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 overwinter 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.


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