The huge range of plants grown in the garden is certainly unique: more than 150 different medicinal plant species flourish here, ready to be used in Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products. The 4.5 hectare plot is continuously tended by six gardeners using biodynamic methods. Over time, these have made the soil fertile and crumbly. Organic compost created in the garden itself improves the soil’s structure and promotes the healthy growth of the plants. Leaves, petals, fruits and even roots are manually harvested all year round. Even the seeds that develop into seedlings for 25,000 young plants in spring come from the garden. Our medicinal herb garden is as closed a cycle as possible and also provides a habitat for wild plants and animals. It really is a true oasis.
Interview with Bernhard Ehrmann
Head of the medicinal herb garden
Bernhard, what does quality mean to you in your everyday work in the medicinal herb garden?
When conducting our gardening work, we believe it is important to consciously monitor the processes and think in cycles. How do the soil, plants, animals and people work together in the garden? Our garden has an array of different habitats: shady, wooded areas and sunny spots, a stream, a pond, windy corners and damp ones.? Quality means, preparing the garden in a way that medicinal plants can grow.
What turns a plant into a medicinal plant?
If you imagine a plant, your mind creates a picture of a balanced form with roots, a stem, leaves and petals. A medicinal plant differs from this ideal. For example, it may have either extremely long or very short roots. It may flower at an unusual time of year or grow the best in extreme climate conditions. In our garden, we allow medicinal plants to express their natural being as they grow.
That almost sounds like you regard the medicinal plants as equal, highly individual partners.
Yes, you could definitely see it that way. We are all responsible for looking after particular medicinal plant species and take great care to meet their needs.
What does this plant care involve?
You could say that the people who tend the plants act as spokespeople for them. For example, our gardener Tine Janssen looks after all the wood sorrel. She monitors it very closely and makes sure that it can grow in the best place in the garden. Wood sorrel is a forest plant that we enable to grow under trees. Tine can tell if the wood sorrel is not as healthy as it should be and needs some extra care. As the optimum harvest time approaches, she monitors the wood sorrel daily – together with her colleagues in the plant laboratory who will later process it. Together, they choose the precise day on which to harvest the plants. Marigold petals for medicines can even only be picked by plant laboratory staff as these have very specific requirements with regard to the condition of the flowers: they must have already opened but not yet be in full bloom. Fortunately, the plant laboratory is located right next to our garden. The freshly harvested medicinal plants can therefore be taken straight there for processing.
The medicinal herb garden uses biodynamic cultivation methods. What makes these special?
Biodynamic cultivation regards the garden or fields as holistic system. It excludes the use of chemicals, instead self-produced compost is used. Plant waste from the garden and the production processes is put on our compost heaps. You could refer to these as the heart of the garden as they not only provide fertiliser for the beds but mature compost also helps to regulate and mediate the processes in the garden. The seeds that are used to grow the next generation of plants originates from our garden and working by hand and according to the rhythms of nature (day and night, summer and winter) is essential.
Compost regulates and mediates? What does that mean?
On the one hand quite simply that plant materials throughout the year come together on the compost heap. The diversity offered by the garden is brought together in a single place. It can be compared to taking a long, deep breath in. We then give the compost plenty of time to mature. For two-and-a-half years, we leave the plant materials to rot, experience the qualities of the different seasons and form something new. This is an intensely harmonious process. After all, harmony means bringing together contrasting elements to form unity. We could speed up the process by frequently turning the compost., but that is not something we want to do.
Why is it so important to allow the compost to mature for so long?
Only with time and great care by our compost management can the rotting process take place in an orderly, harmonious manner. We support the process through the addition of medicinal herbs and by turning the compost just twice a year. As we turn the compost, we analyse its smell, colour and consistency. At some point, we will see that it has fully matured. Mature compost is a joyful thing. It is the earth’s gold.
And this is when the long exhale begins?
Yes, exactly. We spread the compost on the beds at different times. Each plant species is given just the right amount of compost for its needs, under the watchful eye of its designated gardener. Once administered, the compost acts like an invigorating mediator. It transfers the harmony of its rotting process to the plants. Plant growth becomes more regulated as though the compost teaches the plants to find the right balance. The plants become more resistant to pests and turn into powerful medicinal plants for Dr. Hauschka Skin Care.
Compost is the unifying heart of the garden
Plant materials from all times of year come together in the compost, rot and mature. The gardeners spread the mature compost on the beds at different times.
Plant with mature seeds