On the road: The Herb Farm

Having a herb-based business is “80 per cent fabulous and 20 per cent challenging”, according to Lynn Kirkland, founder of The Herb Farm at Ashhurst in Manawatu.

“We were regarded as a bit alternative when we started 21 years ago,” she says, “and there was certainly a period of resistance about healing from a garden but now people are thirsting for it.”

Monarda didyma, commonly known as bergamot or scarlet beebalm. The plant is a North American native and its flowers and leaves are used for tea, although it is no relation to bergamot orange that flavours Earl Grey tea. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Lynn says the business, which includes a 0.8ha show garden, marries her teaching background, love of gardening and herbal knowledge. “I didn’t see having a clinic as my future,” she says of her herbalist training. “I love working with plants on a practical, first aid level, things that are good for the family.”

Family is a big part of The Herb Farm with Lynn handing over as managing director to daughter Sarah Cowan, while she concentrates on research and development, taking groups round the garden, doing her share of gardening and caring for Sarah’s young son while his mum works.

Although the plants used in the company’s products are grown off site, the  garden gives visitors some idea of the ingredients used. “It’s the essence of what is in our products,” says Lynn, who lives next door to the garden.

A butterfly enjoys a valerian flower. Photo: Sandra Simpson

“The Manawatu clay has been challenging,” Lynn says. “The herbs have to work hard to grow so we know they’re high in phytochemicals and essential oils. There’s an intensity of scent in the flowers that you don’t always get in easier soils.

“Manawatu is fabulous for growing. We get distinct seasons. I love our gardens in the winter when there’s not so much looking for your attention.”

There’s a distinct sense of fun at work in the garden – lots of things for children to find and enjoy. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Visitor comments about weeds are met with a smile. “Some, like dandelions, are wild herbs but people aren’t used to seeing them in a garden,” Lynn says.

“This is a very self-caring garden – it isn’t watered in dry spells but is mulched – so sometimes it will be a bit messy but we get help from nature, like the thrushes who take care of the snails for us.”

  • The Herb Farm, Grove Road, Ashhurst (near Palmerston North), open daily 10am-4pm, includes a café doing good food and shop. For more information see the website or phone 06 326 8633. There is a small charge to enter the garden.

This article was originally published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.