Friday, 27 January 2023

Twelve of our Favorite Early Flowering Edible/Wildlife Plants - Trees, Shrubs, Herbs and Bulbs

All of the plants listed here provide an early source of pollen/nectar to a wide diversity of pollinating insects. The majority of the plants in this polyculture bloom when there are few other sources of nectar/pollen available. This encourages pollinating insects in and around our gardens to fulfill their vital role when the crops (particularly fruit trees) start to flower in the early spring. Additionally, these plants are all edible for humans.

During this post, we'll take a look at these plants, ideal for forest gardens, permaculture, and regenerative landscapes serving both our needs and the needs of wildlife. You'll find a selection of trees, shrubs, herbs, and bulbs.

Let's start with trees


Trees  

Prunus dulcis - Almond


Species Overview - Prunus dulcis is a lovely small tree that not only produces a vast and lively spring show that attracts a wide audience of useful pollinators but also has the added bonus of producing almond nuts in the autumntime. Trees are much like the peach, however, the almond is self-incompatible and two or more cultivars are needed for best cross-pollination. As well as being a tasty addition to the diet, almonds are also beneficial to the overall health of the body and are widely used in many treatments for a variety of ailments


Uses - Seeds (Almond nuts) can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried and ground into a powder for use in confections and blended with water to make almond milk. Edible oil is obtained from the seed mainly as a food flavoring and in cooking but has been used for oiling delicate mechanical parts such as a watch. The oil is often used in soaps and cosmetics because it has a softening effect on the skin

A green dye can be obtained from the leaves and dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit and a yellow dye from the roots. Gum that exudes from damaged stems is used as an adhesive, the gum is also edible.

Biodiversity- Almond blossom provides a rich source of nectar for wild bees and syrphid flies among other pollinators.   


For more info on this plant check out our plant profile here. We also have a range of excellent almond cultivars available from our nursery 


Corylus avellana - Hazelnut


Species Overview - A fast-growing deciduous shrub with rounded leaves, producing yellow male catkins in the early spring followed by delicious edible nuts in the autumn. Typically reaching 3–8 m tall but may reach 15 m. 

Corylus avellana  - Hazelnut 

Uses - One of the finest temperate nuts eaten roasted or raw. The wood from hazel is also commonly used. Soft, easy to split but not very durable it is mainly used for small items of furniture, hurdles, wattles, basketry, pea sticks, etc. The tree is very suitable for coppice. The twigs can be used to feed rabbits and goats all year round The nuts also contain 65% of a non-drying oil that can be used in paints, cosmetics, etc. Finely ground seeds are used as an ingredient of face masks in cosmetics. 

Biodiversity - The pollen-bearing catkins can be available to pollinators from as early as late Jan - late March. Hazel leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths. Hazelnuts are used by dormice to fatten up for hibernation and in spring the leaves are a good source of food for caterpillars, which dormice also eat. Hazelnuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays, and a number of small mammals.


For more info on this plant check out our Essential Guide to Probably Everything you Need to Know About Growing Hazels. We also have a range of excellent cultivars available from our nursery 



Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry


Species Overview - Cornus mas is one of my favorite plants. The hum of the bees under our Cornus mas trees on a sunny day in late winter is just one of the reasons I love this plant.  It's a  medium-sized hardy tree and an excellent pollenizer producing a bounty of flowers rich in nectar from Feb - March. The plant is self-fertile and the flowers go on to form wonderful grape-shaped fruits in late summer delicious when fully ripe.

Four seasons of Cornus mas from our home garden.

Uses -  Excellent fruit when ripe and great for making cordial or syrups. Nutritional analysis indicates that Cornelian cherry juices are rich in various essential elements and might be considered an important dietary mineral supplementation.

The seeds can be roasted, ground into a powder, and used as a coffee substitute and a small amount of edible oil can be extracted from the seed.  A dye is obtained from the bark and the leaves are a good source of tannin. The wood is very hard, it is highly valued by turners and has a history of use for tools, machine parts, etc. We use the twigs to feed rabbits and goats all year round. 

