foundations for fruitfulness

Over the last two weeks or  so we have had persistent, relentless rain or battering winds or, at times, both!  However one evening recently there was a short, warm, sunny interlude and I went out to spend time in the garden.  It felt full.  It felt abundant and it was beautiful.  Mercifully the air was still and as well as my own feelings of tranquillity and joy it seemed to me that the garden herself was feeling the same.  Perhaps it was a hint of the (yet to come) autumnal feeling of mellow fruitfulness, of being surrounded by a deep peace, and the sense of worthwhile accomplishment, things well done and of deep satisfaction.

Of course, none of this is my doing.  As an ecosystem the garden of equal delights is her own ‘being’ and I am but one part of that greater whole.  It is the garden that brings forth the abundance.  I assist in setting up and supporting conditions that will help, but that is all, the real ‘work’ is done entirely by others.

In a forest garden biodiversity means health; a living soil and increasing biomass mean increasing fertility, and together health and fertility mean abundance .”
I think of this as the foundational principle because it holds within it just about everything needful to know; that is to say that everything in the forest garden and the forest gardener’s experience relates directly to this principle.”

This then is the principle of forest gardening that encapsulates the entirety of possibilities that may ensue.  How that works out in practice is explored and explained further in my book ‘the garden of equal delights‘.

Every year since the currant bushes began to bear fruit there has been huge amounts of fruit on them.

juicy blackcurrants bursting with flavour

Last year I pruned one blackcurrant bush back to the branches that I thought would be able to hold the weight of future heavy crops, but the bush is once again so full that many branches are close to lying on the ground.

left hand side of a blackcurrant bush, branches supporting themselves on the fence and leaning to the floor

central part of the same blackcurrant bush, some branches are upright and my partner is picking currants

right hand side of the same bush, laden branches leaning to the ground

I swear these blackcurrants must be the tastiest on the planet, they are simply superb!  I made jam with one kilo of fruit and we have had some more fruit either raw or cooked, but my estimate is that we have taken off less than a quarter of the fruit from this bush and hardly touched several other bushes.  It is never my intention to take everything.

Redcurrants, whitecurrants, gooseberries and jostaberries are also heavily laden and bending downwards.  There are lots of these bushes all over the garden where I put cuttings in the early years.  I have made some jam and jelly from jostaberries and whitecurrants and plan some gooseberry jam and redcurrant jelly, but once again the vast majority of these fruits will feed the birds.

redcurrants

whitecurrants

gooseberry, Hinomaki red

jostaberries ripening

This is the first year that strawberries have done well and for a few weeks we had a bowl of them each evening with our meal.  I left about half the fruit for the mice and birds.  It is also the first year that the amelanchier bushes have borne fruit.  I tasted them cautiously at first, and soon found out they are very pleasant, if a bit seedy!  The colours are magnificent as they ripen through a range of reds and purples.  I have gathered a small bowlful most days since they began to ripen, and the majority will be eaten by the birds.  At first I thought the birds may not be interested in them as some over ripe berries were falling to the floor; but then I saw a blackbird balancing on a swaying branch in the wind and getting his fill before hopping across to the cherry tree for his next course!

Amelanchier (Juneberry) berries

This is also the first year that the cherry trees have had more than a few fruit.  The two sweet varieties – Stella and Cariad – lost a lot of their fruit during the very dry time we had before this very wet time, but the Morello cherry has held on to hers and they are utterly beautiful.

Morello cherry

Morello cherries

I have a bowlful to make some jam later on today, and once again, the rest will be for the birds.

 

 

Posted in Borderland Garden, forest garden development, Forest Gardening, Fruit, Fruit trees, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

a word about pricing – and full marks for The Hive independent bookseller

It has just come to my attention that Amazon are selling my book – the garden of equal delights – at above the cost price.  I am not sure how they get away with that – and I think it is equally likely that the extra will go to them and not me!  Their price is £13.78, [later note, this does seem to vary as it has gone down by 4p on 1 July and by 8 July down to the cover price] but you can get free delivery even without their prime deal.  Otherwise the postage is £2.99 making £16.77 altogether.

Triarchy the publisher has a 20% discount on the cost price of £12.50, making it £10 plus £2.50 for UK delivery.  Being the publisher Triarchy always have the book in stock.

And the best deal – a place I consistently buy books – is The Hive (an online independent bookseller) who is selling for £9.79 with no postage costs.

  • Later note on 8 July – The Hive sold out quickly after I put this post on and have just got the book back in stock again today, the price remains the same and if by chance they sell out again, you can still order and they send it once it is back in stock.
  • And later again note on 9 July – The Hive has sold out again, but as above please order anyway.  
  • Back in stock on 10 July! But sold out in the afternoon!

