Island Herbs

By PATSY HOLLIS | Lindy Campbell of Island Herbs lives in the prettiest garden imaginable, crammed almost to bursting with flowers, trees and colourful sweet-smelling herbs. “Crammed” is the operative word, as Lindy says ruefully.

“This is a house on a big block, but it’s not really big enough. Herb cultivation is very intensive so for ease of management the garden should be bigger. Then I could have wider paths, easier to wheel things along. I could grow more stock. And as it is now the hothouse has to be in the front garden.”

Not that she’s complaining. It’s just that the business has flourished since she moved to Snug in 1995 and she’s become so interested in herbs, she’s always on the lookout for more.

The maklings of a fine pesto — freshly-picked basil, sea salt and pine nuts Bruny born and bred, Lindy had a permaculture garden on the island. Faced with a separation she bought a basic herb business from friends there — hence the name Island Herbs — thinking of it as something she could from home. She enrolled in a horticulture degree at TAFE.

“I moved to Snug in 1995, and really began to make a business out of the herbs; for the past four years or so it’s been full time.

“I gradually discovered new herbs, very gradually growing in scope. In fact Island Herbs has grown as my family has grown. Here in Snug we’re close to Hobart, close to the beach, close to Bruny, we’re on town water. It’s proved very practical.”

And an enticing place to be in, swathed in colour, laced with perfume. The fact it’s a nursery can be seen in the rows and rows of tiny seedlings in tiny pots, the young bushes in larger pots for sale here or in town, the plastic-covered shadehouses where more delicate herbs can be misted with water regularly, the plastic hothouse at the front where it gets brilliant warmth from the sun to encourage exotics such as chillies and lemongrass.

Lindy makes borders of chives or parsley, pops in lettuces, golden sage, purple sage, and yellow summer-flowering oregano

Looking from her kitchen into the decorative back garden, it’s easy to see that Lindy knows how to do a potager properly: graceful plumes of stipa giganteum next to a shower of helianthus’ bright yellow daisies, sprays of deliciously blue chicory, silvery grey santolina, pretty tiny yellow-flowered wild rocket (“so good in a salad”), huge clumps of orach with its rich purple-red late summer foliage. Lindy makes borders of chives or parsley, pops in lettuces, golden sage, purple sage, and yellow summer-flowering oregano. “Herbs are not just for cooking or folk remedies,” she says. “They are also very decorative in their own right.”

Over 500 individual herbs are listed in Island Herbs’ catalogue. Of her best sellers, Lindy says she’s mostly asked about basils, from green to purple to holy, about a dozen in all, and coriander — she specialises in a leaf variety that is less likely to bolt to seed and is sold when very small so there’s less chance of transplant shock.

Overall, though, thymes are the most popular and she offers a wide range, more than 25 varieties.

Lindy stocks some unusual offerings, among them: Golden seal, a Canadian medicinal herb; liquorice, for both culinary and medicinal use (“you can just scrape and eat the roots,” she explains, adding that, perhaps surprisingly, it’s from the pea family); alpine lady’s mantle from Switzerland, “a beautiful little plant”. She has saffron bulbs, and stevia, the sugar herb, said to be a thousand times sweeter than sugar. Hops, delightfully delicately green with fine tendrils, to be seen in her own garden climbing over a metal arch, is also available in season.

Island Herbs sells only plants, each with an identification tag giving a few tips on growing and use. Herbs can be grown to order, and there’s a discount rate for a bulk buy.

The nursery is open 9-5 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 19 Beach Road, Snug (03) 6267 9218, and there’s the stall at Salamanca Markets every Saturday and at special events, such as the Taste of Huon, at other times. ¶