Category Archives: Suppliers

Good sources of unusual seeds and plants

Recent plantings and changes in the Borderland garden

I have made some changes in the Borderland garden over the past two weeks.  The vegetable patch begun last year (for a polyculture of perennial vegetables) has been moved and fruit trees planted. 

The vegetable patch was in the way of a planned extension to the house and needed to be moved.  For anyone who has not read last year’s posts about the development of this bed it was constructed from a mixture of twigs, branches, decomposed humus-y material from the hedge, upturned lawn turf and grass and hedge trimmings.  Considering its’ haphazard ‘construction’ the amount of growth the plants made was quite astonishing and the produce was good as well.

The branches and twigs that had formed the edges of the bed were used as a foundation for the new one and just laid on top of the grass.  This was covered with the remaining materials – mainly soil plus smaller twigs.  It was interesting to see how things had developed in the bed over time – it was still a long way off what you could call a well formed soil, but it had lots of worms and in one part the mycelia resulting from the breakdown of woody material was very evident.  

A very low hazel edging has been put round the bed to ensure that it all looks neat and tidy.  It has been planted up with the plants that were in the former bed:

  • Perennial kales
  • Sea beet
  • Perennial leeks
  • Welsh onions
  • Wild rocket
  • Clumping spring onions
  • Radish (last year’s kept for seed)
  • Carrot (also for seed)
  • Around the edge are herbs – wild marjoram, fennel, mint, lemon balm

I have added some other things:

  • Flowers – to help stabilise the edges of the bed and for the insects and bees – foxglove, bugle, honesty, forget me not, toad flax, creeping Jenny, violet, pulmonaria plus some summer flowering bulbs, a camellia and another flowering shrub.
  • For nitrogen fixing and to eat – field bean and peas have been sown.
  • To get more of the soil covered with plants I have scattered some saved flax seeds on and will throw some spare phacelia seeds on later today.

At the moment the main thing is to get things growing in it as that is my way of ensuring the vitality, health and fertility of the soil.

In due course I will also plant:

  • Roots – probably Jerusalem artichoke, oca, yacon and scorzonera
  • Beans – some new varieties to experiment with
  • Anything else I can fit in!

I have also planted some fruit trees – four are in so far with one more to go.  I wanted fruit trees from the outset but have taken some time to observe the garden and think about what to get.  There are so many to choose from and I found it a daunting task.  However it was made easier discovering some heritage Welsh apple trees in a local garden centre.  A bit of internet research revealed Ian Sturrock and Sons, Welsh Fruit Tree Nursery in Bangor, north Wales.  They specialise in researching and trialling ancient varieties and have a range of rare fruit trees for sale.  I have bought:

  • Apple – Trwyn Mochyn (Pig’s Snout), a large green cooking apple from Anglesey first recorded in the 1600s.
  • Plum – Denbigh, the only native Welsh plum to survive, first mentioned in 1785.
  • Damson – Abergwyngregyn, from a single tree growing on the Menai Straits which is thought to be over two hundred years old.
  • Cherry – Cariad, bred to do well in the Welsh climate and tested along the Menai Straits for ten years.

I have planted one other apple – Sunset.  It is a small apple, similar to a Cox but more disease resistant.  This came from another nursery near home.

It will be some years before these one and two year old trees begin to bear fruit, but I am already relishing the thought.  In the meantime there will be harvests of raspberries, blackcurrants, jostaberries, gooseberries, loganberries, tayberries, chokeberries and wild strawberries.  These are already in the garden and I plan to add more types of fruit later this year.

Here are a couple of pictures to show how things look at present:

photo (14)

photo (25)

It was really lovely being outside and feeling spring coming ever closer with crocuses in flower, warming sunshine, chirruping birdsong and that intangible knowledge that spring is in the air.

List of Perennial Vegetable Suppliers 2014

The most popular links on my blog are easily those to seed companies that sell perennial vegetables.  Last year I did a spreadsheet to cover all the main perennials and who supplies them and supplied it to a few people I knew were interested.  This year I decided that it would be a good idea to update it and put it on the blog to download.  So here it is:  perennial vegetable suppliers 2014

It is not intended to be absolutely exhaustive and it does not cover every possible perennial vegetable that you may be looking for.  However, it does cover my favourites, plus a few I have not had much joy with (but others might).  It gives a current price for each company that stocks the seeds (or plants in some cases).  Most prices are listed on websites, if they are not my entry just says ‘yes’.  I have been through all the websites and checked prices, but if I have made any errors then I apologise!

The list is ordered by categories – greens, then onions, then roots.  Within each category they are approximately alphabetical, but maybe not quite!  

Most of the prices are for seeds, but some lines refer to plants.  Some individual entries may be for plants – this is either indicated by text with the price or a note attached to the cell.  Hover your mouse over the little red triangle and you will see any notes I have entered.  Blank cells indicate that the item is not stocked by the company.  