Waterstones have the cost price of £12.50 but a two week wait.

Posted in the garden of equal delights | 3 Comments

today is publication day!

It is nearly four years from when I first conceived of the possibility of unearthing some principles underlying forest gardening; there have been many hours, days, weeks, months of writing, re-writing, re-re-writing and editing, who knows how much watching and waiting, thinking, reading, considering and reframing …. such an enormous amount of work goes into writing a book.  But having said that, it is now done and ‘the garden of equal delights‘ is published today.

It is just as well that I am pleased with the result!   Not only because it is an achievement, but more particularly because I think this book unfolds and explains a different perspective on the relationship between a gardener and their garden (forest garden or otherwise).  This is a change of perspective that puts the garden and the natural world at the heart of everything, it effectively demotes the gardener from controller at the apex of a hierarchical pyramid looking down on their dominion, to a much more humble place alongside the many other members of the garden community.  To find this more lowly place there is so much to learn and also much to un-learn.  It is my greatest hope that every reader finds much more within the pages than they were expecting and that they then go on to find and live out a very different and deeper relationship both with their own garden and also with the wider world beyond.

And this is how today finds the actual garden of equal delights in the gentle sunshine and a little less gentle breeze up here on our hill in the Welsh borderlands.  I have just walked round and taken a few very quick photos to illustrate a few of the principles of forest gardening.

peering through a small part of a complex, interconnected ecology – from an apple tree across fruit bushes and perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers to another apple tree in the background

 

polyfloral flowers (phacelia)

 

more polyfloral flowers (thyme)

 

edible abundance ripening, and I will harvest ‘only enough’

 

and more edible abundance on the way for the birds (and me)

 

welcome the wild

 

life cycle gardening

 

and always continue to welcome the wild

Posted in a different garden, a different gardener, a forest garden is gardened differently, Borderland Garden, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | 4 Comments

now is the unfolding of forever

My labour of love writing ‘ the garden of equal delights‘  has now come to fruition and I have gathered a few quotes together to give you a flavour of what you will find within:

a forest garden

“A forest garden is like no other garden. As well as food harvests and many tangible benefits for the land and local ecology, forest gardening presents the gardener with an opportunity to find a new relationship with the natural world, to see, feel and think differently; even to live differently.  

A forest garden is a beautiful, fertile, healthy and abundant edible landscape. It is first conceived in the gardener’s imagination, it gestates in our planning and planting and then one day it is ready to grow. But we don’t plant a forest garden and then garden it just as if it was a ‘normal’ horticultural garden. We garden it differently because it is a different garden.”

 

giving up control

“ ….. in becoming forest gardeners we are stepping away from everything being about what we – as individuals or as a race – want. Becoming a forest gardener is no small thing, but it does require us to become smaller, shrinking to occupy a more fitting and appropriate ecological niche than the place we formerly occupied. Thus we start to learn that this is not about imposing our will on the garden, but paradoxically neither is it about letting nature get on with it alone. Rather this is about effectively pressing the pause button on human intervention and entering into an interaction or a dialogue with the natural processes at play in the garden. Although the concept of giving up control is a simple one this is a profound and challenging change of direction.

 

watching and waiting

“At a time in history when all our former certainties about how the world is or should be or will be are gradually (or not so gradually) abandoning us, now is the time to come to terms with flexibility and uncertainty, to learn to dance with life, experiment, wait and see, be patient, do things differently. Here then is a precious opportunity that is almost always overlooked. Pausing is the prerequisite – abstaining from action and then, in that pause, hand-in-hand come the twin sisters of watching and waiting, or if you prefer, waiting and watching. Neither precludes nor precedes the other – they come together or they don’t come at all.”

 

 

relationship

“Planning and planting a forest garden is just the very beginning of the relationship and this co-creativity begins immediately after planting and continues ever after. First, there is the everyday level of interacting with the forest garden to support it in creating and sustaining an ecosystem that will become healthy, fertile and abundant. But there is a deeper level as well which is about how we habitually relate to the natural world. This is the story of the remaking of our human perceptions from a perspective of assumed and rightful dominance and control of nature to a place of humble, appreciative, thoughtful and sensitive integration with it. Therein are significant treasures that are not at all obvious from the outset.”

 

paradigm change

“Participating with nature in the growth and development of the forest garden is not an easy transition to make; it is challenging, uncomfortable and can bring out all sorts of insecurities and fears. Leaving behind the attitudes and beliefs that we have all been immersed in all our lives is at once very simple and very difficult. It is simple to understand and in the context of forest garden theory it makes perfect sense. But it is harder to put into practice because it is the antithesis of how we humans see our place and function in the world. We believe that we are here to dominate and to control, not to stand aside and watch nature take over. But stand aside the forest gardener must. The changes engendered on the journey of becoming a forest gardener so fundamentally alter the relationship between the gardener and the natural world that they are significant enough to be described as a new paradigm.”