Biodiversity - One of the earliest trees to flower, attracting a wide range of pollen and nectar-feeding invertebrates from Feb - March. We often see great tits, blue tits, and long-tailed tits in our trees during the winter. I'm not sure whether they are feeding on the buds, dried fruit or perhaps the invertebrates sheltering under the bark and crevices.

For more info on this plant check out our Essential Guide to Probably Everything you Need to Know about Growing Cornelian Cherry. We also have a range of excellent cultivars available from our nursery 


Shrubs

Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince


Species Overview - A thorny deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia, usually growing to about 2 m tall and generally exhibiting a rounded outline, but is somewhat variable in form. The plants establish a very dense crown with a tangled jumble of branches that are either spiny or with spurs. The flowers come before the leaves and are usually red, but maybe white or pink. The fruit is fragrant and looks similar to a small apple although some cultivars have much larger pear-shaped fruits. The leaves do not change color in autumn.

Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince 

Uses - The fruits don't make great eating and are generally extremely hard but following a cold spell I found the Japanese Quince softened enough to squeeze like a lemon, and the juice being very acidic makes them an excellent alternative to lemon juice. Another plus for this fruit is that they have a delicious and somewhat addictive aroma that lingers around for a few days resembling that of pineapples, lemons, and vanilla. We leave the fruits in the car or around a room to act as a natural air freshener.

Biodiversity - The flowers are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar-feeding invertebrates from March- April, sometimes in February. With regular pruning the shrubs become dense providing suitable nesting habitats for birds such as wren - Troglodytes troglodytes, chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita and robin - Erithacus rubecula. The diets of these birds include some common vegetable pests and can help keep pest populations in check.

For more on Chaenomeles spp. see our previous blog article here.


Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape


Species Overview - A great little shade-tolerant evergreen shrub growing to 1 m tall by 1.5 m wide that can cope with most soils and thrive in shady spots where many other plants succumb. It is resistant to summer drought and tolerates wind. The plant produces dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, followed by dark bluish-black berries. Once the plant gets going it's very vigorous and produces many suckers.

Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape

Uses -  The small purplish-black fruits can be used to make jelly or juice that can be fermented to make wine. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon grapes yield a yellow dye; the berries give purple dye. The holly-like evergreen leaves are sometimes used by florists to add to bouquets. It makes a great understory shrub for densely shaded areas.

Biodiversity - Excellent early-flowering nectar source for bees and bumblebees.  The nectar and pollen may be taken by blackcaps, bluetits, and house sparrows. Berries are eaten by blackbirds and mistle thrushes.  Good caterpillar food plant.

For more on this plant see our Mahonia aquifolium plant profile


Lonicera caerulea - Honeyberry


Species Overview - Honeyberry, also known as haskap, is a type of edible berry that is native to parts of Asia and Europe. It is a member of the honeysuckle family. The small cream-colored, tubular flowers appear in very early spring followed by purple fruits very early in the summer. Honeyberries have a distinctive, elongated shape and range in color from dark blue to purple. The plants are hardy and can grow in a variety of soil types, but they prefer well-drained soil and full sun and grow best in cooler climates. 

Lonicera caerulea - Honeyberry

Uses -  The edible fruits have a sweet-tart flavor and are often used in jams, pies, and other baked goods. In addition to being eaten fresh, honeyberries can also be dried or frozen for later use. Honeyberries are high in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which are responsible for the berry's dark color. They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. Some studies have suggested that honeyberries may have potential health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. The plants also make an effective low-growing hedge

Biodiversity - A highly rewarding bee forage plant with attractive nectar. Preferenced by long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees. As the plants develop the dense shrub form should provide suitable refuge for a range of ground-dwelling invertebrates and small mammals.

For more info on this plant check out our Essential Guide to Probably Everything you Need to Know About Growing Honeyberry. We also have a range of excellent cultivars available from our nursery 





If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes.  Join us for our next Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course starting May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023.

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2023 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!


