Thursday, 12 December 2019

Istanbul Botanic Garden - Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanik Bahçesi - Winter in Turkey

I'm back in Turkey for the winter to work on a consultancy and design project in Ordu, then to Istanbul to finish a design for Svetlin from Orehite Ranch - Veslec and to continue work on a Polyculture book. I've got a few days in Istanbul before I head off to Ordu so obviously I'm going to visit the Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanik Bahçesi (NGBB).

Photo by NGBB
The last time I visited the garden it was pouring with rain, I was with my son Archie and the Ataşehir Entrance was closed due to construction work on a road (still is btw) Arch, who was not entirely sold on visiting the garden in the first place, was not impressed with my suggestion to walk 4 km in the rain to the Ümraniye Entrance so we headed up to the nearby Mimar Sinan Mosque (which is pretty impressive in it's own right and has a lovely little garden) and got some kebabs and baklava instead.

This time around I came better prepared having booked an Airbnb in one of the towers that overlooks the garden. I'm going to be in Istanbul for awhile so I figure I will make a thorough study of the garden over multiple trips for inspiration and to get the creative juices flowing for the polyculture book :)  It's a big garden with eight islands to explore and is wonderfully designed into a Four-way highway interchange, providing a great example of integrating plant habitat into the city.  I started with the Anatolia Island photographed below.

Photo by NGBB

There are plenty of plants to nibble on in this garden including this fine Celtis australis - European Hackberry. The fruits have a thin layer of sweet flesh covering a pea sized seed and are ripe this time of year. We have a few of these trees growing back home in the forest garden although no fruits yet.


Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Ebbinge's silverberry ripening. These are ripe in our gardens in April. Interestingly there were 2 or 3 ripe berries on this hedge. Ripe fruit is orange/red colour and about twice the size of these maturing fruits


The Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Ebbinge's silverberry berries photographed above are from this hedge. Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Ebbinge's silverberry is an excellent choice for hedging, being evergreen nitrogen fixing and providing very edible fruits when there is very little else in the edible garden. Also wind and drought resistant and provides late nectar/pollen to pollinators, an all round super plant.


First time I've seen a Pistachio tree - not the tree that produces the Pistachio nuts that we all know and love, but a relative Pistacia atlanticawith smaller nuts that are also edible -  albeit small and bit fiddly I would imagine. It's USDA Hardiness 6-9 so certainly worth a try in our gardens. The species is dioecious so you need to grow male and female plants for fruits. 


Another plant used often as hedging in this garden is Laurus nobilis - Bay Tree This time of year the plant is fruiting as you can just about make out the black shiny fruits in the photo below. Laurus nobilis - Bay Tree  is another dioecious species with  male and female plants needed for fruit production  


Plenty of tightly trimmed Rosmarinus officinalis - Rosemary around the garden used for low hedging and path borders. Rosmarinus officinalis - Rosemary is used often in landscape designs around the city.


Another type of Rosemary planted generously around the gardens is a prostrate cultivar that is used for ground cover on the south facing part of the garden. It forms a great cover as seen the photo below.



Myrtus communis - Foxtail Myrtle full of edible fruits. 


Another delicious fruiting plant Physalis ixocarpa -Tomatillo looking stunning. An annual, would you believe, putting out an incredible amount of plant in a growing season. This specimen was around 1m tall and same width.



Some beautiful non edibles - Euphorbia rigida


Bark of Cypressus arizonica



Not sure what this is but another beauty with delicate pink flowers held high on wispy, convoluted stems.


The stone walls that border the wide access ways in the garden are planted up with various plants. This herb caught my eye nestled in the cracks of the dry stone walls. I'm not sure what it is but will find out on my next visit to the garden.


Cercis siliquostrum - Judas Tree packed full of dried seed pods. An area upwind from the plant, under some pines was teaming with self seeded Cercis siliquostrum - Judas Tree saplings.


Family Photo -  Cupressus sp.


So much juxtaposition in this garden. 


That's all for now, looking forward to next visit 

Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1 - 6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open



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Sunday, 8 December 2019

The Winter Begins, Tree and Shrub seed Propagation, Growing Alliums and Hedge Planting - The Polyculture Project

 This will be my last week in Shipka for a while as I head off to Ordu in Turkey for a consultancy project and then back to Istanbul to start my winter work on a book about polycultures that I've been working on and that should really be finished by the end of this winter.  

It's been an active week in the gardens getting the last of the autumn plantings in the ground, the cold sensitive plants inside, and anxiously handing over the nursery care to the boys. Here's what we've been up to.



