The biodynamic gardens of Weleda in Hawke's Bay are the ultimate in natural gardening systems, producing the ingredients for the iconic range. As part of a series by POD Gardening, the company's gardener offers a garden visit.
Calendula bloom abundantly orange; St John's wort waves its tiny yellow flowers; lavender's pungent aroma wafts on the breeze. But this is no ordinary flower bed.
Weleda's bountiful gardens in Havelock North are a living reminder that you don't always have to go to the chemist - if you have the right plants in your front yard. There's marshmallow for cough elixir, chamomile for digestion, echinacea for an immune boost (they harvest a hefty 250kg of the root each year). The plants are all there to become part of the company's natural health remedies.
They are part of an international network of natural cosmetic and health product makers, but nearly all of Weleda's herbal medicines sold in New Zealand come straight from these 25 acres of earth in Hawke's Bay. They're grown according to the ultimate tuned-into-the-cosmos school of gardening: biodynamics.
Biodynamic growing is part of the organic family of methods. "BD" gardeners, as they call themselves, are pretty cosmic in their viewpoints - literally.
For example, the moon's influence on plants is well known. "We find the 48 hours before full moon, those last two days before full moon, is good for sowing," says David Millin, Weleda's gardener. "That's one of the things we aim for."
Most seeds will sprout noticeably more quickly at this time of the month, he points out, with the moon's watery influence pulling them upward.
Another biodynamic value is to see your farm as a living whole. That means recycling resources within the property as much as possible. Each winter, David makes compost from the manure of Weleda's own three cows, mixed with green waste from the land and straw that comes from friends on a nearby biodynamic farm.
The cows are brought to bed on top of the straw in the autumn, where they do their business and trample their manure into the straw themselves. This makes David's subsequent compost-making job easier, as they've done the mixing for him. In fact, the main reason the cows graze there alongside the herbs is to provide this black gold.
David also sprays a special biodynamic preparation from finely aged cow manure onto the land each autumn and spring, to stimulate life in the soil and plants. When you're organic - and especially when you're biodynamic - what comes out the back of a cow is not a waste product; it's a cherished resource.