 

wildness and healing

“When the wild knocks at the boundaries of your garden asking to be allowed in, it will be life itself looking for a way in, seeking a crack or an opportunity through which to enter. And therefore all you need to do is to be open to that opportunity and see where it takes you. It will be the whole seeking its disparate parts, trying to breach the void, reunite and reintegrate them. Life is the gardener, and the forest gardener recognises that it is calling us to pay attention. This is a call to heal the land, heal the people and heal the rift between us.”

 

now is the unfolding of forever

“Continuity and renewal are the context for everything in the forest garden and for me. Now is the unfolding of forever and as all the trees and plants in the forest garden live out their own life cycles, generation upon generation, life itself cycles through the garden. This is never-ending. The forest garden has a future continuing into time unknown. Thus it becomes a bridge across time and space as energy and matter cycle repeatedly through all life. The forest garden is a localised part of great global cycles – cycles of carbon, nitrogen, water and more. There are cycles within cycles, all interconnected, melting from one to another in the endlessly productive dance of life. This is a paradox of constant change within continuity, and within it there is a magical element of unpredictability. The challenge is to learn to live with this, to live with energy and matter – the ultimate constituents of every life – transforming themselves endlessly in repeating dance. The forest gardener is a dancer too. My place is in that circle of life – alongside you and all life. It always was.”

 

the garden of equal delights was published on 22nd June 2020 and is available from Triarchy Press and all good booksellers.

Posted in a different garden, a different gardener, a forest garden is gardened differently, the garden of equal delights | 13 Comments

we too are seeds

A seed is a latent speck of life. As it germinates and begins the metamorphosis to becoming a plant it gives up its solitary identity – cracking open is a precursor to profound change as it starts to interact with the air, soil and water which enable it to grow and mature. Eventually it takes its place in the community of all life and receives from this community support, nourishment and nurture. In due course it its’ own turn it will die and decay as it reciprocates the support, nourishment and nurture it has received. In the completion of its lifecycle is the fulfilment of its original inherent potential.

We are used to being separate and to being – or trying very hard to be – in control of the environment around us. However, forest gardens ask us to become very different gardeners, in the same way that life gardens very differently. They invite the forest gardener to metaphorically plant themself within the garden, into this localised, forming and expanding web of life. And in so doing to choose to submit to their own personal germination and metamorphosis in order to reach a much deeper understanding of and interaction with our forest gardens and also with the wider natural world.

But whilst this is what a seed does naturally – because it cannot do otherwise – it is not easy for us – rather, it is very difficult indeed. To be like a seed we need to germinate, giving up control in order to connect and embrace a relaxed submission that allows nature the freedom to make her own interventions in the garden.

But having taken this step on the journey to becoming an integral part of the forest garden community a profoundly different perspective opens up. We begin to see and then to think differently – from a connected viewpoint that eventually comes to a heartfelt knowledge of the forest garden as a community of equality – each plant, tree, bush, fungus, soil dwelling micro-organism, each insect, bird and animal all offering their own unique gifts and attributes to the wellbeing of the whole.

Planting just one seed is an act of healing for the garden, planting a forest garden is an act of healing on a larger scale; planting oneself within the forest garden is an act of faith and trust which goes further still because ultimately it is also an act of self healing.

shield bugs on dandelion seed heads have their place in the garden and so do we

Posted in a different gardener, Borderland Garden, Forest Gardening, Relationship with nature, Seeds and seed saving, the garden of equal delights | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Taunton Deane kale in flower

This has never happened before – my Taunton Deane kale is just coming into flower.  I have had the plant for years and it has always been just leaves and I have propagated it with cuttings.  It’s a lovely plant and makes wonderful kale crisps when dried in a low oven.

Taunton Deane kale flower

The plant itself is humungous – about as tall as the nearby apple tree – even though I cut it back a lot last year.

Taunton Deane kale (right) apple Sunset (left)

Posted in Borderland Garden, perennial greens, Perennial Vegetables | Tagged | 2 Comments

do less, see more, learn

As we accustom ourselves to life in lockdown – for however long that may be – we find the need to contain ourselves within a much smaller space than we are used to and in so doing we to rediscover ourselves and our places anew.

One way to do this is to focus on the smaller picture, that which is often too diminutive to come to our attention and in so doing we may find that the bigger picture is contained within the smaller picture.

It was through the practice of watching and waiting – and conversely of waiting and watching – in my forest garden that I learned everything that I have learned about what happens within it. Very slowly over the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years the bigger picture has assimilated itself within me.

