Toward the eastern end of the Antiques Road, two more nontraditional farms -- the Hollyberry Orchid Farm and the Manor at Cool Spring Lavender Farm -- offer combined tours. Just be prepared to become an orchid owner and lavender lover.
It takes determination to find Hollyberry Orchid Farm, which is down a long, gravel drive off a secondary road outside Harbeson. But determination's reward is to wander in two professional quality greenhouses filled with nearly 4,000 orchids. The peak of the winter bloom at Hollyberry is a blizzard of sherbet colors and flowing, exotic shapes.
Hollyberry's owner, Bob Edelen, offers tours year round except during the summer months, when greenhouse temperatures climb above 120 degrees and most of the orchids are out of bloom. Many of Edelen's plants are for sale at prices ranging from $1 for a spidery Tillandsia to more than $40 for some of the larger orchids. Call ahead for a tour that includes information on propagation, care and natural growing conditions.
Less than five miles from Hollyberry, the Manor at Cool Spring Lavender Farm includes an English Tea with its portion of the tour. Pauline Pettitt-Palenik and husband Joe Palenik grow two acres of lavender. Known locally as "the Lavender Lady," her passion began as a 4-year-old in England when her horticulturist father gave her a lavender bush. Today, she does the weeding and cultivation while Joe turns their crop into a variety of soaps, oils, sachets, jellies and candies.
Pauline is a strong advocate of the many medicinal and therapeutic benefits of lavender and has earned a reputation as a horticulturist. The lavender farm's grounds -- once the site of a dairy farm -- are tidy and well ordered with each modestly sized plot of sandy soil growing a different variety and color of lavender. The Paleniks invite visitors to pinch and sniff the leaves and proselytize quite convincingly about lavender's extensive virtues.
Tea at the manor features scones slathered in homemade lavender jelly and honey, chocolate cake and shortbread. The two farm tours and the tea are a full afternoon's experience and cost $5 a person.
The Paleniks also operate a bed and breakfast in their remodeled, turn-of-the-century farmhouse. They now offer two rooms, each named for a variety of lavender. An evening in the Hidcote Room with its four-poster canopy bed, Jacuzzi bathtub and lavender accents is a study in indulgent relaxation. "We have people stay with us who want to go to the beach but never seem to get there," says Joe.
In the morning, coffee service and newspapers are waiting an hour before breakfast, leaving ample time for another lavender-scented soak in the Jacuzzi. Pauline serves a five-course, English-style breakfast with buttery crumpets and imported Irish bacon.
Breakfast can begin with grapefruit, then continue with poached salmon filets, baked eggs with hollandaise, low-fat crepes filled with strawberries, and lavender jelly and honey on Joe's home-baked bread. In summer, they grow their own fruit for the crepes.
Wines and coastline
A few miles east of the Manor at Cool Spring, barely outside Delaware Route 1's outlet bustle, Nassau Valley Vineyards raises its grapevines almost within sight of the beach at Lewes. Nassau Valley offers tours of its operation and tastings of its vinifera and blended wines. Proprietor Peg Raley is a pioneer in Delaware winemaking and active in the regional winery industry. She and the area's moderate climate produce six very drinkable wines, including some fruity blends and a solid chardonnay.
Northwest of the vineyards on Delaware Route 16, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 8,800 acres of marshes, meadows, holly-dotted pine forests, and black water ponds backing nearly 10 miles of Delaware Bay coastline. Roads through the refuge to Broadkill Beach, Primehook Beach and Fowler Beach offer viewpoints to observe the squabbling, honking haze of snow geese and other migrating waterfowl rising off the salt marshes by the thousands. The refuge maintains more than 15 miles of streams, ditches and ponds, most connecting to tidewater. Several launching ramps accommodate smaller-sized craft. Though originally conceived to preserve coastal wetlands as wintering and breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl, Prime Hook has nearly 2,000 acres of timber, brush, grasslands and croplands varying the ecosystem. Deer, upland birds, songbirds and numerous other species of mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians make their homes in the refuge.