Lavender, a delicate purple flower, grows best in conditions that are hot, dry and sunny.

But a couple in Newport have tried their luck and experimented with the herb, finding a way to keep the plant healthy and happy in central Maine, an area known for its freezing temperature.

“A lot of people come here and it’s like a breath of fresh air,” said Peggy Moore, owner of Moore Manor Lavender on Stetson Road.

The property is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but people are welcome to schedule sunset visits. Peggy has invited art clubs and garden clubs to come visit and hopes that others can get some enjoyment out of the land.

“We like to go places and take a deep breath and get refreshed,” Peggy said, “so we’re hoping this can be a place where other people can relax.”

The flower, called the “Swiss army knife” of plants, is a natural bug, deer and moth repellent; a useful plant for landscaping; a culinary herb; a natural antibacterial remedy; and a soothing scent for some.

Peggy and Doug Moore started growing a field of lavender in 2014 and selling products at craft fairs, but this is the first year they are opening their backyard to the public to allow people to walk among the rows of varying purple shades and soak in the view. Visitors also can pick the lavender for sale and buy lavender products that Peggy Moore makes.

Peggy raised five children who are now adults and was looking to take on a project with her new time a few years ago, she said. One day, “Doug came in from outside and said, ‘Hey, let’s plant lavender.'”

The couple didn’t know much about the plant at first, but Peggy Moore knew she could make products out of the herb, which is part of the mint family.

“They’re pretty easy to take care of if you start them off right and you get the right variety,” she said.

Finding the right variety is crucial. Varieties of English lavender, which tends to be a bit hardier, is the best fit for Maine. The Moores’ 7-acre property is in Zone 4b, which means the average extreme minimum temperature is as low as minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Lavender grows best in Zone 5 and above, Doug Moore said.

The Moores researched and started with about 250 plants the first year to test whether they would survive a Maine winter. The plant doesn’t like to have wet roots, Peggy Moore said, so they had to devise a drainage system. They made small hills with a rototiller, pinning a tarp over it and planting the lavender in gravelly soil.

They now have nearly 1,000 plants on a half-acre in five varieties that are different shades of purple, and one, Rosea lavender, that is white. They plan to continue to expand and add more plants, Peggy Moore said.

Doug Moore is finishing a small building that his wife will use as a store and drying space to make her products. She cuts the plant when the flowers are just beginning to open and then hangs them up for three weeks before rubbing the stems to detach the buds and sifting through to get the leaves that fall.

While the flower is a perennial that will last at least 10 years, the plants will bloom for only about a month. By the end of July, Peggy Moore already will have picked the flowers to dry them. She expects the lavender will be at its peak — its prettiest — next week. The Moores plan to stay open to the public even after Peggy Moore harvests the plant so people can see the drying process and learn more about what they’re doing.

Peggy Moore makes a number of products out of her lavender that range in cost from $5 to $30, including soap, decorative dried bundles that will last for years, and pillows with flaxseed that can be heated or cooled and used on achy joints. She also makes room mists and cleaning mists with lavender oil that she buys online and also sells at the shop.

“They’re all things that kind of help us,” she said.

Dawn Spack, who visited the field Friday, said she went in part because she’s always been drawn to lavender’s medicinal uses.

“I love that they’re local,” said Spack, who lives in Dexter and usually buys her lavender products online. She also said she “couldn’t wait to cook with it” after Peggy Moore explained its culinary uses.

Moore sells the dried buds with instructions and recipes on how to use lavender in cooking. She first discovered it could be used in food when she and her husband saw a herbes de Provence product in a store before they started growing. It tastes best with chocolate and lemon baked goods, she said, and it can also be used in meat rubs.

“When you bite the cookie, you’re like, ‘What is that flavor?'” she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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