Purple Provence. Lavender Season in the Vaucluse

I love our little corner of Provence, all year round, but there is something incredibly special about the time of year, when the area turns purple, with the Lavender fields exploding with colour, filling the air with scent as the flowers gently brush against each other in the breeze.

The fields look beautiful, even in the depths of winter, with their sage-green stripes adding detail to the soft winter landscape

The striped fields in winter

But from mid June, the first blush of purple starts to show on the green spikes, when the buds start to burst, and the colours just get more vivid, before reaching their height in mid-July, when the harvest starts to take place.

The first sign of violet

In summer, in the early mornings, when the sun still hasn’t risen fully above the hills, the air is filled with scent and the fields are busy with bees, providing a soft soundtrack to our morning dog walks.

Early morning in the lavender fields

Then as the sun rises, the air above the fields, seems to shimmer with the colour, and the constant buzz of insects is a backdrop to the silent flight of the butterflies that drift serenely from stem to stem. It really is the most beautiful place to be….

The scent and colour

It’s easy to think that these are just pretty fields, planted to make the area look good, but of course that couldn’t be further from the truth, as here lavender is farmed for its essential oils, and so joins the fields of wheat and spelt, as one of the main agricultural crops in the area. They often have beehives in them too, where the apiarist can guarantee that the combs will be full of lavender-scented honey, which is by far my favourite of all the honeys we can buy here.

Perfect colour for lavender honey

As crops go though, it really is one of the prettiest, and understandably brings tourists from far and wide to admire and enjoy the spectacle and scent.

A favourite spot below the Luberon, near Cereste

I may not be a tourist now, but I too, keenly anticipate the season, and relish the opportunity just to slow down a little, to enjoy the scenes myself. I am very aware that living somewhere, you can tend to take things for granted, but I can’t imagine there will be a time, when I don’t watch for the first signs of purple; don’t stop regularly on rides just to admire the view; or stop turning the pedals even faster to keep up with a trailer filled with freshly harvested flowers, which smells utterly divine.

I don’t know if it’s the scent, the colour or the gentle, natural busy-ness of the scene that I love most, but I can’t imagine a nicer place to sit and spend a few minutes simply enjoying the moment.

Taking a moment to just enjoy the sight

The Lavender fields that spread from the Luberon towards Mont Ventoux and across into the Alpes de Haute Provence are stunning & add a vibrant flash of colour, to what can be, in the height of summer, a dry and sun-bleached landscape. The fields stand out clearly in the midst of vines, and cereal crops, bringing even more interest to an already beautiful view.

Flashes of purple in a bleached landscape near Vachères

The area around Sault is the centre of Lavender growing near us, with the fields in the valley and on the lower flanks of Mont Ventoux turning from the soft green, corduroy stripes of the winter plants, to a chaos of purples and blues, as they all come into flower.

Looking across the valley near Sault

The views from the Boulevard at the front of the village, or the viewpoint on the road towards Saint Saturnin are always superb, although to cycle or walk along the road that winds through the fields towards the summit of Mont Ventoux is by far the best way to experience it.

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The lovely Ferme aux Lavandes

The colour continues on towards the pretty village of Aurel, with one of the most photographed fields in the area, just the far side of the village. It’s easy to see why, as the colours are so vibrant and the single pear tree in the centre of the stripes, just adds interest. I love the fact that the pear tree has been left in the centre of the field, even though it must make harvesting the flowers so much more difficult.

Incredible Lavender field near Aurel

Heading in the opposite direction, and taking the road out of Sault towards Saint Christol, you climb onto the plateau, where again there is Lavender as far as the eye can see, with almost every thin strip of land filled with the plants, often creating a patchwork of colour, where different types are planted next to each other. In some places the effect is so marked, that it looks as if it has been based on a Mondrian painting.

Mondrian blocks of colour

Cycling across this plateau is always a joy, with the fields providing a purple foreground to the views of Mont Ventoux on one side and the distant Alps on the other. It’s also a great place to see the lavender later in the season, as it is so much higher than elsewhere, so is harvested after other areas. We took a short video of a ride through the lavender across this plateau last summer, which you can watch here https://youtu.be/HAZNJJB7_Cs

A little further down the road is the charming & peaceful village of Simiane La Rotonde, in front of which are the large lavender fields of Young Living Essential Oils ,which has a laboratory in the old circular chateau ‘keep’ at the top of the village. I love these fields, as they aren’t treated at all, so the lavender is filled with poppies and daisies, creating a beautiful wild-flower carpet in the fields in front of the boulangerie.

A carpet of flowers in front of Simiane

Heading back towards Apt, which each year, hosts a delightful little Lavender Festival, the village of Saignon sits perched above the town, around which the fields are full of colour.

Fields below Saignon set high above Apt

Stretching above, and beyond the village from Auribeau to Buoux is the Plateau Des Claparedes, with its beautiful fields, flanked to the rear by the mass of the Grand Luberon and with beautiful views across the Luberon valley towards Mont Ventoux on the other.

Beautiful fields, near Auribeau

Last summer, I stumbled across the early-morning harvest taking place at Auribeau, and the smell was so heady, as the tractor worked its way slowly along the stripes, funnelling the fresly cut flowers into the trailer. The sight and smell stopped me in my tracks, and made every turn of the pedal up the hill to get there, worthwhile

Harvest time

I know many people tend to head to the Valensole Plateau to see the lavender there, but happily we don’t have to go that far. |From June to Mid August, when the end of the harvest is celebrated, with the wonderful Fete de la Lavande at Sault ….

Sault Lavender Festival

….All we have to do is go for a walk, or a little cycle ride, to enjoy the spectacle, and I love that that is the case.

The thing is that I adore the colour, the scent and the overall sense of wellbeing that comes from the plant, and it’s lovely to see that each year new fields are being planted across the area. Apart from acting as a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of people to the area each summer, it is very clearly a thriving local industry in its own right.

A perfect Provençal getaway below Saignon

Of course it’s always sad to see the harvest and the swathes of purple disappearing on the back of trailers to the small distilleries that seem to be everywhere, but in some ways that is when the scent is at its best, especially when we cycle over pieces that have fallen onto the roads and crushed under the wheels, chase a trailer filled with flowers, or simply pass a distillery busy at work.

Harvest time on Ventoux

But at least we know that the cycle will continue and the plants and colour will be back this year, and of course, as ever, I will be waiting for the first signs of the pretty, violet flowers and the joy they bring.

Old stone and lavender near Saignon

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