Herbs 

Primula vulgaris - Primrose


Species Overview - A herbaceous perennial, loving cool, damp banks and glades, and thriving in coppice woodland where they can form a stunningly attractive carpet. They like wet soil best, with lots of shade in the summer. The drier and hotter the climate, the more they need shade. Summer drought is not a big problem as long as they get plenty of moisture in autumn and the first part of the year. 


Uses: Both flowers and leaves are edible, the flavor ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine.

Biodiversity - Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers. They may be found flowering in warm sheltered nooks as early as the end of January, although most flower from March to May. Because they flower so early in the year, they provide a vital source of nectar at a time when there are few other flowers around for insects to feed on such as adult Brimstone butterflies which have hibernated over the winter and often emerge on warmer winter days.

For more on this plant see our Primula vulgaris plant profile

Bellis perennis - Daisy


Species Overview - An abundant, small, low-lying herbaceous perennial plant with white flowers with yellow centers and pink flecks, that appear most of the year, except in freezing conditions. The plants habitually colonize lawns and grassland. 


Uses: May be used as a potherb and young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked, noting that the leaves become increasingly astringent with age. Flower buds and petals can be eaten raw in sandwiches, soups, and salads. It is also used as a tea and as a vitamin supplement. Medicinally, the plant is known for its healing properties and can be used on small wounds, sores, and scratches to speed up the healing process. The spreading habit of the plant makes it a good ground cover option.

Biodiversity - A valuable addition to grassland areas managed for wildflowers and wildlife attracting a good deal of attention from pollinators when little other forage is available.

For more on this plant see our Bellis perennis plant profile 


Rumex acetosa - Sorrel


Species Overview - Sorrel is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the buckwheat family and is closely related to other edible plants such as rhubarb and dock. Sorrel has long, narrow leaves that are a distinctive bright green color and produce small, green flowers in the early spring.


Uses:  The leaves and flowers of the plant are edible and have a tangy, lemony flavor that is often used in salads, soups, and other dishes. They can be rather overpowering in quantity and are more generally used as a flavoring in mixed salads. The leaves can also be dried for later use although they can be available all through the winter, especially in mild weather or if a little protection is given to the plants. Flowers can be cooked as a vegetable or used as a garnish and the root can also be cooked and eaten. The juice of the leaves can be used as a curdling agent for milk and to remove stains from linen.

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots and a grey-blue dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. The deep roots of these plants make them a good mineral repositor gathering minerals or nutrients from the subsoil.

Biodiversity - The plant is pollinated by the wind so does not attract bees and other pollinators but it is noted for attracting wildlife, providing bird food via seeds and food for a wide range of invertebrates  



Bulbs 

Allium ursinum - Wild Garlic


Species Overview - Wild garlic is a very attractive spring-flowering perennial that may be grown for both ornamental and culinary uses.  The plant enjoys moist but well-drained soils and can form a dense ground cover during the spring after which it dies back and rests dormant until the following year. 


Uses - The leaves are often used in cooking, particularly in dishes from European cuisines, and is also used medicinally for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The bulbs can be harvested at any time the plant is dormant from early summer to early winter. The bulbs can be up to 4cm long and 1cm in diameter and have a fairly strong garlic flavour. It is also prized for its ornamental value, with its white flowers being a popular feature in gardens. The flowers too are edible with a mild flavor and also add decorative value to dishes.
It is known to repel some insects, including mosquitoes and some people use bear's garlic as a natural insect repellent due to its strong, pungent aroma.

Biodiversity - The flowers are visited by a variety of insects for nectar, including bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Plant profile here

Crocus vernus - Spring Crocus


Species Overview - Spring crocus is one of the earliest flowering plants and is often one of the first signs of spring. It has thin, grass-like leaves and produces small, cup-shaped flowers that range in color from purple, pink, white, and yellow. The flowers have a slightly sweet, floral scent and are often used in floral arrangements. The plant is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Spring and grows best in well-drained, fertile soil, preferring full sun or partial shade. It is relatively easy to grow.


