Lavender fields are a potent symbol of a sought-after ideal: a lifestyle defined by comfort, simplicity and warm scented breezes, along with the delectable cuisines and wines of the Provence and Tuscany regions.
When Predator Ridge began development of the Commonage, its newest neighbourhood, the idea of a lavender field slowly became part of the project’s defining theme.
“Because of its elevation and hillside location, this part of the resort will be about trails, parks and the most stunning views,” says Brad Pelletier. “Lavender thrives in the Okanagan, and we know that people travel the world to see the fields because of their striking colour, beauty and fragrance.
“With so much agricultural reserve land (ALR) on the property, it occurred to us with input from our planner Ekistics that we had an amazing potential opportunity to enrich our community.”
With lavender at the heart of the planning process, a connection was made with Dr. Soheil Mahmoud, who heads the BC Lavender Network at UBC Okanagan.
The first three-and-a-half-acre park has now been designed, with 1,800 lavender plants surrounding a walkway
on the property’s most visible hillside. “It is the starting point for the integration of lavender throughout Predator Ridge,” says Pelletier. “The ALR land offers us the potential to advance the potential for tourism and merchandising, and we can have and expand these real-life laboratories with the long-term opportunity to produce aromatherapy and cuisine in our kitchens.”
Since before the time of Socrates and Plato, lavender has been prized for its effects on depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, inflammation and pain, and for its antimicrobial properties.
Dr. Mahmoud, an associate professor of biology at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, notes that there is also evidence that lavender has significant agricultural and gardening benefits. “There are a select number of compounds that give lavender its pleasant scent and that we’ve noticed can attract birds and honeybees to a garden and help it thrive”.
“Conversely, there are other compounds in lavender essential, like camphor, that can repel insects and pests and act as a natural deterrent to house flies, mosquitoes and even deer, who are turned off by its pungent, medicinal odor.”
Dr. Mahmoud’s primary aim for the study now underway in the Commonage is to determine which varieties
of lavender grow best in cooler climates. “But we’re also seeking to observe if the Commonage plants produce different essential oils than we’re used to seeing in the region,” he adds. “There could be some novel applications for these oils that have an authentic, local signature unique to the Commonage community.”
UBC Okanagan students will also use the specialized plant tissue for other research projects that will aid in the discovery of genes that control flower development and essential oil production, says Dr. Mahmoud. Once identified, these genes could potentially be used to enhance the visual and olfactory properties of lavender - making it an even more attractive crop.
“Many other plants, such as mint and conifers, use similar mechanisms to produce various biochemical compounds, so we can extrapolate our insights to learn how important natural products, including pesticides, insecticides, cancer suppressing compounds, antioxidants, vitamins and many others can be optimally produced,” he explains.
Beyond its research and agricultural benefits, the Commonage’s Lavender Meadow will also reward resort residents with more immediate health and relaxation experiences.
Over the past few years, Predator Ridge has become the region’s most distinctive yoga retreat destination, with classes designed around its outdoor cedar yoga platforms, overlooking spectacular Lake Okanagan. The Commonage has added another facet: An even larger cedar yoga platform installed on the edge of the lavender meadow, offering lavender-scented breezes and the most expansive views of the resort and surrounding mountains available anywhere in the resort.