We are working towards being more self-sufficient. We would like to get to the stage where we can get most of our food from the garden. We are growing a lot of common fruit trees and shrubs. But by reading books about forest gardening we also got inspired to plant some less common varieties. Most of our trees were planted as bare root specimens, less than four years ago. They were very small whips when we put them in but because we added a lot of well rotted manure to the planting holes and have been mulching around them since, they have grown into lovely trees, starting to bear fruit. In our times of changing climates and unpredictable weather it is good to grow as many different plants as possible for a diverse and resilient garden.
A much loved fruit in the British Isles in medieval times was the Medlar, Mespilus Germanica. Ours is fruiting for the first time this year, and we are looking forward to tasting the fruits later in the year. It had lovely white flowers in May.
Sometimes used as an ornamental, the June berry, Amelanchier bears fruit in early summer and we are growing a couple of varieties with small berries. They are also very good for wildlife as birds love them.
Another ornamental tree with tasty berries is the Mahonia, sometimes called Oregon grape, with scented blooms in the winter and lovely berries later in the year. We made some jelly from ours.
For a strong boost to your immune system you can’t beat the Chokeberry, Aronia and we grow three different varieties of this super-berry. You need to net them if you wish to keep them from the blackbirds, something we discovered last year, when one of our bushes was completely stripped overnight.
By the stream we have planted some silver-leaved Sea Buckthorns, Hippophae, a tree with another super-berry. You need both male and female plants of these in order for fruits to form. One of our trees is very big but we are still waiting for our first harvest.
Next to the Sea buckthorn we planted an Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata that will bear fruit next year we hope.
The only member of the legume family to grow as a tree is very hardy and goes under the name of Siberian Pea Tree, Caragana arborescens. It grows quite slowly and we are still waiting for it to flower.
We also put in many Japanese Quinces, Chaenomeles japonica, with beautiful spring blossoms and fruit that makes nice lemonade. The true Quince is called Cydonia Oblonga and we grow that as well, but the tree is only in its second year in our garden and still establishing.
When we moved in the house was surrounded by a high green mass of Leylandii cypresses. We removed them and replaced them all with Beech, Oak, Hawthorn and wild roses. In one corner was a big old rowan tree that had been depleted of light for many years. It is such a joy to now look up at the tree and see the masses of orange berries and the flocks of thrushes feasting on them. We also uncovered many hazel shrubs and complemented them with a few twisted specimens in green and purple. We will have a large hazelnut crop this year in our garden and foraging along the country lanes.
We can recommend the book, Creating a Forest Garden by Martin Crawford. All the plants we have written about here are covered in the book along with many others.
For great bare root trees and other plants in Ireland we can highly recommend Future Forests in Cork. We have ordered most of our trees from them. They come by mail order and are very well packed.