Over the years I have discovered that gardening with perennials is about playing the long game, looking to the future and being patient.  You can’t have what you might want immediately, you may not be able to have it soon either, but with patience there is a good chance you will get it eventually.

I do plan things for the garden, but the plans are fluid and frequently adapted, depending on how things go.

I have one mixed bed of flowers, herbs, fruit and perennial vegetables that I call the triangle bed.  It is bordered on one side by the driveway and on the other two by paths to the house.  It is in a prominent place and I like it to look nice.  Generally I have not planned what to grow here and it has filled up with an eclectic mix of things, some planted by me and some by the wind.  This spring one edge looked like this, very cheery with early flowers of sweet cicely and forget me not.  Later on in spring I decided that for this year I would plant oca and mashua within the central area of the bed mainly as ground covers, allowing the mashua to sprawl rather than to climb.

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sweet cicely, garlic, baby Jerusalem artichoke May 2106

However the soil is thin here and I have not improved it much at all yet.  As a result the oca and mashua got off to a spectacularly slow start, so slow as to be mostly invisible during the summer months.  I don’t have pictures for the central part of the bed that time as I didn’t want to record it not working out.

However what did work unexpectedly well was the lovely display of flowers, brought to the bed mostly courtesy of the wind.

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triangle bed in flower summer 2016

Lately however the oca and mashua have started to assert themselves.  It doesn’t matter to me that this hasn’t happened until now as they are not for cropping (at least not this year).  Both have demonstrated that they are reliably hardy over the winter in this garden so I shall just leave them in place.  Next year they should make a good ground cover in the middle of the bed and a harvest in the autumn or winter.

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oca and mashua starting to grow well in triangle bed autumn 2016

Another bed, that I either call polyculture no. 3 or the end bed lies across the garden encircled by lawn and backed by a hedge.  Like the other polyculture beds alongside it, it comprises branches and sticks from the roadside hedge, with upturned turfs and copious amounts of organic mulch derived from the garden.  This is often grass cuttings but also hedge trimmings, pulled up and cut off parts of plants.  I don’t have a compost heap as there is nowhere that is not clearly visible in the garden.  But I effectively stopped using one as the default option for organic bits and pieces years ago and have for a long time just put things down more or less where they derive from to decompose on the soil surface.

So this spring this bed looked rather bare and dull with a few tree onions and a bit of land cress round the side but I had hopes!

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polyculture no. 3 / end bed May 2016

I planned to grow a variety of roots – skirret, salsify, Scorzonera and also I was very excited at the opportunity to buy ulluco tubers for the first time.  Planting them straight into this bed turned out to be a big mistake as only one grew and that was eaten down after a few weeks.  I don’t know what became of the others, whether they were eaten below ground before they had a chance to show or what.  Anyway, next year I will grow them in pots first.  I was just getting a bit cocky perhaps – oca and mashua can be left outdoors here and come up year after year so I thought it would be okay to plant ulluco straight out.  I think this was not very responsible as this is a crop not that widely available and I should not be trying to extinguish it.  To make it worse this bed then developed a truly massive crop of red veined sorrel – known in these parts of the Welsh border as Welsh dock – and truly disliked by the neighbours for its tendency to proliferate.

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tree onion, clover and herbs, mulch behind

However as the year went on and I continued the mulching the red veined sorrel was virtually smothered out of existence.  The tree onion and some garlic also in the bed truly loved the deep rich soil that was developing and produced a marvellous crop.

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mulch of cut down plants (probably land cress) July 2016

I planted some spare beans along one side and at the end of the summer the only plant that had grown started to grow well and by the end of September was developing a good crop.  I had just let it grow where it wanted, not providing any support. I am leaving most of the beans to ripen so as to grow some more next year.

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bean of unknown name October 2016

Through the summer plants that I put around the edge to demarcate the bed from the lawn put on a super show of flowers.  There are also Jerusalem artichokes and skirret to harvest sometime fairly soon.

