forest gardens are amazing but they are not a panacea — gardens of delight

Quote

In this post on Gardens of Delight, Anni Kelsey makes the point that forest gardens feed not just us, but the wildlife that make it a self-sustaining ecosystem:-

And I will repeat it with emphasis – forest gardens are amazing but they are not a panacea. I could not be a bigger fan of forest gardens and forest gardening and it is absolutely no exaggeration to say that forest gardening has profoundly changed my life. Forest gardens are beautiful, vibrant, healthy and abundant […]

via forest gardens are amazing but they are not a panacea — gardens of delight

Advertisement

Autumn un-tidy

A few musings as promised on the lack of Autumn ‘tidying’ (following Anni’s post).  In theory, I should be chopping down all these seed heads …

A corner of my front border

A corner of my front border

But looking at these more closely, I observe tiny cave-like dwellings in the marjoram …

pot marjoram seed heads

pot marjoram seed heads

And lurking inside those untidy purple toadflax seedheads are nutritious black seeds, which could be a perfect snack for something on a cold day …

toadflax seeds

toadflax seeds

Where I deadheaded them earlier this year, there are hollow stems – whole tower blocks where insects could be curling up ready for the winter …

hollow toadflax stems

hollow toadflax stems

The ‘lambs lettuce’ path below is full of bits of grass, self sown cranesbill, and strawberry plants that walked out of their pots …

lambs lettuce path

lambs lettuce path

I once tried to tidy up under this hedge, pulling up the grass and intending to put bark mulch underneath.  I hadn’t got very far before I noticed a movement.  On closer inspection, I saw a tiny newt which had been taking full advantage of the warm cover that the ‘mess’ of dried grass provided.  I picked it up to check that I hadn’t injured it, feeling pretty rotten that I’d disturbed it.  It sat, blinking, on my hand. I gave up the idea of tidying, and tucked the little creature back under the hedge. 

One permaculture principle is to ‘use edges and value the marginal‘:

“don’t think you are on the right track just because its a well-beaten path” 

My untidy path is not a well-beaten one, but this edgy ‘mess’ will be a haven for wildlife through the winter.  I can still step on it to get at the lambs lettuce for winter salads.  I’ll just need to give any lurking residents a bit of warning first.

Creatures that call my garden ‘home’

I try to encourage wildlife to take up residence in my garden by growing plants in a polyculture, where edibles, flowers, herbs and wildflowers are all mixed up together.  I’m not great at photographing the little critters that move in (they don’t pose for me), but here are a few that I managed to snap this year:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Obtain a yield – rethinking space

A simple permaculture principle is to ‘obtain a yield’.  I think of this in terms of providing food or shelter for other species, as well as ourselves.  Bearing this in mind, I had long been frustrated with the border of hydrangeas which we inherited when we bought the house.  Whilst they do flower in shade (and our back garden is indeed shady), the flowers don’t seem to attract any pollinator activity, and the shrubs are not dense enough for birds to nest in.  The border was also rather uninteresting to look at:

Hydrangea border, July 17

Hydrangea border, July 17

Meanwhile, I have had a constant struggle with safely storing seedlings as I try to establish new perennial edible plants from seed.  Slugs are tremendously agile and versatile, and are experts at finding young seedlings – whether you put them ‘up high’ or not.  The only thing that worked was to put seedlings on a table with its feet in water.  Other solutions, such as shelving, ended in tears as the shelves invariably blew over in the strong gales which we are now prone to.  What I really needed was a greenhouse; a safe space for my seedlings and a place to grow winter salads.  With any luck, we might get tomatoes to ripen in there as well, as our season in the North West of the UK is short.

We had a battered collection of shade-loving shrubs in the back corner of the garden, which is the lightest corner available for a greenhouse:

Shade loving shrubs in sunny place, January 2018

Shade loving shrubs in sunny place, January 2018

So we had a rethink about the space.  This decision was a difficult one, as I prefer to leave things alone.  However, I had a whole border of unproductive space, and an opportunity to redesign it with a range of more productive and visually interesting plants, providing nectar and berries for wildlife, and prickly habitat for birds.  So in January this year, we took out the hydrangeas, chopped them up, and used the woody material to beef up the ‘path’ at the back (I will write more about this later).  We (the royal ‘we’; my husband did the digging) moved the shrubs to the hydrangea border:

Shade loving shrubs moved to new location, January 2018

Shade loving shrubs moved to new location, January 2018

In its place, we planned to put a greenhouse.   The decision to do this was, in itself, full of contradictions, as I will explain in my next post.

Bug house

The rich earthy leafy smell in the woods is telling me that we are squarely in Autumn.  So we got organised last week and furnished the bug houses.  This one is in the front garden, sited underneath the bird cherry for shade:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All carpentry by the multi-talented Rick.  As he was hammering the mesh onto the front, apparently two bugs crawled over to have a look.  A promising sign.