  • There are two French sites – Eric Deloulay and Plantes et Jardins.  They also sell other interesting things apart from the perennial leeks, tree onions and Daubenton’s kales that I have listed but as these are much more widely available in the UK now I have not listed them here.  French readers of the blog may well find other interesting things!
  • Magic Garden Seeds is based in Germany.  In the past I have used them to obtain lathyrus tuberosus seeds (earth nut pea) but they don’t stock this at the moment.  However Chiltern Seeds and B and T World Seeds do stock them and I have some I have collected as well if anyone wants to request some.
  • Speaking of B and T World Seeds – they carry such a large range that I have not listed the seeds they stock.  
  • Kings Seeds and Suffolk Herbs appear to trade together.  As you can get both companies products on the same website I have only put in a column for Kings Seeds.
  • The Agroforestry Research Trust has a very, very long list of seeds, plants, trees and shrubs.  I have only included those that are currently (January 2014) available.  This is such a popular source that many things sell out early, but you can email to reserve items for autumn 2014.

All the companies listed often sell lots of other interesting things, so do have a browse round the websites for other things!  If there are any other good sources that I have missed out please let me know.

Happy browsing, ordering and growing!

 

Using diverse crops to ensure a yield (2)

If my garden is not resilient it is nothing; and as the summer moves on this is becoming ever more apparent.  The garden may be small, but for the area it occupies it is productive and I hope to improve that productivity in the future.  However any future productivity is at risk if the plants I grow and the way I grow them are not resilient.

Since my post on 3 July about diversity of crops sadly most of the 150 odd bean seedlings that I planted out in early June have succumbed to the wet conditions.  The few that have made it thus far are Cherokee Trail of Tears beans (from Real Seed Company) and are pictured below.  I am hoping that they will yet have time to ripen some pods from the recently formed buds.

The other plants in this picture include cardoon, oca, marjoram (foreground) and wild strawberries, mint, evening primrose (background).

As the summer progresses the contrast between annual veggies and perennials is becoming more marked.  The field beans which were growing really well have all contracted the rust virus and died.  Tomatoes (under cover) are doing okay but not as well as last year and the carrots have hardly showed above ground.

However kales continue to produce leaves and shoots – they do not usually do much in the summer, but seem to be demonstrating an enjoyment of the cool, wet conditions.  Most of the perennial root crops are growing well above ground and I trust below ground too, but it’s a bit early to check that out.  Welsh onions are smaller than in previous years, but the tree onions have multiplied well.  Wild rocket has been a mainstay of the salad bowl for months.  This picture features variegated Daubenton’s kale, oca, marjoram, wild rocket, dead nettle, toad flax and others.

In addition to managing to cope with the weather perennials grown in polycultures are really easy to manage.  I let what will grow around them grow, until it starts to get in the way and then just cut it back and leave it to fall to the ground.  I have been doing this for years now with no problems.  It takes very little time and gives temporary residence to a variety of wild flowers – speedwell, dead nettle, toad flax to name a few.  Compost has been applied in between some perennials as a surface mulch as it has become available from the heap and is also helping to keep down the work by suppressing unwanted growth and fertilising the soil from above.

I definitely spend much more time enjoying the garden than working in it.  I am keeping a record of exactly how much time and will use this information in a future post later in the year when the days have drawn in again.  I am also recording everything that is harvested and will analyse this as well during the winter.  I know that complacency is dangerous and will continue to experiment, observe and reflect on everything (that grows and does not) with the aim of making the garden ever more resilient.

Unpredictable, tempestuous, ill mannered weather has long been the lot of the British.  I have been reading about rural life and farming through various decades of the 20th century and one ever repeating theme is the variability and unkindness of the weather as in this war time diary:

“This regrettable weather, which has been holding up our invasion, has also held up haymaking.  We had a drought for so long, indeed there has been no rain to speak of all winter and all spring has been so dry, that there is scarcely any hay to cut and when the rains came it was so necessary for our root crops that it was difficult to know whether to be pleased about it for the crops or sorry about it for the hay…… we cut the hayfield and that very night the weather changed again and for 3 weeks we had rain day after day”  The Milk Lady at New Park Farm, The Wartime Diary of Anne McEntegart (p102).

So, on one hand it is not surprising that we continue to experience wild fluctuations and seasonal abnormalities – warm springs, dry winters, wet summers, floods, arctic winters and so on – but on the other hand climate change makes it certain that such wild fluctuations will not only continue but are likely to increase.  Any food growing on whatever scale must be largely able to withstand whatever weather comes along.

And so to finish with this is a photo that I hope conveys something of the vitality and exuberance of the perennials – with yacon, oca and marjoram (with masses of flowers) in the foreground; kales running to seed (which I will save), clover and Chinese artichoke in the middle ground; mashua and a ginormous kale plant under an apple tree at the back, with raspberries at the very back.  It is my little piece of Eden.