Uses - Often used as a ground cover or as a border plant in gardens. In addition to its decorative value, spring crocus is also edible and the flowers can be used to add flavor and color to dishes. However, it is important to note that the plant contains toxic alkaloids and should be consumed in small quantities.

Biodiversity - An important food source for some insects, such as bees and butterflies, which rely on nectar from the flowers for energy
For more on this plant see our

Allium neapolitanum - Daffodil Garlic


Species Overview - These beautiful perennial plants are similar to Wild Garlic but do not spread to form a carpet, are in leaf for a longer period and have much more profuse flowering that lasts for a longer period of time. Its native range extends across the Mediterranean Region from Portugal to Turkey.   


Uses:  The plant is often used in cooking, particularly in Italian and Mediterranean cuisines. The leaves bulbs and flowers can all be eaten. The leaves are available from late autumn until early spring. The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent and can also be rubbed onto the skin to repel insects and moths

Biodiversity:  A wide range of invertebrates visit these flowers for pollen and nectar including wild micro bees, wasps, and butterflies.  


We have all of the below plants from this list available from our Nursery.



You can find out more about how we combine these plants in our gardens to grow polycultures here - The Early Polleniser Polyculture - A Support Polyculture for Orchards, Farms and Gardens.







Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens, and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 

Friday, 20 January 2023

The Polyculture Project - Forest Garden Design - 650 m2 (7000 ft2) - How to Design and Build a Forest Garden

Forest Gardens are an excellent way to produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity by providing a range of habitats for wildlife within the design. They are very enjoyable to design, build and interact with and creating a forest garden is an intellectual pursuit as well as a physical one. It’s like a living, 3D amorphous puzzle that you can eat : ) 

During this post, we'll profile a 650m2 forest garden design that we started in one of our trial gardens. You'll find an overview of the design, a species list with fruiting and flowering calendars, the irrigation plan, and some info on how we built the garden.



Ekpyrōsis - Design Goals and Site Specs  

The purpose of the garden is to produce fruits and perennial vegetables with all fertility, to support growth, produced within the garden (beyond initial set-up inputs.), and to provide a range of habitats to support wildlife.

Our goal was to encourage the existing biodiversity as much as possible and provide new habitat that would enhance the diversity of organisms that inhabit and interact with the site. Another goal is to utilize the slope of the land and existing water source to irrigate the garden via a simple gravity-fed system using water diverted into the area from a nearby mountain stream.

Garden Specifications


Location: Bulgaria, Shipka
​Climate: Temperate
Köppen Climate Classification - Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b - 7a
Latitude: 42°
Elevation: 574 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Name: Ekpyrosis
Garden Area: 652m2

The below image provides an overview of garden design and highlights the various zones within the garden i.e Productive, Support, Native Hedgerow, and Wetland Patch.  The Productive zone is where the crops will be concentrated, and the support zone will include plants that fix nitrogen and /or provide pollination support. The Native Hedgerow is already well established on the site and will be left largely undisturbed apart from trimming the sides to prevent encroachment into the productive zone. The wetland patch is s microhabitat designed to attract support fauna such as pest predators and pollinators.

As with all of our designs, before selecting any species and deciding on the layout for this garden we undertake a series of surveys. You can read about these surveys in a previous post here.



If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes.  Join us for our next Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course starting May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023.

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.


You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2023 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

This is a unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look hereLooking forward to it!

Species List 


The species list is categorized into forest garden layers i.e Canopy, Shrub, Herb, Bulb, and Aquatic, and does not include all of the native plants that are already growing on the site that the species listed below will be integrated into.  
 


Fruiting and Flowering Calendar 


This table indicates when the plants will blossom and fruit or provide food. It's desirable in this scenario to have flowering and edibility spread throughout the year.  



Irrigation

Water enters the garden via diverted flow from a nearby mountain stream from the north (see water inlet in the below illustration) The channel is serpentine running throughout the productive zone and eventually draining into the lower support zone


The serpentine channel is flanked by two 50 cm wide beds and a 50 cm pathway as shown in the below diagram.


