Sweet cicely seeds available

I have just harvested ripe seeds from my sweet cicely plants.  If anyone would like some please email me on annisveggies@hotmail.co.uk.  I won’t be charging for them.

Sweet cicely is a herbaceous perennial reaching up to two or three feet in height and up to two feet across.  They prefer damp and shady conditions, come up and flower early in the year nd attract early bumblebees.

The leaves can be used to sweeten tart dishes such as gooseberries and the seeds have a pleasant aniseed flavour whilst they are still green and chewable.  A very nice plant all round.  I grow mine close to fruit bushes and kales which works well.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Sweet cicely

Posted in Herbs, Seeds and seed saving | Tagged | 4 Comments

Tiny fruit trees – summer 2017

I am growing the fruit trees in my garden as ‘tiny fruit trees’ according the to method of Anne Ralph and as described in previous posts here and here.

All these fruit trees are planted in polycultures of other fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables.  Apart from the brown leaves on the quince they all look very healthy.

Just after the solstice I did the pruning rounds – some needed quite a lot taken off, but most of the trees required only a very light prune or nothing.  I lost one tree over the winter – gage Reine Claude de Bavay.  I am not sure why, but it may have been the unusually dry conditions.

Neither of the pear trees needed much taken off and you can hardly tell the difference in the before and after pictures – these are the ‘after’ ones:

pear concorde


pear invincible

The quince did not need pruning when I did the others and I forgot to take pictures when I did it a few weeks later.  This is it today, as in previous years many of the leaves have gone brown but I don’t know why.  I have been watering it and it has produced new, green growth.

qunice Vranja

The mirabelle has a very tall, straight habit and had grown upwards  a fair bit, I took some height off it.

Mirabelle before pruning

It is slowly sending out more branches lower down and gradually expanding sideways.  It has a few fruit on this year.

Mirabelle after pruning

The morello cherry had not grown much and I did not prune it at all.

cherry morello

The other cherry, cariad, had also not grown much and I have not pruned it yet.  Last year it produced lots of suckers below the graft line some of which had roots on.  I cut them off and planted them in the hedge and two are growing – presumably into wild cherries.  This cherry had a few fruit, more than last year but they split in the dry conditions and the ants and birds have been nibbling.  We salvaged a few and they tasted lovely.

cherry cariad

The damson has still not made much growth since having a drastic prune two years ago, but it is starting to send out some more shoots, it is still less than waist high.

damson Abergwyngregyn

The Denbigh plum is very vigorous, but again I omitted to take before and after pictures and this is it today.  For the first time it has some fruit on.

plum Denbigh

Another vigorous one is the apple trwyn mochyn (Welsh for pig’s snout).  It has started to produce side spurs so maybe there will be flowers and fruit next year.

apple trwyn mochyn before pruning

I cut it back vigorously!

apple trwyn mochyn after pruning

And lastly the apple sunset had a moderate prune and this is it today.  It is bearing more apples than last year – about 18 at my last count.

apple sunset


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Enjoying a summer’s day

It is 16th July and the sun has come out after a dull morning. I would have liked rain as it has been incredibly dry for this part of the world, but despite that most plants are doing well (and I have only watered the new fruit trees, shrubs and some other new herbaceous plants).

Gooseberries are ripening,

one of the new apple trees is bearing some fruit,

the tree onions are forming lots of baby bulbils on their tops,

we have been eating as much kale as we want since the winter and giving lots away and it is still going strong.

I have picked a kilo of blackcurrants from a single bush and a lot of jostaberries too, the whitecurrants are ripening,

as are the redcurrants

Meanwhile the bees, butterflies and many other flying insects are loving all the flowers that abound in the borders, especially the parsley and

the marjoram.

I have just made two batches of jam using previously frozen damsons we were given and cherries we foraged on holiday.  I wandered round the garden taking pictures and filling my apron pocket with fat pea pods to go with our evening meal.




