Growing Herbs at Rivendell Farm

Nerys. was originally developed in 1978, when Nerys and Marc Purchon had identified the need for ethical, natural, cruelty free skincare products in Western Australia. By the 1980s Nerys and Marc were identified as one of Australia's first cruelty-free brands. Nerys. seeks to produce bespoke Australian made, herbal, vegan skincare products. The following excerpt is by Marc Purchon, our formulator and one of the original founders, here he tells the story of how Nerys began. 

We settled comfortably into the property with much work still to be done.   The land had wonderful soil - chocolate loam. We had become accustomed to the sandy soils around Bunbury, where any plants needed constant watering and attention to survive.  I was interested in the nature of the soil we had settled on at the farm. In scientific terms, it was podzolic and was once home to a forest of eucalypt trees.  For many years now it had been farmed, with sheep grazing over most of it. 

The old orchard had survived – just - but the area we were most interested in developing was around the homestead. We were making terraces on the inclines coming down from the house. These fanned out from the orchard to the drive and finished at the road. There was not much traffic so the plants did not suffer severely from dust or grime. A watering system was needed over most of the area, especially during the summer months. 

The more sheltered areas were planted with the more delicate plants such as angelica and basil. The hardier herbs such as wormwood, southernwood, rosemary and lavender (usually the dentata) were grown on the lower edge of the garden, sometimes as a hedge along the road and near the chook pen. We managed to gather a variety of herb plants from friends, family, and some remote nurseries that had hard-to-get plants. I made a visit to lilydale in Melbourne where I got a couple of wonderful comfrey plants. They took pride of place near the chook run where they got plenty of nutrients.

We planted calendula plants and seeds liberally as companions for other herb plants and sometimes vegetables such as tomatoes. We had an area that was dedicated to culinary, kitchen herbs such as oregano, dill, sweet marjoram, parsley and tarragon. We planted an elder bush that was donated by a friend which produced wonderful elderflowers. This was grown on the edge of the garden so that it could expand to its magnificent form.

The medicinal herbs such as rue, tansy, pennyroyal and valerian were kept apart from our other plants and herbs. These tended to be quite aromatic, with a pungent odour liked by some and loathed by others. Some herbs such as summer, winter, or savoury edibles (often described as weeds) had their place-- they were wonderful in salads. A small separate patch for nettle was arranged, and not far away was plantain which was a well-known antidote for the sting of the nettle. 

We were dedicated to ensuring the plants were full of vigour and goodness. Today, we are still committed to this principle. Our family team is working to evolve the original skincare range for the 21st century.  With this in mind, we intend the range to be uncompromising with its ethics and integrity. Like the original range, the formulas have been kept as pure, simple, clean, herbal preparations with a focus on delivering skin support.

- Marc Purchon

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