The scent of lavender permeates the lives of the Costigan family. Whether at their Appleton farm called Glendarragh or browsing their retail store in Camden, that soft, heady, complex, tantalizing aroma of various lavenders weaves its tendrils around your imagination. This aromatic herb has a long history in human civilization. History, both ancient and personal, is part of what led Lorie and Patrick Costigan to open Maine’s only farm based strictly on lavender.

Lorie Costigan grew up in midcoast Maine. Her formal education was in English, journalism and early American furniture design, but she has been drawn to gardening since she was a child.

“Do you remember Saturday morning television?” she asked me. “Well, I used to wait for the Victory Garden show every week. That was my favorite.”

Lorie largely is self-taught, both in gardening and design — both of which she does with artistry. She also learned a great deal from several local mentors: Irwin and Mary-Ellen Ross, Tom Hopps and Alda Stitch. Most importantly, she has great appreciation for the power of scent. As we walked around her property, she showed me a poignant — and fragrant — connection to her family history flourishing next to her house.

“That rose was my grandmother’s plant,” she said. “I brought it from Lincolnville when we moved here, and she got it from her grandmother before that. That particular rose is the scent of childhood and family for many generations of our family in the midcoast.”

Lorie’s great-great-grandmother lived in a part of Hope in the late 1800s that later became Appleton. The rose traveled from there to Lincolnville with Lorie’s grandmother, then it returned with Lorie when she moved with Patrick and their boys to the Glendarragh Farm in 2007. “It was a big, circular journey for the rose. It came back home.”

Lorie’s husband, Patrick, now a US citizen, is a native of Kildare, Ireland. A self-described “city kid,” he came to farming later in life but feels working the land is in his blood.

“My family goes way, way, back in farmers,” he said in a charming Irish brogue. He and Lorie met and married in Maine. They lived in Lincolnville for some years and started a family when they began to ponder a change.

“We were both doing the work thing, and we wanted something closer to the land, something we could do together as a family,” Patrick said.

So they looked around for property. When they visited the 26-acre parcel in Appleton, Patrick saw oak trees ringing the edges of the fields. “This is Glendarragh,” he said, which means “valley of the oaks” in Gaelic. They chose the name not only as a nod to Patrick’s ancestral heritage but also for the symbolism of the oak tree — strength, wisdom and a connection to the enduring life of the natural world.

The choice of lavender as a crop held practical and sensory resonance. Recently opened local vineyards already had proven that Maine’s growing conditions allow more variety than is commonly believed.

“There is a huge lavender farm in Montreal,” Lorie said. “We knew it could work here. Plus, lavender is hardy, drought resistant and so versatile.” It also is beautiful. Glendarragh’s lavender gardens were on the brink of harvest time when I visited on June 27, the first of three open farm days.

Then there is that wonderful scent. “Lavender’s bloom may look ethereal, but its longevity carries people on the memory of scent for years and years,” Lorie said. “The essential oil of a lavender plant is among the most aromatic in the botanical world.”

The Glendarragh Farm grows many English and French lavenders, which are harvested, dried, triple-sifted and prepared for aromatic, decorative, culinary, cleaning and therapeutic uses. Right now, the plants are gorgeously covering the land in a soft haze of color and texture, with the Costigans’ flock of chickens running among them. “They’re a spirited part of the family,” Patrick said, “and they’re great for eatin’ ticks.”

The rest of the family includes Sam, 22; Hugh, 13; and Des, 3. Everyone takes part in some aspect of the mowing, raking, weeding, harvesting and sifting.

“We were tilling before we even signed the papers in 2007,” Lorie said. It’s tough physical labor, but the rewards are many, including sharing this natural tradition as a family.

One of the best parts of their job, Lorie told me, is seeing the farm through other people, watching them take in the scent and close their eyes. Sometimes it’s hard to take a moment to do that themselves.

“The lavender’s just starting to blush. Take a walk around,” Lorie said to several visitors. “Come back again,” she said to another group as it left the retail stand. “Bring a picnic. Sit back and enjoy it.”

The relationship between humans and lavender goes back 2,500 years, and the Glendarragh Farm is passing on the tradition.

Glendarragh has two more open farm days on July 4 and July 11. For more information, visit

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