Edible Trees, Soft Fruits and Wild Plants

Ordering and Planting in Winter and Early Spring


Future Forests (www.futureforests.net)  is a source for ordering edible trees and soft fruits by mail order.

Irish Seed Savers (www.irishseedsavers.ie) sells Heritage Apple and Pear Trees often by mail order.

Peppermint Farm and Garden (www.peppermintfarm.com) is a source for herbs and wild plants by mail order.

Sonairte, The Ecology Centre (www.sonairte.ie) often stocks wild herbs and plants for sale outside their shop.

To learn how to use edible berries, wild plants and herbs, consult the following book:

Edible Wild Plants and Herbs: A Compendium of Recipes and Remedies by Pamela Michael

The following is a list of soft fruit, trees, herbs and wild plants for a forest garden.

1. Edible Trees

Trees compose the backdrop to a forest garden.

Hazel, Cobnut and  Filbert Trees for Nuts

Elder for Flowers and Berries

Blackthorn for Sloe Berries

Hawthorn for Berries

Wild Roses for Rose Hips

Damson, Gage, Plum Trees

Cherry Trees

Irish Apple, Crabapple and Pear Trees

Rowan Trees for Berries

2. Soft Fruits

Soft fruit compose the second highest layer to the forest garden.

Gooseberries, Red, White and Black Currants, Raspberries, Thornless Blackberry, Strawberries

3. Perennial Vegetables

These vegetables follow down from the soft fruit layer.

Rhubarb, Red Stalks in Spring

Good King Henry, Perennial Spinach for Spring and Summer

Wild Garlic, Young Leaves in Spring

Globe Artichoke, Edible Flower Head in Summer

Jerusalem Artichoke, Tubers for October – February

Black Salsify, Root Vegetable

4. Herbs

Tansy, Fennel and Lovage are taller herbs to be planted below perennial vegetables, followed by the planting of the shorter herbs

Mint, Leaves

Lemon Balm, Leaves

Hyssop, Leaves and Flowers

Bergamot, Leaves

Lovage, Leaves

Fennel, Leaves and Seeds

Sage, Leaves and Flowers

Salad Burnet, Leaves

Rosemary, Leaves and Flowers

Sweet Woodruff, Leaves

Tansy, Leaves

Borage, Young Leaves in Early Spring and Flowers

5. Wild Plants

Meadowsweet and Marsh Mallow to be planted with the taller herbs, with the rest of the wild plants to be inter-mixed with shorter herbs.

Yarrow, Young Leaves in Early Spring

Marsh Mallow,  Leaves in Summer

Meadowsweet, Flowers in Summer

Primrose, Flowers in Early Spring

Nettles, Leaves Cooked in Early Spring

National Tree Week

January 25, 2010

The Tree Council of Ireland (www.treecouncil.ie) will be hosting National Tree Week between March 7-March 13, 2010. The Tree Council’s goal is “fostering a tree culture in Ireland through action and awareness.” The theme for this year’s National Tree Week is “Twenty Ten Plant Again.”

Groundswell will host two public workshops during this week (one for adults and one for children), on the topic of forest gardening and including creative activities for children celebrating trees.

The Tree Council “is a voluntary non-governmental organisation which was formed in 1985, to promote the planting, care and conservation of trees in both urban and rural areas.”

The Tree Council states that “despite the great advances in the past 100 years Ireland remains one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 10% of our land planted with trees compared to the European average of 36%. Ireland has agreed a target to increase our forest cover to 17% by 2035. By doing something as simple as planting a tree, everyone can play his or her part in helping the environment.”

Cozy, by artist Shirley Wiebe, is an ephemeral art work located within Stanley Park, Vancouver. Cozy is a gesture of care for a severed Douglas Fir broken by fierce windstorms. Each medallion has been engraved with the “hopes, concerns, joys and philosophies of many individuals.” In her artist statement Wiebe describes the work as “addressing the importance of mature trees in the forest, as they physically and symbolically shelter what remains of this tree. It is a nurturing gesture that acknowledges the care and attention our environment needs in order to continue looking after us. As the cozy covering decays, it will provide habitat in the forest for small mammals and other organisms living in the forest.” The hemp fibers used to tie the medallions together may also be used by birds for nesting.

