Yes, you can have it all, beauty and utility. Well, this is what I’m hoping to prove with the Ornamental Forest Garden.
It’s a one acre, greenfield site (previously used as unfertilised rough pasture for cows), bordered by established trees and a track to the south and west, open to the neighbour’s field to the north and abutting the house and garden to the east.
It will be primarily a show garden, to demonstrate the advantages of forest gardening to “conventional” gardeners. One of the things I’ve found with our first forest garden is that it can look a bit, well, green! After reading A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson, and volunteering for The People’s Orchard project, I’ve becoming increasingly interested in the role of pollinators & beneficial insects in the garden. In forest garden parlance, pollinator friendly plants are called system plants, as they provide benefits for the whole garden ecosystem without a direct harvest. This opens up a huge range of options, indeed, I collated my 10 favourites.
So, you can choose a range of pollinator friendly plants that will flower all year round. Combined with brilliant autumn foliage, fruit and structural colour, this means a carefully designed forest garden can zing with visual vibrancy for all 12 months.
Having a limited forest garden palette and mindset is a challenge but it’s also quite liberating. We visited Farmyard Nurseries today to buy plants for the rejuvenated farmyard pond and the sheer range of plants was mind-boggling. By restricting your choice, it can make it easier to choose.
Another advantage of creating the OFG is that I can use it as material for the video and one day on-site courses that I’m currently creating.