THE PLANTS

We grow over 200 different types of plant at ELL, most of which are edible,perennial and low maintenance. We love them all.

For plant buffs, the Excel document below provides a list of botanical names…

Edible plants

If it’s a plant and it’s edible, tasty, low maintenace and robust, then we’re interested.
Most of our plants are perennial, 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 New Zealand arrow root, Siberian pea tree, globe artichokes, 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’ containing plants that can handle shade, such as Siberian purslane, violets, groundcover raspberries and Babington’s leek.
Also on site, we have a number of propagation beds full of seedlings and cuttings. Plenty of potted trees, some of which have been grafted. The ‘mother’ bed contains plants 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.

Salad plants

An important part of our volunteer days is the eating and we usually include a hand-picked salad from the plants on site. Perennial salad leaves are excellent because:

  • perennial plants don’t need to be planted every year, so you get a crop earlier in the season and there’s no ‘hungry gap’. There’s no need to wait for seeds to grow
  • no annual tillage means soil life is preserved and enhanced
  • having a mixture of different food crops (growing a polyculture in a forest garden) promotes biodiversity. It ensures our plants are not stressed through competition with similar plants nearby
  • we don’t need to add fertilizers or pesticides to our happy plants, and we hardly even need to water them
  • there are lots of exciting new tastes to try out

Our choice of botanicals is 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.

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, saltbush (Atriplex halimus) – 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
  • Colour: day lily (Hemerocallis fulva) – flowers, marigold (Calendula officinalis) – flower petals, violet (Viola spp) – flowers, borage (Borago officinalis) – flowers, nasturtium (Tropaeolum minor) – flowers and leaves, false shamrock (Oxalis trilangularis) – leaves
  • Yumminess:  sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) – leaves and stems,  french sorrel (Rumex scutatus) – 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

Plant and seed suppliers

Name

Website

Rare plants?

Seeds?

Typical prices

Comments

Agroforestry Research Trust

www.agroforestry.co.uk

Y

Y

Shrubs – £9

Trees – £15

Best variety of cultivars for typical FG plants

Best range of seeds for typical FG plants

Helpful, easy website

Bee Happy Plants

www.beehappyplants.co.uk

N

Y

Shrubs – £8

Trees – £16

Excellent for wildlife-friendly plants

Plants are grown organically

Helpful, easy website

Beth Chatto Gardens

www.bethchatto.co.uk/products

Y

Y

Shrubs – £8

Trees – NA

Expensive and commercial, but good for ornamental herbaceous perennials which are also edible

Burncoose Nurseries

www.burncoose.co.uk

Y

N

Shrubs – £10

Trees – £30

Very expensive but you can find most things on here

Cool Temperate

www.cooltemperate.co.uk

Y

N

Shrubs – £7

Trees – £15

Good range of edible cultivars

Historic Plants

www.historicalplants.co.uk/

Y

Y

Shrubs – £6

Trees – £10

Excellent for rare plants, but difficult website

Jurassicplants Nurseries

www.treeonlinenursery.co.uk

Y

N

Shrubs – £5

Trees – £7

Excellent range of rare plants, very reasonable prices and very good service

Helpful, easy website

Kevock Garden Plants

www.kevockgarden.co.uk/store

Y

N

Shrubs – £8

Trees – £15

Expensive

Good for ornamental plants which are also edible

Kore Wild Fruit Nursery

www.korewildfruitnursery.co.uk

Y

N

Shrubs – £6

Trees – £7

Excellent for unusual and wildlife-friendly plants

Helpful, easy website

Lubera

www.lubera.co.uk/

Y

N

Shrubs – £12

Trees – £20

Expensive, but good for “novelty” plants e.g. edible dahlias, white asparagus

The Forest Garden

www.theforestgarden.com/shop/

N

N

Shrubs – £2

Trees – £5

Fantastic prices and service, but very small selection of mostly natives