We Hold Our Hands Up To You

January 15, 2010

The Vancouver Park Board, Stanley Park sponsored these environmental artworks, entitled We Hold Our Hands Up to You, by artists Davide Pan and T’Uy’Tanat Cease Wyss. The carving of first nations indigenous people’s words and the planting of native saplings into tree stumps, symbolically represents the  naturally occurring role of ‘nurse logs’ as hosts for decomposition, insects, bacteria, fungus, and ultimately the germination of tree and plant seeds. Organic wool was placed inside some of the carved words to highlight the indigenous language of the artists. The artists describe their work as follows: “The gathering of cedar bark is something that has to happen when the tree is alive, so the bark is supple and pliable. This gathering has been a practice that is recognised by many coastal peoples. We wanted to honour that presence in this landscape, and to bring attention to it so that people understand the cultural significance and respect it.”

Motivational Reading

January 15, 2010

Artwork by Shirley Wiebe: Cozy, A Wooden Patchwork Quilt to Comfort a Storm Broken Douglas Fir, Stanley Park Environmental Art, Vancouver

Book List:

Irish Trees: Myths, Legends and Folklore,  by Niall MacCoitir

Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore, by Niall MacCoitir

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, by Roger Deakin

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, by Toby Hemenway

Collins Wildlife Gardener, by Stefan Buczacki

Flora Hibernica: The Wild Flowers, Plants and Trees of Ireland by Jonathan Pilcher and Valerie Hall

Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford

How to Make a Forest Garden, by Patrick Whitefield

Forest Gardening: Rediscovering Nature and Community in a Post-Industrial Age, by Robert A de J Hart

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, by Fritz Haeg

Creative Vegetable Gardening, by Joy Larkcom

New Book of Herbs, by Jekka McVicar

Ecological Ingredients

January 15, 2010

Entangled Growth

A front border forest garden planted with rose hips, crab apples, black and red currants, rhubarb,  gooseberries and elder. Naturalistic garden areas are densely planted habitats that contribute to the ecological diversity of not only a particular domestic or community garden, but to an overall network of natural spaces within a larger geographical area. A forest garden can be a straight border, a series of designed beds, a hedgerow, or be situated alongside a kitchen garden. The aesthetic is a textured crafting of native trees and plants, that act as food for both humans and wildlife. These habitats offer sanctuaries for wildlife, but also inspire associations to the traditional use of wildly foraged seasonal foods and tonics. Equally there are many seasonal celebrations connected to native plants and trees, that heighten their role as important symbols within Irish folklore.

Forest Gardening

January 14, 2010

Forest gardens are naturescapes, organic and ecological gardens that benefit wildlife, the environment and offer an edible food source throughout the year. A backdrop or canopy of trees (producing fruits, nuts and berries) are planted as a surround for the growing of additional layers of soft fruits, herbs, edible wild plants and both perennial and annual vegetables. Forest gardening, combines hedgerow foods (i.e. crabapple, sloes, haws, rosehips, and elderberries), winter vegetables (i.e. leeks, cabbage, swiss chard, spinach, and kale) and herbs (i.e. rosemary, sage, mint, lemon balm, fennel). Leaf mould is applied as a top layer to the soil, gradually breaking down to enhance moisture retention and improve the texture of the soil. Additionally old straw, seaweed, rotted manure and compost are also applied as additional layers of mulch, which gradually de-compose to improve not only the nutrients of the soil, but encourage the creation of new top soil rich with insect and bacterial life. The decaying log at the front of this community garden (located in Strathcona Community Garden, Vancouver), and the naturalised hedgerow at the back offer hibernation areas for over-wintering insects. Bees will be attracted to the flowers of fruiting trees (i.e. blackthorn, hawthorn, apple, plum, cherry and elder) as well as the pollen of hazel trees located in the hedgerows that create the backdrop scene for forest gardens.