Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Plants, Wildlife and Polycultures for Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes Part 1

EcologyPlants, Wildlife and Polycultures for Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes Part 1


Upper Canopy Layer – Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree in the forest garden. This time 9 years ago this very same organism was a tiny seed on the tips of my fingers on its way to a seed tray

Growing these trees from seed is relatively easy, you just need to make sure to barely cover the seeds and to keep the surface moist during the germination phase. the tiny seedlings can be a little tricky to handle when pricking out into pots and if you are growing in an area with cold winters you should cover and keep the seedlings indoors for the first two winters. 

Growing from seed is great as you will promote genetic diversity in your stock, especially useful for forest planting. It’s also very easy to grow Paulownia from root cuttings. Thicker root cuttings (3cm>) will be more reliable but long and thin roots (15 cm long 1cm thick) should also work well.  We harvest root cuttings from 2-year-old trees during the dormant season by unearthing the plants and cutting back the lateral roots to the main stem. The tree can be replanted and will grow new roots and shoots the following season.  

The below photo is of a small stand of Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree that we have been experimenting with in one of our gardens, Aponia. Based on the performance of these trees we are planning a coppice rotation, the goal being to produce fuel wood. The wood burns fast but when mixed with a hardwood log such as oak or beech it should work well.   At 1.5 spacing between trees and 3m between rows, these plants have shown excellent growth and regrowth following coppice. You can read more about how we manage the coppice here and here.

 

Shrub Layer – Spartium junceum, commonly known as Spanish broom is a reliable nitrogen-fixing shrub for our gardens. It’s easy to grow from seed, requires little care is drought tolerant, does ok in semi-shade ( 5-6 hrs of direct sunlight), and even better in full sun, and is extremely attractive to carpenter bees among other pollinating insects. 

We’ve pruned them very hard (50%) in the past but have lost a few so we’ll only prune lightly when they start to impede access. Spanish broom has been used in traditional cultures for various purposes. For example, it has been used in basket weaving and as a source of yellow dye for textiles and is believed to have diuretic, laxative, and sedative effects. It has also been used to treat respiratory problems, skin disorders, and liver diseases.

Herb Layer  – Valeriana officinalis – Valerian often cited as “best grown in full sun” is doing great in the forest garden understory. We have it planted under a pepper tree, a cherry tree, and hazel and they all seem to have settled in well. 

The herb has a long history of use as a medicinal, traditionally used as a sleep aid, and some modern research suggests that it may help improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. The root of the valerian plant contains the highest concentration of the active compounds responsible for its potential sedative and sleep-promoting effects. In any case, the plant’s attractive flowers and fragrance make it a popular choice for various pollinators.

Ground Layer – Allium neapolitanum – Daffodil Garlic is a great addition to the understory of the forest garden growing well in partial shade. Their bulb proliferation results in a spreading clump that holds its territory well, eventually making a good ground cover. When the flowers do emerge there are swarms of invertebrate activity around them. Like all plants in this genus, they are edible, with leaves, flowers, and bulbs. More alliums from the nursery here  – https://www.balkep.org/plant-profiles.html

Regenerative Landscape Design – Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us on our Regenerative Landscape Design – Online Interactive Course. We look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

You can find the course details here and at the moment we have a $350 ( 20%) discount for full enrollment to the course. Just use RLD2024 in the promo code  section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

Wildlife

Great to see European Copper Skink – Ablepharus kitaibelii in the gardens. A species of lizard from the skink family (Scincidae), they look very similar to young Slow worms but if you look closely you can see this species has small legs.  

A small lizard typically measures around 15 to 20 centimeters in length, their habitats include woodlands, shrublands, and rocky areas, where the skink can seek refuge among crevices and debris. Copper Skink is diurnal and actively forages during the day for its preferred diet, which includes insects, spiders, and small invertebrates. The Copper Skink is oviparous, with females laying a small clutch of eggs in a sandy or loamy soil. Hopefully, the undisturbed areas of our gardens provide the ideal locations for these lizards to nest.  More on reptiles from our gardens here.

Some early June wildflowers in the gardens

As the weather warms in the garden in mid-spring we can be sure to be joined by Red-backed Shrike – Lanius collurio.  Incredible to consider that every year they travel all the way from regions south of the Sahara Desert in Africa, flying thousands of kilometers to breed here. They are relentless pest predators and most probably contribute to keeping the vole populations down in our gardens 

Polyculture from Our Gardens

 Here’s a polyculture from our home Forest Garden Aponia taken in late spring

You can find plant profiles for each of the species below and all of these plants are available from our Nursery.

Herb Layer 

Canopy Layer

Shrub Layer

More plants for forest gardens here

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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov – March. – Give a happy plant a happy home 🙂

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Ultimately, it aims to build a more intimate, interactive, and actionable relationship between members, a way for the Bloom Room community to support each other’s projects and learning journeys, and to encourage and facilitate the design, build, and management of more regenerative landscapes across our planet.

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