Building the Garden 


As per our procedure for garden design, before we began any work on the garden we studied and recorded the native flora of the area, making monthly flora surveys between April and September.


A small selection of herbaceous perennials growing in the garden area, Gallery from  the full surveys can be found here   


Following the flora surveys, we made a topography survey on the site to establish the contour lines that would be our guidelines for the irrigation channels, access, and beds. Once we had the contours marked we pegged out the area to indicate where the pathways, beds, channels, and micro-wetland would be. 


To establish the beds, we went over the soil with a broad fork to relieve compaction and then dug the water channel using a mattock. Soil removed from the channels is placed on the bed areas as an initial layer. On top of this, we add a layer of card, compost, and mulch heavily with straw, resulting in a  25 -35 cm deep layer of organic matter covering the bed areas. 




Micro-Wetland 


In the middle of the bed layout is a mini wetland/marsh habitat that is basically a rectangular area that we dug out, lined with an impermeable membrane, backfilled with stones and sand, and planted with several different emergent aquatic plants. I'm not sure how effective this will be, but the aim is to provide a microhabitat for the garden that will attract frogs, dragonflies, and other aquatic organisms.  


We dug out an area of approx. 1.2 m wide and 5m long and 25 cm deep, cleared all of the sharp stones from the pit, and lined this with tri-laminate LDPE liner (an offcut from some pond liner we used in a pond a few years back). We filled the liner with a layer of pebbles and river sand and inserted four cut barrel bottoms approx 25 cm high and 50 cm diameter into the fill. The purpose of the barrels is to provide pools of water for animals and birds to drink from and frogs to lay spawn. We propagated several marginal/emergent aquatic plants from our wildlife ponds and planted these directly into the sand. Finally, we placed rocks around the edges and some larger rocks in the sand to provide good basking areas for reptiles. The intention is for the micro-wetland to provide habitat support for wildlife such as dragonflies, frogs, and hoverfly larvae which should help control pests in the garden. For more on wildlife, ponds see our previous posts - Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 1 


Here's a projection of how the garden will mature over time. 




Garden Update 


Before Autumn came around the whole garden was hit by wild boar foraging the relatively moist deep mulch, presumably to eat the worms and grubs that had been accumulating in the decomposing material. On the bright side, it would have been a lot worse after we planted the garden. Boar, Deer, and domestic animals have been a problem on our plots on the east side of Shipka so we have since put fencing up and will have another go past getting this garden growing.  

Discovering the Boar attack

Special Thanks to all of the participants of our Forest Garden Design Course, Misha, Phillip, Shahara, Ronan, and Lia for your help in building this garden!  


If you enjoyed this post please consider supporting our Project. 

Support Our Project 




You can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens, and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Espalier - An Ancient Perennial Edible Art Project

Espalier is the ancient gardening technique that involves training a tree or shrub to grow flat, usually against a wall or trellis. Espaliers are commonly used in small gardens, courtyards, and even on balconies and are a great way to provide fruit in limited spaces. During this post, we'll take a look at the history and benefits of espalier, how to take care of espalier, and end with an espalier polyculture.  

At first glance, Espalier may appear to be some kind of plant torture but this is not the case. House plants slowly thirsting and starving to death in a dimly lit corner of a room, that's torture. Planting a garden in spring and then disappearing for the summer leaving the plants stranded in the hot sun, their cells dehydrating one by one, that's torture. You know when we continually adjust the position of our house plants when they lean over just when the plant has taken the time and effort to adjust its shoot system to capture all the light it needs. Along comes a symmetry-obsessed ape and spins it back to square one, that is plant torture. Espalier, on the contrary, is more like plant pampering. 


The Origins of Espalier

Espalier is a French word but is derived from the Italian word spalliera meaning “something to rest the shoulder against.” It's thought that we've been practicing this technique since the days of ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphs of espaliered fig trees have been found in tombs dating back to 1400 B.C. 

Trees are typically trained up against walls, along wireframes or trellises, and can take a variety of forms

Some espaliers can be huge taking up entire walls on a property but a lot of the time espaliers are grown on small structures to be easy to reach and manage.