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London Glades: Forest Garden Solutions For Urban Spaces at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

Here is a wonderful forest garden – created for the recent RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – a beautiful and inspiring space that hopefully will lead to the creation of many, many more such gardens.

Source: London Glades: Forest Garden Solutions For Urban Spaces at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

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Les Bois de Saint Hilaire

I was on holiday in France in mid June and had sat down in the shade at the camp site to write about forest gardens, and in particular, the ‘model’ of a natural woodland from which forest gardening takes its inspiration.  Settling into my chair and looking around I realised that I was sitting beside just such a woodland and that it was the first time I had ever actually seen one.

The tallest trees were oaks, growing in a scattered, random fashion – not according to any human design or purpose.  Growing amidst them, mainly smaller, but with some full height specimens were sweet chestnut trees.

Most of the chestnuts, however, were small to medium height and there were many seedling trees – both chestnut and oak – at the edge.

There were alders too – a nitrogen fixing tree that contributes to the fertility of a natural woodland.  I was delighted to find these as an example of nature making provision for the needs of the other trees and plants here.

Ferns and brambles romped around the hedges with a type of goose grass (cleavers) growing between them.

The ground was closely covered with a mixture of plants – ivy, grassses, clove root, violets, buttercups, dandelion, nettles, docks and other plants I was not able to indentify.

Honeysuckle, abundant in the local roadside verges and hedgerows, was growing over old tree stumps and was happily in flower at the time!

These edge plants will no doubt, have been kept in check by the campsite owners over the decades to ensure the camping pitches remain clear and tidy, but I think it is unlikely that the species present will have been changed by people over that time.

I took photographs of everything, but the sun was very strong and with the trees and plants all intermingling I am not sure how clearly they show the detail of what I could see.

Earlier that morning I had watched a baby rabbit grazing and all day the birdsong had been enchanting.  Bats had flown around the night before and there was a constant procession of bees, butterflies, day flying moths, dragonflies, hoverflies and other insects. An anthill lay close to my chair.

We had driven from north to south and part way back again through this area and knew that for an hour or so in both directions there lay vast expanses of prairie like fields with their grain already harvested or on the point of being harvested.  A grain processing plant with its own railway line lay half a mile down the road and the sound of it was clearly audible most of the time.

France was experiencing a heatwave and had had a drought for months.  I had seen a dried up river bed further south a few days before.

Driving through this countryside had felt like passing through a desert and yet here, in a quiet corner, named after a local bishop of many, many centuries ago lay this peaceful and virtually undisturbed woodland oasis.  Isolated it may have been, but clearly it was thriving even during stressful times.

The natural woodland ‘model’ for forest gardens is described as a multi layered forest or woodland having the following characteristics:

  • Tall trees – in this case oaks and some chestnuts
  • Medium height trees – chestnuts and alder
  • A shrubby layer – brambles and ferns
  • Herbaceous ground cover – ivy, dandelion, grasses, violets, clove root, docks, nettles etc
  • Climbing  and scrambling plants going between the layers – ivy, goosegrass, honeysuckle
  • And also a root zone which will in this case include deep rooted dandelions and docks

In such conditions of diverse trees and plants animal biodiversity will also flourish – says the theory – and here there was to me a surprising amount of diversity for such an isolated patch.

In theory an ecosystem such as this is self sustaining – able to renew its own fertility and again this little woodland, isolated from other sources of plant and animal life has been doing this successfully for a long time.

I looked online for further information on the history of this little wood – les Bois de Saint Hilaire at Chalandray, west of Poitiers, but was not able to find anything and I offer my observations and conclusions as they appeared to me that lovely sunny day.


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The ‘Garden Room’ border

In permaculture edges are regarded as valuable spaces, having the properties of the two areas they border.  Most of my growing spaces could be regarded as edges, but in particular those round the house.  All the way round the sides and back are narrow borders into which I have crammed many different edible polycultures.  I thought I would do a series of posts about these small but interesting growing spaces, starting with the border I call the ‘Garden Room’ border.  It takes its name from the extension on the property which created a narrow margin along the edge. Before that the area was the site of my first polyculture in this garden in 2013.

