By now, the number of forest garden species I have has seriously outgrown my allotment and space is becoming a real issue, particularly in the canopy layer.
Luckily this threat is also an opportunity and I am finding lots of places to plant what I think of as an ‘extended forest garden’. Closest to home, I am fortunate enough to live on a housing estate where there is lots of green open space. We have a lot of mature trees, the legacy of the houses having been built in the grounds of what was once a country estate on the edge of Aberdeen. Over the last two years a series of storms have taken down a whole lot of these trees, creating a need to plant the next generation. I have been out there with my spade, making sure that the new trees are productive ones.
I have been trying to plant trees on this estate for some time, but finding that the combination of vandals and Council grass-cutters is a difficult one. The solution that now seems to be working is to put a serious stake and a wire tree guard on the trees, then a tree shelter inside that. Council workers work round them like any other, official, tree and vandals seem content to put a few dents in the shelters, which I can always straighten out. The tree shelter protects the tree from Council sprayers.
So far I’ve put in 25 trees, including small-leaved lime (for salad leaves), hazel, cherry, domestic plum, Japanese plum, cherry plum, apple, juneberry (Amelanchier), handkerchief tree (Cornus kousa) and Pinus cembra, the tree that pine kernels come from.
Most of them I have grown from seed, including the cherries, which came from seed gathered from prolifically fruiting cherries on the Black Isle by a member of Reforesting Scotland. Similarly, the cherry plums come from particularly nice selections from the many trees growing around this area.
I’ve also managed to spread trees by donating them. The local Botanic Gardens were delighted to take a Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) and a rare intergeneric cross x Sorbocrataegus ‘Ivan’s Belle’, and the local park took half a dozen of my seed-grown trees.
For the shrub layer, I have pioneered the fruiting hedge on my housing estate. I find that a row or currants (red, white, black and buffalo), gooseberries and wild raspberries can be cut as an urban hedge and still fruit quite prolifically. The raspberries have to be wild raspberries as cultivated ones grow too tall and don’t respond well to being cut back. It’s not the traditional way of pruning these fruit and I’m sure yields aren’t as high as they might be, but it gets them into the city landscape. I’ve also managed to sneak a few into shrub beds where they can express themselves more fully. Several other people have taken up the idea and fruiting hedges are slowly spreading around the whole estate.
The ground layer is the hardest to guerilla garden as you have to find somewhere out of the way of Council sprayers and strimmers. Fortunately the local park is going a little wild in places, so I’ve managed to plant out wild garlic, wild strawberries wood violets and a selection of others in the shady parts.