Visiting Forest Gardens

Rory Prendergast
Wednesday, 28th May 2014

Forest gardens are a fantastic way to grow a productive, beautiful space. Throughout the summer, a range of gardens will be opening across the UK through the Agroforestry Research Trust.

Visit forest gardens from across the UK this summer through the Agroforestry Research Trust

Martin Crawford, expert on forest gardens and director of the Agroforestry Research Trust, will be one of the many people to open their garden to visitors. His 2.1 acre site near Totnes in Devon is a diverse mix of Italian alders, pines, fruit trees and vegetables. 

These managed gardens deliberately contain a vast range of species (sometimes up to 480) and are particularly resilient and beautiful as a consequence. In particular the range of soils, heights, flowering month and crop yields means that these gardens maintain interesting characteristics throughout the year. The mix of edible and inedible; tall and short; late and early flowering means that they can protect and compliment each other throughout the year. Because of this they are excellent places to visit, especially over the summer when a large range of plants and wildlife will be present. Equally, they retain their charms throughout the year due to the multitudes that coexist together. 

Ranging across the nation from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Wales to London, Sussex and Devon, these forest gardens are as diverse as city farms, mixed orchards, transition projects and peace gardens. They all share certain characteristics such as including a wide-variety of plants and trees in inventive mixes. Also they are deliberately planted as productive gardens and so create substantial amounts of food, which is ever more on people's minds with increasing food prices and concerns over how food is grown. Additionally all the gardens are havens for wildlife such as bees, butterflies and dragonflies adding to their charms. 

There are forest gardens all around the UK, Europe and the world and readers of Permaculture will be familiar with many of the creators of these forest gardens. Ed Revill, author of a series of articles on biochar in Permaculture magazine, cultivates a forest garden in Gower Peninsular in South Wales. Anni Kelsey, author of Edible Perennial Gardening, maintains gardens in both Powys and Telford that demonstrate the principles she talks about in her book. 

Usually the gardens are small in size and this constraint is the guiding philosophy of these gardens. As floor space is limited they grow upwards and use the different heights of the plant to maximise space. Also plants that grow at different times provide flowers, tubers, fruits or vegetables throughout the year and the use of varied plants also helps encourage a resilient ecosytem which protect each other from the pests which are endemic in monocultures. 

Further Information

Martin Crawford's forest garden appears in the summer edition (No.80) of Permaculture magazine 

How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield is available from our Green Shopping site for a special price of £12.70

Food from your Forest Garden by Martin Crawford and Caroline Aitken is available from our Green Shopping site for a special price of £18.00

Edible Perennial Gardening by Anni Kelsey is available from Green Shopping for a special price of £11.20

Permaculture - practical solutions for self-reliance, a magazine filled with useful and inspiring features, stories and ideas about all aspects of sustainable living from gardening and farming to green building and renewable technology. Check out a free digital copy HERE. You can subscribe to the print edition HERE.

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