself. I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to be a millionaire. I’m just going to sell small amounts of very high-end products and I’m happy with it,” she explained. Ana’s website has a wealth of hand-made lavender-based products, including bouquets, wreaths, soaps, skin care products, and culinary products available for ordering.
Cooking with lavender may seem unique to some people, but Ana loves to experiment. “It’s addicting,” she says. She makes concentrated lavender simple syrup, which she uses in recipes for cookies and in drinks like lemonade and cocktails. Although Ana’s favorite cocktail is her lavender syrup with cranberry juice and vodka, she says it can really be used with any cocktail that is not milk or cream-based. “I got the syrup idea when I was baking cookies. I didn’t have lavender sugar for the recipe, so I made the syrup. The final product was amazing. These cookies are absolutely delicious, with a distinct aroma and interesting aftertaste. My husband is the cookie monster, and he loves those cookies, even better than chocolate chip.”
Crafting may be what comes most often to mind when thinking of the uses of lavender, and it is part of Lavender Bliss Cottage’s wares. “Lavender wreath making is one of my favorite seasonal activities. I love to create unique lavender bouquets and also combine lavender with other dried flowers to create seasonal bouquets. Lavender dries easily, and if it is dried correctly, it keeps its scent and color for a long time. I use fresh or dried lavender flowers and buds in crafts and like to combine the beauty of English lavender and the stunning scent and elegance of French lavender.”
Ana makes her own infused lavender oils and hopes next year to expand to essential oils. “Lavender infused oils are pretty easy to make,” she says. “You just need patience because it requires a couple of months to make. But the end result is amazing, it smells delightful. I make it in the summertime using a folk method. It’s good for massaging and skincare products.”
Growth and future dreams motivate Ana. As well as expanding the amount of lavender she grows, she wants to improve her indoor workspace where she crafts and welcomes visitors. “I don’t want to go too fast and drive my husband crazy, but I want to add a cute workshop in the garage, and there won’t be any cars in there. I also want to buy a big beautiful apothecary cabinet where I can have my products and my books. Then I’ll have my own workshop and I’m excited about it.”
keeps me sane. It was a hard winter, with COVID-19 and my husband’s recovery. I read my books and thought about my future dreams, and it really saved me. I see my lavender growing and flourishing this spring and it really boosts my spirits. I love my lavender.”
This year, Ana is excited to open her farm to the public, but the experience is much more than a “pick your own.” “It’s more like “pick and make,” she explains enthusiastically. “I love to teach, and I want to teach people from step one to the final product. That’s the fun of it. I don’t just turn people loose all over the place with scissors, because they need guidance. I’m going to tell them all about growing lavender and teach them to cut properly, and then teach them how to make bouquets or wreaths or sachets that they can take home with them.” Also included in the farm visits are tastes of her lavender cookies and tips in using dried lavender in cooking and baking. Ana says, “I’m really looking forward to having people out to the farm to share my passion for lavender, to teach them how to grow it and care for it, and then make crafts. I’m also going to share tips on how to use dried lavender in cooking, baking, and creating unique lavender drinks.”
In some ways, Virginia is not the best location to grow lavender. The only varieties that will thrive are cold-resistant, humidity-resistant and rain-resistant plants. It also likes good drainage which is a challenge with our clay-like soil. So Ana has chosen her nine varieties carefully to thrive in our climate and has implemented French drains to improve drainage. On the positive side, lavender doesn’t need much fertilization, is very disease- and pest-resistant, and plays an important role in bee pollination.
There are over 450 varieties of lavender, classified as either English lavender (or true lavender) or French lavender (lavandins). As a rule, English lavender is best for culinary uses because the varieties are milder in taste and used in herb blends for savory dishes, in drinks like lavender lemonade, and things like lavender-infused honey, ice cream, and syrups. French lavender tastes bitter, so it is best used for infused oils and essential oils for candle making, aromatherapy, and skincare products.
“Lavender really keeps me sane. It was a hard winter, with COVID-19 and my husband’s recovery. I read my books and thought about my future dreams, and it really saved me. I see my lavender growing and flourishing this spring and it really boosts my spirits. I love my lavender.”
Lavender Bliss Cottage
Open for farm visits during peak blooming time: June 5 – mid-July. Workshops running through the end of August.
3980 Cobbler Mountain Road, Delaplane
Meet Ana on Sundays at Archwood Green Barns Farmers Market in The Plains.