First polyculture in the Border Garden, 2013

At the front end this border is nearly solid stone and we had to ask our builder to get the bird feeder in the incredibly hard ground.  Fennel has seeded from nearby and is starting to break the ground up a bit.  The soil here is just deep enough for snowdrops and crocus in the spring.  Towards the back the soil gets deeper, fortunately!

This border has never been planned and has generally been used to deposit plants that needed a home where there was nowhere else for them; plus of course what nature has landed here!  Between these two sources there is now a wide variety of edible and ornamental plants.  The edibles as they occur from front to back are:

  • fennel (herb)
  • chives
  • salsify
  • wild rocket
  • Japanese wineberry
  • apple
  • mint
  • kai lan
  • marjoram
  • three cornered leek
  • angelica
  • sweet cicely
  • garlic
  • Daubenton’s kale
  • Wild kale
  • Caucasian spinach
  • leaf beet (just sown)
  • Trail of Tears beans (just sown)
  • unknown bean (just sown)

The flowering plants include:

  • hollyhock
  • roses
  • buddleia
  • scabious
  • honesty
  • perennial sweet pea
  • greater celandine
  • stichwort

Here are a few images taken recently

Chives and stichwort (wild flower)

We were able to reposition a bench at the newly created patio area to the front of the border which gives a lovely place to sit and view the garden.

Garden room edge April 2017

Garden room edge April 2017 (from back to front)

Garden Room Border May 2017 (from front to back)

I was so taken with this fan trained apple tree at our local nursery last winter that it came home with me.  This (characteristically) was the only place that really suited it in the garden and I decided not to fix it to the fence but just to leave it on the frame it is already on.  I plan to keep it quite small.  It is planted with a perennial sweet pea (lathyrus latifolius) and apple mint below (coming up through the twig ‘mulch’ at the base).  I generally plant up my fruit trees with accompanying nitrogen fixers and herbs, sometimes onions, but not here (yet).

Apple, Red Devil

Three cornered leeks had self sown at the back end of the border from the nearby hedge.  They first appeared last summer and have grown up to flower now, this picture was last month when they were a bit smaller.

Three cornered leeks coming through plus fennel, vetch and others

Every garden has its place for putting ‘stuff’ and mine is at the back end of this border.  Also here is an area I use for taking cuttings, although I put most of my cuttings elsewhere actually, this is intended to be a bit safer for them.  The hollyhocks are showing by the fence and to the right of them, too small to see as yet, is the Caucasian spinach.

Garden Room border – the ‘business end’

There is wild kale cutting and a Daubenton’s kale cutting in the ‘box’, both of which have growin like mad in the last month.

Daubenton’s kale ‘cutting’

I was very heartened on reviewing this small area at just how many edible and floral plants are in here.  One of my maxims is ‘edibles’ everywhere’ and I think this illustrates that this is not difficult to achieve.

Posted in Borderland Garden, Perennial Vegetables, Permaculture, Polycultures | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The why of fruit thinning

I hope you too enjoy this post that I am sharing post from ‘Mortal Tree’ on thinning fruit on apple trees. There is some very interesting and useful information here that I have never heard before ……

Mortal Tree

I noticed one of the apples in the food forest had finished blooming and now had tons of tiny apples clustered on its branches. I took the situation in hand and started to pick them off.

13217562 - close up of bee pollinating apple blossom photo by Jenella

Five flowers form on each spur, leaving five small fruits after pollination. They naturally fall off, one by one, until a single fruit is left to make seed. Contrary to what we might think, an apple has grown to its maximum potential within thirty days after the flower drops its petals. From this point, any ‘growth’ is just cells filling up with sap like balloons. The number of balloons to be filled with juice resulting from cell division is already decided.


I was pulling off all but one fruit on each spur. From this, I expected each apple left on the tree would have more nourishment from the tree, be larger…

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