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flowery herby edge to end bed

And now as October wears on some more oca that I added belatedly (after the ulluco failed) has started to assert itself.  But as you can see there is still an area that is only mulched.  Next year I will think about what to do with it.  Plant some ulluco maybe?

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oca and nasturtium on end bed with mulch behind



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I am just back after a lovely holiday in France.  One of the highlights was a visit to Guédelon Castle in Burgundy.  This is not just any old castle, in fact it is not just any new castle either.  It is a new castle being built in the style of an old castle, and crucially, using the old mediaeval techniques.  The project was begun in 1997, and has therefore been ongoing for nearly twenty years.  You can see the castle is taking shape, but there is a long way to go yet.  The builders have taken the date of 1228 as the start date and designed the castle as a building of that era would have looked.

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Guédelon Castle


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Guédelon Castle

I first heard about it on the BBC TV programme ‘Secrets of the Castle’ in which the presenters travelled to Guédelon to learn about the ancient techniques being used.  It was a fascinating series which inspired me to go and see Guédelon for myself.

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Mediaeval workplace

The first thing that struck me about the site was the peace and quiet.  In contrast to anywhere in the modern world where noise intrudes everywhere.  Visitors can access all areas of the site and ask the workers about their jobs (if you speak sufficiently fluent French).  I could not ask about anything, nor read all of the information although some was in English and I could decipher some French.  However just seeing what people were doing was sufficient.

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Men at work, quietly!


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13th century lifting gear

One of the most striking features of the place is the exquisite quality of the workmanship as you will see from these pictures:

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mediaeval ‘sack truck’


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how beautiful is this!


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interior decoration using paints made from pigments extracted on site

The castle is sited in a forest on the site of a quarry.  These two resources of stone and wood are the main components of the building and little by little the local landscape is hand crafted with quiet patience into a beautiful building.  Clay is available on site too and used for tiles.  Behind the castle building is an entire mediaeval village comprising a range of workshops all supporting the main building, including a blacksmith, woodwork, basket work, tilery, pigment production, dyeing.

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workshop / store in the woods


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pottery from clay extracted on site


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There are also animals – pigs, sheep, hens, geese and lovely horses which pull a cart to transport building materials.

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working horse and mediaeval cart

As well as being an exercise in experimental archaeology Guédelon is in their own words:

 At a time when environmental protection is of such concern, Guédelon is also a construction site on which the Middle Ages offers insights into green construction for tomorrow.

Guédelon provides practical lessons in sustainable building. This pioneering construction site offers information on wattle-and-daub or rubble walling, making and using limewashes, traditional terracotta roof tiles, oak shakes, flax and hemp ropes.

There is much more information on the website and if you find yourself in central France I would recommend you set a day aside to pay this amazing place a visit.

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Shrewsbury Flower Show – update

I had a great time at Shrewsbury Flower Show last weekend.  I found that lots of people – noticeably more than in past years – were interested in the perennial vegetables on display.  There were lots of questions and much discussion was generated. It also helped that Monty Don had apparently mentioned skirret on Gardeners’ World on Friday last week so people took a particular interest in that.

AK shrewsbury flower show

At the show I met Chris Smith of Pennard Plants.  He gave a talk about unusual edibles and had a large range of seeds and plants for sale.  Do visit the Pennard Plants website if you have not already done so.  They sell a very good range of seeds including the aforementioned skirret.

I was also very pleased to spot the Jurassic Plants stand where I was able to buy a small blue sausage plant – and a very healthy looking plant it was.

Some people left their contact details to find out more about perennial vegetables, others took details of this blog to see more about what I grow – if you are interested get in touch for any further information!


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Shrewsbury Flower Show 2016 — Anni’s veggies – in pictures

I am exhibiting again at Shrewsbury Flower Show this coming Friday and Saturday – 12th and 13th August.  Last year I was part of a group that grew the plants for and built a permaculture themed show garden.  This year I am exhibiting in the ‘Our Futures’ marquee (as in 2014) along with Emma Lawrence (my friend and author of two children’s books – The Worm and Slugs & Snails; Fordhall Farm, Shropshire Organic Gardeners, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Dorothy Clive Garden.  We are each presenting ideas for making our gardens, countryside and food chain more sustainable.