As an illustration of watching and of waiting I have been taking daily photographs of the beautiful unfolding blossom on the cherry, pear and apple trees in the garden. The photos below are of the cherry – Cariad – from 9th to 22nd April and they speak for themselves.  As it happened I chose to focus on the buds that would ultimately be almost the last to reveal fully opened blossoms and you can see the others opening in the background beforehand.

However I must add two caveats: Firstly that I am not a photographer and that the image is not placed in exactly the same way in succeeding day’s picture, but nevertheless you can clearly see the gentle, delicate unfolding of the blossom, almost imperceptible from day to day, but clearly marked over a relatively short space of time. And secondly that true watching is not accomplished by means of taking photos, to truly see you must only watch and wait and leave the camera behind.

And then what you see – ever clearer as time goes on – is life looking back at you.

Do less, see more, learn.

Posted in Borderland Garden, Forest Gardening, Principles of forest gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights, Waiting, Watching | Tagged | 3 Comments

when I say ‘my garden’ I mean ….

When I refer to ‘my garden’ I don’t mean that the garden belongs to me.

Legally, it does belong to me, in terms of ownership charted on a document – or more likely on a database.  But this kind of belonging and the association with possessions and then inevitably with control is not what a forest garden is about.

I would prefer to say that I belong to the garden, which brings with it connotations of cleaving to, of relationship, reciprocity and mutuality.

Instead of buying land – maybe we should marry it?

 

 

Posted in Borderland Garden, Relationship with nature | 1 Comment

for all of life

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago shortly before the coronavirus outbreak took such a tight grip.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Forest gardens are not solely for their ‘owners’ and gardeners, really they are not even primarily for people – forest gardens are for life.

We are living in a time of environmental collapse and ecological disaster – brought about by human activity over centuries, but rapidly accelerated in our own lifetimes.

If we want our forest gardens to be solely or primarily for ourselves and we therefore set out to take as much from them as possible, with scant regard for the rest of the living ecosystem that is needed to support that taking – we will not actually be able to get what we want, because forest gardens – like the larger ecosystems in which they are embedded – require cyclical, reciprocal processes that support and enhance life, not linear extractive ones.

As a species we habitually behave as though we have no need to consider and co-operate with other living beings – rather we take for granted that we can have and take what we want, failing to see that we are fundamentally and totally interdependent with the rest of the living world.  (If only out of self interest) we need to start living and behaving very differently – though I would sincerely hope that we can muster much more appropriate intentions than that.

I think that there may be two very different (unhelpful) misconceptions about forest gardens and forest gardening around:
* firstly that you can plant a forest garden, step back and do absolutely nothing and then reap abundant harvests;
* or secondly that you can plant a forest garden and then garden it the same way as you would any other garden.

These misconceptions are both utterly off course – because their motivation and management rests on the human wants and behaviours that are at the root of the environmental and ecological trouble our planet is in.

Forest gardens are a co-creative venture with life in all the fulness that can be manifest in that place.  When they plan and plant the garden the forest gardener makes the first move – and from then on what happens is largely, but not entirely down to nature.  The difference between this and just letting things be is that the forest gardener seeks to integrate themselves into the forest garden ecosystem and to then see what is happening systemically and with regard for all of life.  This changes their understanding, their perspective and their activity.

It is a very different way of gardening – a way that I have been discovering for over ten years.  It is both subtle and powerful, inspiring and humbling.  A lifetime is nowhere near sufficient to learn what can potentially be learned.  Over those years I have taken everything in, watching and learning, gradually gathering understanding and insight.  All that I can express of this precious journey is in my forthcoming book which due to unforesteen circumstances is now due for publication in May – although given the current coronavirus crisis I guess there are no certainties at the moment.

Life – as we are being shown – is fragile and precious and we need to treat the rest of life with appropriate care and love.

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It is less than two weeks since I wrote this and our lives have already changed for ever.  May this be a time in which we can all take heed and take heart and learn to find our own niche in our gardens and in the wider world and society – a place where we are supported and from which we can give our love and support for all of life.

.

 

Posted in a forest garden is gardened differently, Forest Gardening, Relationship with nature, the garden of equal delights | 4 Comments

Life as the measure — Forest Garden Wales Blog

As Jake says in his post we need – we must have – an ecological frame of reference, one that puts life first.  And because forest gardens embody and embed the natural world within them they invite us on a journey towards a different frame of reference, different ways of being, seeing and doing.  A forest garden is a place to meet life extending itself to us and inviting us to collaborate and co-create beautiful places:

 

Gross Domestic Product is a pretty useless measure of a country’s prosperity, it’s time to factor in the true cost of economic activity by using life as the measure Trees on the boundary of the forest garden, very much aliveDon’t know much about ecology, don’t know much economics either but what I do know is…

via Life as the measure — Forest Garden Wales Blog

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