If it's a plant and it's edible, tasty, low maintenance and robust ... then we're interested. Many of our plants are perennial, but some are annual self-seeders. We like to try and let people know as much as we can through clear signage so as you go around the site you'll see plenty in the way of labelling. In our showcase bed, you'll see plants that can handle an exposed, sunny position such as vine, Siberian pea tree, Elaeagnus, marjoram and day lilies. Along one side of the site there's an edible hedge which has crab apples, goji berries, blackthorn, strawberries, lemon balm and tough things like that. Towards the back of the site there's a shady salad bed which has plants that can handle the shade such as Siberian purslane, violets, groundcover raspberries and Babington's leek. Also on site there's a number of propagation beds full of seedlings and cuttings and we have a number of potted trees some of which have been grafted. We have a 'mother' bed which is the bed from which we take some of our cuttings. Last but not least, we have an area full of potted plants that are ready to go out to local food growing projects.
An important part of our volunteer days (Mondays and Fridays) is the eating and we usually include a hand-picked salad from the plants on site. In addition, all volunteers are invited to take a bag of leaves home with them every time they come. Here's our recipe for the perfect salad:
Bulk: Caucasian spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides) – leaves, lime (Tilia spp) – young leaves, musk mallow (Malva moschata) – leaves, violet (Viola spp) – leaves
Fire: chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – leaves and flowers, giant red mustard (Brassica juncea) – leaves and flowers, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) – leaves, nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – leaves, seeds and flowers, perennial rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) – leaves and flowers, tree onion (Allium cepa proliferum) – leaves
Glamour: day lily (Hemerocallis fulva) – flowers, marigold (Calendula officinalis) – flower petals, violet (Viola spp) – flowers
Yumminess: saltbush (Atriplex halimus) - leaves, lovage (Levisticum officinale), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – leaves and stems, hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) – leaves, Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) – flowers, oregano (Origanum vulgare) – leaves and flowers, salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) – leaves, sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) – leaves and stems
Our choice of plants is very inspired by the work of Martin Crawford who runs the Agroforestry Research Trust down in Devon. We aim to be a supplier of many of the canopy, shrub, groundcover and climber plants he mentions in his seminal work, Creating A Forest Garden.