Autumn glory

This morning the glorious autumn sunshine sparkled on the dew covered garden.  It was like a distillation of joy!  I have no time to spend outside today soaking up the sunshine and pottering about; but small moments rescued from between the collective pressures of this, that and the other help to redress the balance in life.  I have been out for a quick wander amongst the plants, picking seeds, savouring what is probably the last fresh strawberry until 2012 and anticipating some harvests yet to come. 

The Cherokee Trail of Tears french beans are still flowering and producing pods large enough to eat, seemingly in a few days.  Those that I have not managed to get in time are being allowed to mature for seed for next year.  I bought them from the Real Seed Company and they match their description of being prolific and cropping over a long season (http://www.realseeds.co.uk/beans.html).  Clearly they are not perennials like most of my vegetables, but I am trying to use as many beans and peas as I can for the benefit of their nitrogen fixing properties as well as obviously to eat.

It is a bit early for taking stock of the season as a whole with roots and tubers not yet ready to harvest. I have noticed tubers forming beneath some of the oca growing in containers.  They were bulging upwards and going a bit green, so I covered them with some soil.  An indication, I hope, of lots more forming out of sight.

I am hoping that the harvest from the truly massive Jerusalem artichokes matches the towering growth.  These pictures were taken a few minutes ago, the second with the camera held just above my head!

Wonderful Welsh onions

I harvested two Welsh onions this afternoon.  They were approximately 95 cm tall at the highest point and yielded 200g of green leaf  and 125g of stem.  I use the leaves raw in salad, or if they are a bit tough they can be lightly cooked, maybe in an omelette.  The stem is pungently oniony and is best cooked.  I have just eaten a very small raw slice of it and my mouth is hot!

Welsh onions are reliably perennial and hardy – I have been growing them for four years with no problems, although some did die last winter.  If you are wondering how they can be perennial after being dug up and eaten – they tend to clump and grow new bulbs / stems from the base.  The two plants I dug today began as one plant.  I was going to dig one and leave one, but that was not practical.  I could have re-planted the second, thus preserving the clump.  As an experiment I have cut off the bottom 2 – 3 cm of each and replanted those sections to see if they grow.

This year they have performed better than ever before.  Previously they have had to contend with a succession of very wet, cool and sunless summers and I think that they have appreciated this year’s drier and warmer conditions.  I have plants dotted about the garden, trying out different types of location; and their favourite place is at the edge of a deep bed which is fertile, moist (because well mulched) and well drained. 

I have raised my plants from seed and on the strength of the good results this summer have got lots of young plants coming on.  Seed is currently available from:

The pictures below show before and after photos to give some idea of the size of the plants and the yields.

Before,

after,

and ready to eat

After six months of happy blogging……….

After six months of happy blogging what have I learned about my garden and blogging about it?

Firstly it has been immensely gratifying that people actually visit the blog and read it, and even more so when they leave a comment or send an email.  I know perennial veggies are a minority interest, certainly compared to the oft occurring blog themes about food, photography, travel, parenthood and humour.  However my veggies are dear to me and I hope that they will in due course become more widely known and planted.

About my garden

  • That it is taking time to re-establish my polyculture of perennial greens following the harsh winter.
  • That, like all gardens, it is a joy all the time to watch things growing.
  • Some days it seems like things are forging ahead and growing well to my idea of a “plan” and some days it seems like that is not happening at all.  Some plants like the Jerusalem artichokes, oca, Chinese artichokes, Daubenton’s kale, skirret, wild rocket are very happy in this garden and I know are reliable performers.  On the other hand the yams are only growing slowly and I had hoped they would go like the clappers!  I probably need more patience!  This is a longer term game than just what is happening today.

About blogging

  • Some items are of more interest than others, in particular a lot of people are searching the web for information on perennial veggies in general and Daubenton’s kale and oca in particular.
  • Information about these on my blog and links to suppliers of perennial veggies in France are the most oft visited posts.
  • I am also having fun reading other people’s blogs which I never did before.

This is what one of my polycultures looks like today.  There is oca on the left, skirret (in flower) and more oca on the right, with clover in the middle, a few shallots on the extreme right, a gooseberry bush at the back with an apple tree and Jerusalem artichoke growing at the back along the fence.  And the sun is shining!

New arrivals

I always get excited about new plants.  Watching seedlings pop up to the surface is endlessly fascinating and getting new plants from a grower or nursery is better than unwrapping my Christmas presents!  Someone at work said I must have boring Christmases, but ’tis not so, they just don’t appreciate the joy of new plants. 

Today I had a bumper delivery of Jerusalem artichokes, yacon, dioscorea batatas (yam), bunium bulbocastanum, some alliums, apios americana and wasabia plus a lovely Japanese wineberry.  These are from Edulis – growers of rare plants – who have a good selection of perennial vegetables plus other lovely things.  The perennial vegetable page of their website is to be found at http://www.edulis.co.uk/product/?pid=41522 and I recommend you have a look!