I ran out of space on the wall behind as I covered it with plants, so this blog is for further information for visitors to the show as well as you, my usual blog readers.  There are pictures (only) of the same plants growing in my garden on the original post on my other blog – see the link below – and I have given a bit of explanation here:

I grew perennial vegetables with annual vegetables and other plants in eight potato sacks:

The back row from left to right – (1) mashua and earth nut pea (edible tubers), (2) oca (edible tuber) and runner bean, (3) Jerusalem artichoke (edible tuber) and fennel, (4) runner bean, yacon (edible root) and good King Henry (edible leaves).

The front row from left to right – (1) cardoon (edible leaves and flower buds) and sea kale (edible leaves), skirret (edible roots), (2) Welsh onion (all edible) and marjoram, (3) fennel, carrot (second year) and parsley, (4) leaf beet (edible leaves), nasturtium (edible leaves and flowers) and day lily (edible flowers).

The fennel, marjoram, carrot and parsley are there for the insects and the runner beans and earth nut pea plants also fix nitrogen.

It was looking a bit sparse so I popped to the local garden centre and added blueberry, spindle, asparagus, agastache, astrantia, parsley and lavender.  All of these will be relocated afterwards to my garden.

It is time for Shrewsbury’s annual flower show this coming Friday and Saturday and I am representing the world of perennial vegetables.

via Shrewsbury Flower Show 2016 — Anni’s veggies – in pictures

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Plants on the move

I don’t do much in the way of interfering in my garden and as a result plants can move about in unplanned ways that often make lovely combinations.  Some are vegetables, some herbs and others are flowers, but they all flower in their season and look amazing!  All of the pictures below are of plants that put themselves where they are.

Some seeds have arrived from next door including phlox, mallow, sweet Williams and Canterbury bells.

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mallow and birds foot trefoil


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mallow, Canterbury bells and sweet Williams


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sweet Williams


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Canterbury bells

Others came from further afield – cowslip, birds foot trefoil, evening primrose and poppy.

The rest I planted and then let them roam – fennel, parsley, marjoram, sweet cicely, carrot, foxglove, burdock, calendula, Californian poppy, few flowered leek, wild garlic, three cornered leek, snowdrop, crocus, pansy, love-in-a-mist, salsify, wild rocket, leaf beet, radish, alpine strawberry and probably more.

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salsify flower and seed heads

One of the nice things is that you can see which way the wind blows as over time they have mostly spread up the garden, which is downwind.

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Californian poppy with vetch behind with fennel and love in a mist at the back

Other plants are spreading below ground.  Raspberries have appeared on the other side of the hedge and about ten foot along from their original location.  When I attended a forest gardening course with Martin Crawford I remember him saying that raspberries are best if they are allowed to go where they want, so that is what I have done.

Earth nut pea, vetch, Chinese artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke also travel along the bed establishing new clumps.

Of course I also get some of the less popular ‘weeds’ which equally spread by seed – nettle, dandelion, dock and the rest.  I don’t mind that though, they mix in with the rest and in their turn provide valuable functions.  I remove them when they are too large or take the place needed by something else.





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Japanese wineberry

This picture is in response to Mortal Tree’s blog post about wineberries.  It’s a fantastic blog, so why not read some of the other excellent posts?

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Japanese wineberry about to flower

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I wanted a lot of growth this year, mostly for biomass to eventually decompose into humus to enrich the very stony and clay soil in my long bed.  On 6th June the cardoon which is at the centre of the bed was about knee high ….

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cardoon 6 June 2016

By 4th July it was well above my head and many of the surrounding plants – Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, poppy, chokeberry and more had also grown a great deal. This is taken looking downhill….

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cardoon, chokeberry, fennel, poppy 4 July 2016


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cardoon, Jerusalem artichokes

and this one at my head height, plenty of biomass here!


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