Winter Propagation 


Although the plants in the gardens are off to sleep for the winter the plants inside are just getting startedElaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive  and Zanthoxylum piperitum - Japanese Pepper Tree seed sown last month have already started to germinate in the sun room. A little trick I've picked up is to sow the seeds as soon as the fruits are ripe. This seems to by pass winter dormancy of some species. As long as the emerging seedlings are not subjected to sub zero temperature  (better still not below 5 C) they will be fine and should be ready for pricking out into pots by March/April. Here are the first few Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive  seedlings to emerge 


and Zanthoxylum piperitum - Japanese Pepper Tree with the empty seed case still attached to the seed.(Epigeal germination)


I could not resist unearthing a few of the Chilean Hazel - Gevuina avellana seeds we sowed in October, to see what is going on and it was marvelous to discover the radicle emerging through the shell. These plants grow in a similar climate to ours on the other side of the hemisphere in Argentina. According to other growers, the germination stage is the easy part and they will often wilt as they develop when propagated in captivity. I'm not sure why but it could be that associations with  native soil microbes specific to that region could be missing. In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing how our South American friends fare here. Thanks Daniel for the seeds. 


Another traveller from far away lands, Carpobrotus edulis - Hottentot-fig is a ground-creeping plant native to South Africa. This was plant was gifted to us by Ben who joined us on the study this year and Ben -  if you are reading this -  you will be pleased to know it's doing great in the warmth of the sun room. As the name suggests the plant is edible with the succulent leaves and fruit ready to nibble raw or cooked.


I started growing Taxus baccata -Yew. I'm not sure it will survive the most severe of our winters here so I'll keep it in a pot until it has a larger root system developed and then find it a nice sheltered position somewhere. This is one of the trees I miss from the UK where you can find it pretty much in every cemetery, church  yard and park. Although the leaves and seeds are deadly poisonous, the red berries are edible and very sweet and have a glue like texture. Just don't forget to spit out the seed!


Really pleased to see that the seeds I harvested from local native Lathyrus verna - Spring Vetchling have germinated and are growing well. This nitrogen fixing herbaceous perennial is native to forests of Europe and Siberia. It's shade tolerant, quite unusual for a herbaceous nitrogen fixer and I'm looking forward to trying it out in the ground and herb layer of our forest gardens. I noticed the flowers from the forest plants attracting bumblebees among other pollinators. Here are the Lathyrus verna seedlings.  


Here are the parent plants photographed in the spring from the beech forest on the mountain above the village.



The Allium Nursery 


Sophie has been sowing Allium bulbs in pots as well as in the new bulb beds in the nursery. If we have a very wet and cold winter and the bulbs outside rot in the ground we still have some back up bulbs in the sun room. This one is Allium sphaerocephalon - Round-Headed Leek. 


and here are Allium sphaerocephalon - Round-Headed Leek coming up in the bulb beds outdoors 


 The bulb beds. We've planted around 13 species of Alluim so far. You can find our existing Allium plants here under the perennial vegetable category and we'll be listing the new comers next season.



Photos of the Home forest garden. Apatheia


 Apatheia -  The Home Forest Garden just before a chilly wind a few days ago


Apatheia -  The Home Forest Garden 3 minutes ago. The only deciduous tree in the garden with leaves remaining is Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder 


Apatheia -  The Home Forest Garden last Spring, with labels 



Around the Gardens


Fieldfare - Turdus pilaris perched in a Juglans regia - Persian Walnut. These birds are often found in flocks and after watching them for a while the other day they appeared to be working in groups, taking turns on a look out positioned in a high and open spot while the other flock members rummage around the hedgerow for berries and insects. 


Rosa canina - Dog Rose with the snow capped mountains in the background. A comforting display of winter. 


Salvia officinalis - Sage  looking pretty good considering it's just dealt with the first snow of the year.


Still some beautiful leaf degradation going on.


Miscanthus x giganteus - Giant Miscanthus in flower with our old  Prunus domestica - Plum in the background. I'll leave the shoots of these plants until the spring before cutting. The flowers are beautiful and the dense clumps probably providing over winter shelter to spiders etc. 



Hedge Planting 


The last of the planting is over until the Spring. Here's Archie and his pal Kaloyan planting out some Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive that we are growing as hedge on the southern boundary of one of the gardens. I made a tree and shrub planting out guide a few years back, you can find it here if you are interested.


Some horses nearby took some interest in what we were up to


The two foals seemed more interested in the boy's coats than the plants


They soon made friends and had a curious nibble at the new plants (see horse in background). I went back the next day and some of the shoots had been nibbled which is perfectly fine as we want the plants to form bushes and light pruning at the tips is a great way to achieve this. As long as the horses are not in the gardens eating the new shoots during the spring (which they are not) the hedge should form well.  


That's all for now. Hope you have a lovely winter and Christmas and all that,and thanks for reading.


Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1 - 6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open



Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships 


Upcoming Courses


If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience come and join us in the Spring. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and wildlife ponds. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.


Design and Build - Forest Garden Course  - Regenerative Landscape Design Course


Registration for our April 2020 course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).


Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 


Want to join us for one of our live webinars?  Forthcoming webinars include ;




Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 





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

  • Consider joining us on for one our Courses or Webinars 
  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.





We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :)