Suzanne Harrison, host of Redstone Wood Cottage, Surrey has started developing a Forest Garden with her community. Following an event she held, called Wisdom of Trees, a group has been meeting to discuss ways in which they can work for the environment. Some have joined Greenpeace, others are composting and learning more about how their everyday living is effecting the environment. Whilst the garden itself is continuing to be nurtured as a space for people to take time out for peace and silence. The garden is also being developed in ways in which share the wider message of creation care and nurture the local wildlife and ecosystem, and a ‘forest garden’ approach is at the heart of this.
A solitary bee hive has been placed at the edge of the forest garden area, and some pruning completed to let light in.The space was chosen as solitary bees were already in evidence. The area behind the bees will have wildflower seed sown, which like shade. Plus the wildflowers that grow elsewhere on a sandy bank, such as wild geranium, Wild parsley and foxgloves etc. In front of the bank will be a mass of bluebells, their green spear leaves are already coming up through the soil.
There are 7 layers to a forest garden, and the garden already has the canopy layer, with oak and holly present. Nitrogen fixing vines, shrubs that fruit, such as New Zealand flax, will be planted, and a smaller middle layer of fruiting bushes, such as the pepper trees will be added. Ground cover soapworts are being planted so the group can make their own soap, plus periwinkle and wild strawberries which already grow naturally in the garden. Then rhizomes and tubers such as mint for a resilient and aromatic path into the meditation areas will be planted.
The group have attended seed swaps (find one at seedysunday.org) where they were able to obtain wildflower seed for woodlands and shaded areas for the back of the solitary bee area. The seed includes wild orchids, very appropriate for a forest garden. Suzanne was also able to purchase a genus of the bilberry bush known as vaccinium, the berries are black and will go at the front of the forest garden, where they have planned for fruit bushes in their design for the garden. The bushes love sandy soil and are important to a forest garden, they are nitrogen fixers, helping the forest garden to be self fertilising and organic. The bushes will provide essential ground cover to stop soil erosion. Suzanne was also able to purchase a mountain pepper bush, originating from Tasmania, the leaves of which smell of cinnamon.
The seed swap was a great community event, allowing for all sorts of interesting conversations, and as a result Suzanne has packaged up some of her tree seeds to give away – and her own forest garden has benefitted as it gets off the ground.
Redstone Wood Cottage is a Quiet Garden based in a private home in Surrey, UK