A green haven in Mount Lebanon, Zina Fine Herbs is the work of two passionate ladies, Nadine Maroun, an agricultural engineer, with years of experience in garden design and care as well as teaching science and agriculture, and Zizi Baaklini, who brings her business expertise and is now a seasoned gardener. Together they have created an organic nursery which specializes in herbs; thyme, rosemary, sage or lemongrass, micro greens; mini lettuce, arugula or mustard and edible flowers; orangey nasturtium, pansies or dandelion. They are also the ladies who have carefully crafted our gardening guide, The Book of Care, delivered with any order, and are behind our plant care advice. Simply put, they are the 'green' in Someplace Green, and we are very lucky to have them on board. Here, they tell us a little more:
When and why did you decide to start Zina Fine Herbs?
We met about 25 years ago and always wanted to do a project together. Eight years ago, we decided it was time to do it. Nadine always wanted a project linked to plants and Zizi’s daughters had just graduated school and left home. We started very small, rented a parcel of land, added a greenhouse and initially started selling aromatic herbs in pots. Then, through trial and error the project evolved to what it is today.
What is your approach to nature, in selecting & caring for plants?
We work exclusively with micro greens and edible flowers, nutritious, tender plants that we grow organically. They are delivered to restaurants, caterers as well as individuals. We do not spray or use any chemicals, this is why our products are seasonal; when the plant is in season, it grows stronger and is less prone to catch diseases. We will avoid a certain plant when it is the cycle of a particular insect that can attack it. We try to use open pollinated crops, old varieties rather than hybrids, and we do not have any genetically modified organisms. We will always choose quality and would prefer to discard a batch if it is bad. We also constantly adapt and learn; some of the advice mentioned in books do not apply to our sunny weather in Lebanon, a country where we also often lack water.
What interested you in the project Someplace Green?
We like that the project takes a service approach to gardening; once the client has the plants, there is advice to keep them in shape for the long term. We are also motivated by the idea to increase green in Beirut, and Someplace Green makes it accessible for anyone to care and maintain plants. We remember the level of details you went into when gathering plant advice to prepare the Book of Care gardening guide, such as testing the quantity of water appropriate for your pot size. We think that the detailed step by step instructions provided will make plant care foolproof.
Where do you see the place of nature in the future of our cities?
We feel that people are getting more and more aware about the benefits of nature, for example families are concerned about eating healthy and giving their children healthy, nontoxic food. We are hoping for more involvement in green initiatives, as a long-term commitment not just a green fad, where there is also a willingness to get informed and gain knowledge about going green. We think there should be a global approach to green in a city, for example municipalities could get involved by treating grey waters, trimming trees, planning green areas and displays. One initiative that goes that way is the aromatic herbs section in the public garden in Byblos. We also encourage people to embrace native, local species such as almond, pine or oak trees for their gardens.
What do you think are the benefits of gardening and getting closer to nature?
The personal benefit is it makes you happier, there have been studies that show that the contact with nature can help against depression, and gardening is used as a therapy. It also teaches you patience. For me (Zizi), I had no idea about gardening before starting Zina Fine Herbs and I am still in awe every time I see a new plant grow, or a new flower bloom. I (Nadine) also still feel that amazement effect every time! It is very rewarding to watch the fruits of our labor grow.