Category Archives: Perennial vegetables

Perennial Vegetables and Edimentals in Maine

A great evening at the Resilience Hub in Portland, Maine after a tour of Aaron Parker’s Edgewood Nursery where I’m staying! Possibly the best stocked edible perennial nursery that I’ve visited! More on this when I return!
Aaron was one of the first I sent seed of Hablitzia to in North America early in 2009, after Jonathan Bates (Eric Toensmeier’s partner at Holyoke). Hablitzia is now a best seller at the nursery and Aaron told me is also grown commercially in Maine, particularly valuable due to the early spring harvest! Another person I sent seed to in 2009, Greg Martin was also there last night!
Thanks also to Aaron for setting up my tour of New England!

With Joe Hollis in Paradise!

What an amazing place, at Joe Hollis’ Mountain Gardens in North Carolina yesterday!
My favourite forest garden anywhere!! At 77, Joe is still expanding having purchased more land and with several new projects!
Thanks to all who came including the three who drove down from Ohio for the event (9+ hours!)
The picture shows me and Joe in his largest patch of Udo (Aralia cordata). Very much more when I get the time….on to Atlanta today and the gig at the Botanical Garden tomorrow!

Pizza Hemerocallis

Tonight’s pizza ingredients found on a random forage in the garden: 3 different day lily species flower buds, including the first yellow Hemerocallis altissima, H. citrina (in the middle) with Malva moschata and M. alcea, second flush nettles, Campanula trachelium (new leaves after cutting down), Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle) and broad beans, with shallots, garlic, chili, oregano and topped with the year’s first poppy seed!

Hablitzia accession overview 2019

Hablitzia accession overview 2019

The following gives an overview of the sources of Hablitzia I know of (if I’ve missed any, please let me know!)

  1. My oldest plant is 17 years old and came from Sweden (unknown background)
  2.  Jonathan Bates received his plants from a German Botanical Garden. I contacted the German garden, but no reply. I think Jon and Eric Toensmeier lost theirs….
  3.  Justin West collected seed in the wild in Armenia. He struggled with them in New York and lost them before moving west.
  4. Tycho Holcomb and Karoline Nolsø Aaen in Denmark collected one accession in Georgia (found at the entrance to a cave)
  5. I received wild collected seed from botanist Sergey Banketov in the Russian Caucasus (near Pyatigorsk)
  6. I have one plant from the only relic Norwegian plant at Hadsel in Northern Norway
  7. I received seed of plants from two relic Swedish locations
  8.  #2
  9. I received seed from about 5 relic plants in Finland and Estonia
  10. #2
  11. #3
  12. #4
  13. #5
  14. I was given seed from a plant at the Uppsala Botanical Garden in Sweden in 2009.
  15. I also received seed from a Swedish herb nursery (pre-1970, unknown source).
  16. I’ve seen plants of unknown origin in the following botanical gardens: Gothenburg
  17. Oslo
  18. Copenhagen
  19. Chelsea Physic Garden (London)
  20. I have one accession from Arche Noah (Austria) – unknown source

Seed of many of these have been deposited with Nordgen (Nordic Genebank) who funded some of the collection work that I did. However, they have struggled with regenerating new seed of the different varieties as it seems you need more than one type to produce seed.

I’ve sent cuttings from several of my plants to Ronny Staquet of Wallogreen in Belgium. I have about 10 accessions in my garden, but they self-sow readily and have become mixed up in one place where I had several plants growing close together.

Edimental of the Day is Malva alcea

Malva alcea (greater musk-mallow, cut-leaved mallow, vervain mallow or hollyhock mallow / Norw: rosekattost) is a mallow native to southwestern,  central and eastern Europe and southwestern Asia, from Spain north to southern Sweden and east to Russia and Turkey.  It is easy to confuse with musk mallow (Malva moschata). It is a much larger plant than moschata. My plant is the upright form Malva alcea var. fastigiata and reaches 1.8m, double the height of moschata. I had this for many years, but it was sterile and I suspected it was a hybrid with moschata. It finally died after some 15 years and I sourced new seed through the Scottish Rock Gardening Club seed list in winter 2012-2013. It grew quickly, produced seed and has self-sowed in a few places in the garden, growing well in the half shady conditions my garden provides for. Here it is, filmed from my balcony today:

It is often planted in gardens as it flowers for a long time in summer. It has naturalised in the UK (see https://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/plant/malva-alcea) and also here in Norway there are a number of observations, particularly around Oslo.

This summer, I’ve been using this mallow much more than before as I now have a lot of it and it has replaced moschata in a few places, suggesting that these may be hybrids! This really is one of the most useful perennial vegetables in the summer garden. Along with other mallows you can pick off leaves, young flower buds and flowers over an extended period! I use them in various stir-fry dishes, in soups, on pizza, in quiches and mixed salads!

It is surprisingly not often mentioned as edible in ethnobotanical studies (maybe underreported due to confusion with moschata?). However, a quick search revealed it being used traditionally in Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria!

If I had written my book today, this may well have replaced moschata. I did mention alcea in the book under the account of moschata as follows:

I have less experience with Malva alcea, greater musk mallow, which is, as the English name suggests, a larger plant. It has a similar range to musk mallow, except that it isn’t found in the UK. I’ve only grown the form ‘Fastigiata’ which is long-lived and a nice ornamental, needing staking up during the summer. My plant was sterile and is
thought possibly to be a hybrid between M. alcea and M. moschata. The flowers are also good in salads.

Bees love it too!

Here are a few pictures of it in the garden today:

 

Saving sorrel seed

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)  is found throughout Europe, even in alpine habitats up to 2,100m in the Alps and 1,900m in Norway. It ranges eastwards as far as Japan and is also found in the Himalayas and mountains of China. It has also naturalised in North America,
New Zealand and Australia. Throughout its range, its a prized wild edible and in France and Russia it is also cultivated for the markets and a number of varieties have been developed. There are also a number of varieties that never flower, giving us fresh leaves throughout the season. This species is fully covered in my book Around the World in 80 plants.  A few years ago, I bought 7 varieties of sorrel from a vegetable catalogue in Estonia and planted an area of the garden to these. Last year, I removed all the flowers except one variety and offered seed through KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers). This year, I let them all flower and will offer a mix of all varieties, now drying in the garden.
If you know Russian, please tell me what the names mean (see the picture from a powerpoint presentation)…at least two are the same!

 

Companion perennials

It always amazes me how edible plants in my garden find their own best companions andystem create together really productive microsystems, often on really marginal parts of the garden that I never imagined could be so productive, such is the magic of perennials!
Here are  a couple of videos showing two of these areas:

  1. The edge of what was a shady bed previously used to grow annuals. I planted Hosta sieboldiana and Rumex scutatus on the edge of this bed with an Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern / perlebregne), one of the species sometimes eaten as fiddleheads. The shade encouraged first a Hablitzia to self-seed and next to it a large stinging nettle.  A siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiridum) also found a place in the mix!  Perennial kales are growing on the rest of this bed this year! The video starts with the flower umbel of a pink flowered Heracleum sphondylium (common hogweed):
  2. The second area is at the end of one of my originally annual beds where I struggled to grow vegetables as it was very dry and under the shade of a large birch tree. Here I planted a number of Hablitzia plants 12 years ago and they love this spot producing good yields and climbing up into the birch tree in summer with the help of stakes I provided for them. Now, hogweeds have moved in (self-seeded), both Heracleum sibiricum and H. sphondylium and the Hablitzia is now using the 2.5m high hogweeds as climbing support!