Nestled in the lush hinterland of Byron Bay is a place called Bangalow, and off one of its winding roads exists a veritable Eden for bees. Through the gates and down a meandering drive, green hills dotted with thousands of phoenix date palms sprawl out before you. The drive ends at a small timber hut, the garden’s creator and caretaker Gabrielle Morley, sits inside, dressed impeccably, but ready to throw her bee suit over the top and head out to check on ‘the girls’ (a bee hive is upward of 90% female).
On the other side of the hut is a beautiful garden an acre or so wide, planted with all kinds of herbs and flowers of varying medicinal properties including, poppies, lavender, Mexican heather, alyssium, chamomile, lemon balm, rosemary and anise hyssop. Just beyond the fence are rows and rows of manuka varieties and other flowering native Australian trees. The entire garden is framed by towering phoenix date palms that Gabrielle explains are where it all started.
How it Began
Years ago Gabrielle planted the palms to sell commercially for landscaping projects. On a trip to the Middle East she discovered that the pollen from the palm was revered by ayurvedic practitioners for its fertility benefits and effect on both male and female sex hormones. Realising she was sitting on something extraordinary she went about devising a way to collect the pollen from the trees - meters off the ground and surrounded by spines. At close to 80 years of age, up a palm tree and competing with the local bees for the pollen, Gabrielle decided it would be much better for all involved if she let the bees do it for her. She set about researching how to create an environment that would provide peak nutrition, disease immunity and natural proliferation for the bees and before long had 30 state of the art hives surrounded by a garden rich in a healthy diet of lipids and amino acids.
Why it is so extraordinary
Gabrielle explains she plants plenty of sources of nectar and pollen close to the hives, so she doesn’t have to disturb the bees by moving them. She watches the bees and keeps notes on which flowers they visit for their medicinal needs and which for nectar then rotates plants seasonally in accordance. Her planting technique also eliminates the need for herbicides, pesticides, fertiliser and sugar supplements. The variety of floral sources at the bee’s doorstep keep the bees happy and healthy and able to create high quality honey that contains many essential properties of the medicinal garden as the bees transfer it from plant to honey. Although all the floral sources play a role in the bee’s health and impart their own benefits to the honey, Gabrielle considers her Anise Hyssop the signature plant because it ‘makes everything taste better’.
Gabrielle and her bees make the blend for our Anise Hyssop and Manuka Honey sticks, but its not a ‘blend’ the way people usually think about it – the bees blend it themselves. Anise Hyssop and Manuka honey are not mixed up together in a big container but rather, the honey is made in the hive. As bees can only travel about 5km from their hive, the abundance of Anise Hyssop and Manuka tress within easy reach means the bees are very fond of foraging on them. They bring the nectar and pollen of both plants back to the hive where they are processed, turned into honey, and stored in the comb together. You can think of it as the bee’s original blend! It is kind of like wine, it is very unique to the area, the climate and the environment it is made in. No one else can make honey exactly like it!
We adore working with Gabrielle for her knowledge of beekeeping and her intimate understanding of the ecosystem she works within and how to make sure the outcome for the bees, the natural environment and the people that end up eating the honey is as optimal as possible.