Corry Zeestraten has always had a fondness for plants and wherever she is in the world, herbs are close to her heart.
When she and husband, Jan Zeestraten, came over from the Netherlands in 1994, they brought with them their extensive knowledge in efficient and sustainable farming, after spending years growing tomatoes as a business in their homeland.
Corry's lifelong dream was to own and nurture a herb farm. And she achieved just that by running her own Lavender Farm in Kaikoura for 8 years. Jan and Corry made an excellent team with their collective love of farming and gardening, leading them to operate a successful Lavender Farm that produced its own pure essential oils, lavender tea and other wonderful lavender products such as creams and soaps.
After selling their land in Kaikoura, the couple moved to Wānaka to see what the fuss was about when their two sons were following in their footsteps by creating another Lavender Farm.
Corry eventually settled in on the new farm and picked out a chunk of the land to position her latest garden, now aptly named "Mum's Herb Garden". The design was a mixture of structure and freedom. The main focus was to plant as many herbs as possible and see how well they would do in the Wānaka environment.
To this day, the herbs are flourishing and put on an incredible display each spring, summer & autumn, sending powerful aromas meandering through that part of the farm. You will see Corry out in her herb garden most days, tending to the plants, or picking them out in order to add them into her creations.
Corry is the one who passed on the knowledge of making our lavender products, including food items such as our jams and sauces. And, she still enjoys making our beautiful (and very popular!) soaps that we sell in our shop.
Some of the types of plants Corry grows in the garden are;
Eco dyeing Herbs
And, at the heart of Mum's Herb Garden is a tower of hops overlooking a bed of herbs full of fragrance.
There is no doubt the Wānaka Lavender Farm would not be the success that it is without Corry's enthusiasm, experience and hard-work, so let's have a chat with the woman herself for some more insight into what drives her passion for herbs!
"Corry, what do you enjoy about herbs?"
"I love herbs, it makes me HAPPY when I work with them; the fragrance, taste and the options you can use a herb for. Also, the language of herbs such as; basil for good wishes, lavender for devotion/virtue, thyme for courage and strength, parsley for festivity.
There are so many ways to use herbs. I use it in the kitchen, for craft, medicine and beauty products, tea blends, dying, decorations, cleaning. Sometimes you can use the whole plant - seeds, flowers, roots and leaves."
"What would you say was your favourite herb, and for what use?"
"In the kitchen, there are a few: coriander, thyme, rosemary, sage and I of course like to experiment with lavender.
For Fragrance: rose, lavender and lemon verbena because they all have strong flavours.
For beauty and colour: artichoke/cardoon grows tall and strong, has a big purple flower and large silvery leaves (every year, I dry them for decorations). Then lavender, so many species, shades of purple, blue, pink and white. And echinacea as well, beautiful purple/pink flower with large brown seed heads (cones) great to dry for bouquets!
I also love having a lime tree for blending tea and a silver dollar tree (eucalyptus) for my eco dying."
"So... there are too many to choose from?!"
"If I could plant only 3 herbs in my garden, they would be:
Nasturtium - for leaves to eat and print, flowers to eat and to make a great red vinegar, and the seeds you can use instead of capers.
Lavender - to use in many different ways.
Rosemary - it is green all year round and good to use fresh, I love the fragrance and to use with food for sweet and savoury, for my crafting and in my bath.
Yes, of course, I like many more."
"I enjoy using herbs in my craft and artwork, weaving [baskets, hearts and wreaths] when the long stems of lavender are ready to pick. Also, for eco dying, the herbs [create] amazing prints and colours on fabric and paper."
"Reading and looking in herb/garden books, I can do for hours!
We have a great selection of good books in the shop (including foraging books, health and cooking, mindfulness) I flick through them and often it ends up on my own bookshelf.
As a member of the NZ Herb Society, I did the online course Herbs, I learned a lot and can practice it at the farm.
The boys named the herb garden “Mum's Herb Garden” and I am proud of it, I hope to work in it for many more years. The winter will be a rest time for the herbs but I can not wait to see everything coming back and growing again in Spring.
Who doesn't love HERBS??!!"
All that work in the garden is well complemented by our 'Gardeners Hand Cream'.