It's also possible to grow them freestanding without any support or structures. We are trying this with an apple tree on the drip line of a lwalnut. 

As long as your espalier plants are well watered and fed and have enough light they will be fine. 


Why Espalier?

Espalier is great for a number of reasons

  • When you would like grow your own fruit but have limited space
  • If you only require a little fruit at a time but would like a lot of fruit diversity throughout the year.
  • For easy picking with no ladder or tools needed for harvest
  • Espalier can be used to provide a beautiful and functional subdivision or boundary 
  • It's a great option if you would like to grow multi-layers of light-demanding plants or if you would like to integrate fruit trees into an existing garden but do not want to create lots of shade.
  • In colder climates, when growing an espalier on a South facing wall or fence. The extra warmth provided by the wall's thermal mass makes it possible to grow fruit that would not be considered hardy or would not normally ripen.
  • If you appreciate an intimate relationship between you and a plant and enjoy the art of pruning and training fruit trees to a desired shape, like big Bonsai.

Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs, and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. You can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 


What Plants to Choose?

Apple and pear are most commonly used for espalier with the spur-bearing cultivars producing the highest yields but you can use any fruit tree you wish. We have Sour Cherry- Prunus cerasus trained around a wall of an old adobe building in our backyard. We are not short of cherries at our place and a lot of the fruit produced from this tree is often left for the birds but it does serve as a good pollinator partner for the other Cherry trees in the garden. We are often removing vertical shoots and new growth that grow away from the stem and feeding them to the rabbits and pigs. Sour Cherry - Prunus cerasus being quite a vigorous grower can make quite a mulch machine when grown this way.

Whatever species of plant you choose, you should start with a “whip,” a 1m tall single-stemmed plant that has not yet grown any side branches, and the regular fruit tree selection criteria will apply

  • Climatic compatibility with your site
  • Select cultivars that are disease and pest resistant
  • Suitable size for your site i.e select suitable rootstock
  • Select plants that provide fruit when you require it
  • Make sure you have pollination partners and if you are only growing one, make sure it's self-pollinating
I'm looking forward to growing a Cornellian Cherry - Cornus mas espalier as a subdivision boundary within our Forest Garden. They take really well to Espalier.


Where to Grow

If you want to get a decent amount of fruit from your espalier it should be located in full sun (at least 6 hours of light per day) Espaliers can be grown against a wall, a sturdy trellis or pergola, along horizontal wires secured to sturdy free-standing posts or another flat surface. 

Growing against South facing walls offers climatic advantages absorbing heat and hastening fruit ripeness,  however, the problem with South facing walls is that the ground below can dry very fast when hot and will require attentive irrigation while the plant is establishing. You need good soil as the plants you select are probably going to be there for many decades, ideally deep, free draining, friable, fertile soil with a nice thick layer of mulch on top. 


How and When to Prune

Pruning should begin in the spring after the blossom has emerged. Each blossom has the potential to become fruit so you can leave these and start to remove buds or shoots that are not aligned with your desired shape. Keep a close eye on the plant and continue to nip out buds that are growing away from the required shape and secure the shoot growth to the required direction. You should get a few fruits by the second year but it will take 4 or 5 years for the shape to form with each year more fruit provided. Eventually, there will be many fruits setting along the lateral branches and some support may be needed to prevent the branches from snapping. 


How to Build Espalier

You can find some very easy-to-follow instructions on youtube on how to set up your espalier frames whether that be out in the open or up against a wall. Basically, it involves building a frame and tying branches to it.


An Espalier Polyculture 

Here's a polyculture design that we have not yet implemented. It's a perennial productive polyculture that features a row of espalier apples and provides a succession of salad, vegetables, and apples throughout the year. It's ideal for smaller gardens or when you donʼt want to climb for your apples.  We'll be posting the full profile of this polyculture on this blog later in the year.  You can find full profiles for a number of other polycultures here.

Growth forescast




If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes.  Join us for our next Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course starting May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023.

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.


Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2023 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 


We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!


Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com

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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens, and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants