Quite a quiet month for this forest gardener, surveying the winter’s work, and including a brief visit from Covid! But the garden itself has continued to burst open (see Blog last month). Wild flowers are coming back in numbers, and I’m tempted to start the census again, but will hold off until next month as planned. There is one new arrival so far, Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea), in several different places over the garden, which I am pleased about, particularly as Gérard Ducerf, author of my bio-indicator ‘bible’1 (an exhaustive three-volume work on wild plants and what they tell us about the soil and habitat where they live), says that it is evidence of the transition to forest! Really good news, as that’s what I’m here for!
New arrival Ground Ivy, (foreground), in company with Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes)
The author also emphasises ground ivy’s importance as a medicinal plant, with antibiotic qualities and usefulness in treating ear, nose and throat infections and chronic bronchitis. And apparently a cream dessert including ground ivy flowers and vanilla is “sublime” – I haven’t tried it yet!
The Green-Winged Orchid (Orchis morio, below left) is back in the Upper Garden, just a single stem like last year, so hopefully it’s going to reproduce. According to a Wikipedia article it likes limestone soils, which I don’t have here, so maybe that’s holding it back. It does however, fit several other habitat criteria mentioned in the article. We’ll see. There is much more Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) this year, and the photo below right shows it under the walnut tree, with one of the new sea buckthorns in the foreground. I’m still eating the walnuts from last year’s bumper harvest! And the Cuckoo Flower turned up on the 22nd, followed by the Cuckoo itself on the 30th, a week later than last year.
March was also the time for fruit tree blossom, particularly the more mature trees in the Lower Garden – early and late cherry, mirabelle, greengage and, for the first time, the young damson tree. Last year I mentioned the almost imperceptible green tinge on the trees that is the first sign that spring is happening in the countryside around here, and this year it was in the third week, a full two weeks later than last year.
There was also some general maintenance work this month – strimming the pathways and road verges, a little watering for the newest trees in the drier third week, and lifting a lot of common knapweed, which has been too invasive in the past. The idea is not to eliminate it, but to stop it crowding out everything else!
The photos below are kind of miscellany taken through the month. The view of the Pyrenees was taken on a village walk, and I had never noticed it before as you can’t see it when the leaves are out. It had just snowed the night before, and it was a lovely clear day. The sunlit tree behind the barn is an oak at the top of my land. The mountains are probably 100km away, and I am always struck by how imposing they are. The rhubarb bed got going again, and I have even had my first harvest, stewed with apple, ginger and a little sugar, very tasty! Carbon biomass was laid in the two new swales (see last month), and the polytunnel (also in last month’s Blog) was finished off with a door and a ventilation panel (mosquito netting) at the far end, all ready for action.
On the subject of propagation, I have sown a selection of squash/pumpkin seed in pots in the house (see photo). They have germinated well and reached cotyledon stage, but it is still too early to put them in the tunnel as temperatures are still getting quite low at night, and too high during the day for delicate plants! There are Butternut, two varieties of Pumpkin, and two other Squash. One of these is called Courge Galeuse d’Eysines (from Bordeaux), and the mature fruit is covered in ‘barnacles’ (lower photo). The seeds came from friends.
The deer came back this month after a winter break. One or two young trees weren’t covered enough and they managed to have a nibble, but nothing serious (yet) and the system of wire netting, although not very elegant, is doing its job.
I recently mentioned Paul Hawken’s latest book, Regeneration (Blog, January 1st, 2022), and I enjoy its magazine style format, which means you can dip into it at random and read an article. It is a formidable piece of work, with enormous scope, including, of course, forest gardens. They have now launched a weekly newsletter of updates, The Waggle (clever ‘bee dance’ title if you think about it), on what’s going on in the ecological world with suggestions from many of the contributors to the book on what to look out for. It’s wide-ranging and interesting.
Paul Hawken himself has written: “Regeneration is the fundamental principle underlying every cell, breath, person, gender, culture, forest, grassland, ocean, and creature. The words “regeneration” and “regenerative” are being used more frequently and commonly now, which is a good thing. And yet, the term is also being used casually as an adjective to sell a product or bring credit to a company (i.e. greenwashing – JS). … the book upholds, expresses and encompasses the core meaning and promise that regeneration holds for the world.”
Talking of greenwashing, how about this from Gamm Vert, a chain of garden centres in France: “L’auto-production est l’avenir” – Grow-your-own is the future. Well yes, but I think there might be a bit of self-interest there!
March’s weather was on the whole dull, mild and frost-free, promoting new growth and flowering, and the forces which often characterise the end of the month took the form of rain, a third of the month’s total in the last two days! In all, we had 78mm this month, a reasonable amount. Average temperature was 10°, considerably higher than February. See the full details below.
1 Ducerf, G. (2007, 2008), l’Encyclopédie des Plantes Bio-Indicatrices, Editions Promonature, Briant, France, www.promonature.com
A lovely round-up of news, Jonathan. It’s wonderful to see the ‘newcomers’ moving in after all your hard work, no doubt there will be plenty more to follow. Ground ivy is a brilliant plant. No swallows here yet but I can’t say I blame them, after two weeks of what felt like summer we now have blizzards – my tender plants have been shifted back into the house from the tunnel for the time being. The Galeuse d’Eysines looks an interesting squash, I’m looking forward to seeing your harvest and what you make of it as an eater / keeper. Collecting seeds from open-pollinated varieties is something I’ve enjoyed for several years, it’s possible to create a new variety through selection over several seasons, something I’d like to try and which I hope would come within the true sense of regeneration. I had a little smile about Gamm Vert: 12 euros for an artichoke plant, 6 euros for four cabbage plants? The contents of my polytunnel must be worth a small fortune . . . and let’s not even mention the price of rhubarb crowns! 😆