A week ago I noticed my oldest Pinus cembra was full of male flowers (pictures at the bottom) and yesterday it was shedding pollen as you can see in the videos. In cold climates pines are the best bet for nut production although I can grow hazels and walnuts here. I’ve told the story before as to how Siberian Nutcrackers “planted” (read: cached) pine trees in my garden from plantings of this species locally on Malvikodden in the 1970s which started bearing fruits in the 1990s. Because people have planted the food plant of Siberian Nutcrackers, there is now an isolated population of breeding birds in this area and the birds are actively spreading their food plant by caching the nuts for winter food. I’ve had one cone on my tree so far a couple of years ago
Joe said to me at the time that I should come visit if I was ever in the US. I already knew at that time I was invited by Sam Thayer and Melissa Price to the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival at the end of September this year, but Joe’s place seemed a long trek south, so I forgot the idea. Then this spring, I was asked if I would be interested to do a talk at the Atlanta Botanical Garden….and I managed to change my travel plans to do this…and looking at the map I noticed it wasn’t too far from Joe’s Mountain Gardens (aka as Paradise)! So I contacted him and he replied: “Good to hear from you and that is great news! I am very much looking forward to showing you around my garden and adjacent National Forest land, there is a lot to see”.
So it came to past that I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina on 21st September 2019 and picked up a hire car as Joe’s place was an hour or more up in the Black Mountains subrange of the Appalachians. Four hours later I arrived at my hotel, the Celo Inn (as for why it took so long see the album captions). It turns out that the Celo community is one of the oldest intentiona communities in the world (1937), based on ideals of cooperation between residents and care for the natural environment….and it turns out that a neighbour and old colleague back in Trondheim actually went to school here…small world!
The pictures below show the approach road to Mountain Gardens from the Celo Inn (only a 5-10 min, drive away) and my first look into the garden!
Entering the garden for the first time I spy what is probably the native North American devil’s walking stick Aralia spinosa in full flower. Does this species flower much later than Japanese Aralia elata? My A. elata had finished flowering at home.
The following morning I walked around the grounds of the Celo Inn on a warm sunny day with monarch and swallowtail butterflies on the ornamental Asters. The owners had quite extensive vegetable beds and the ripe chilis bore witness that the summers were hot even up here in the mountains.
A type of swallowtail butterfly at the Celo Inn
The plantings at Væres Venner have been supported by KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers), the first of a network of gardens being developed across Norway both to take care of the genetics of old varieties of Norwegian useful plants, but also, as is the case here, to show what food we could be growing locally! The possibility of growing nuts locally makes it more realistic to eat a locally grown mostly vegetarian climate-friendly diet. I have a dream of walnut and hazel plantations in my area replacing the ubiquitous grain fields.
The tree has separate male and female flowers, but there has to be at least two trees for pollination ….
I have 5 one-year-old trees from a northern provenance, Jefferson County in Washington State (via Chris Homanics in Oregon) and hope that Ringve would like to plant more eventually….I would love to see if the nuts would ripen here… and also help to preserve a tree species that is threatened with extinction by an imported fungal disease where it grows wild in eastern North America. In its homeland, this is one of the quickest to produce nuts from seed (as early as 5 years!)
Chris, one of my food diversity / preparedness heroes, wrote in 2016:
“Last month was spent collecting many distinct types of chestnuts from about 30 separate sites throughout Western Washington and Oregon. Some were even from old naturalized forests full of chestnut trees. Amassed it represents a diverse foundation stock for planting up, far and wide. In the face of growing droughts and the woes of climate change, I believe this plant will play a significant role in feeding people in the future as it has gone far back into the deep past. My hope is to help foster a revival of interest with the chestnut as a viable sustainable food source by offering a diverse collection of these nuts to the public to select and adapt to their local environment. ”
My other plants I’d like to plant in KVANN’s garden at Væres Venner Felleshage!
At the opening of my garden as a Permaculture LAND centre in the spring, I was given a present of two sweet chestnut trees, a grafted Marigoule tree and a seed propagated Marigoule. Sadly, the grafted tree died but I planted the other tree yesterday next to another sweet chestnut that I think came from a woodland in Southern England in the early 2000s and was planted here in 2008. It has to my great surprise survived even a really cold winter when its roots were frozen solid for almost 4 months and temperatures below -20C:
The Mongolian oak nuts were also sometimes eaten and the leaves were used for tea, boiled with the fruits of Siberian crabapple, Malus baccata!
There were 3 young roots worth trying so I harvested them and baked them in their skins together with potatoes. They seem to need a bit longer than potatoes. The skins peeled easily off after baking and they were crispy with a good mild taste. If you have a ready supply of seed, they can be grown and harvested a bit like carrots when quite young!
This spring the tree died (at 15 years old) with no sign of life in the above ground parts, but when disposing of the plant I noticed that the young roots looked healthy, so I harvested them and repotted the remainder of the root to see if it might resprout and after several weeks in the window sill it now has fresh leaves, so not dead after all!
I didn’t get round to eat the young roots…they were left inside for a month and looked withered and inedible, but cutting in to one it looked good inside and indeed it was tasty and almost free from fibre….so we ate it in a stir-fry dish last night!
A minimum of about -15C seems to be about the temperature limit here and this limits the area they can be grown to a narrow strip outermost along almost the entire Norwegian coast it turns out. One of the biggest surprises in my gardening life was to discover a monkey puzzle growing in Skavberg nursery not far from the arctic city of Tromsø close to 70°N!! Owner Bjørn Thon was also growing Maori carrots (Aciphylla spp.) from New Zealand and many other plants I’d never seen before in Norway. Bjørn has been a long-term collaborator of the Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden and had been on collection trips to South America. His monkey puzzle had actually been from nuts bought on the market at Puerto Montt in Chile rather than Norwegian trees. The botanical garden, located in a more exposed site than the nursery, also tried but failed, the young plants dying after a few years.
I also have a Brazilian monkey puzzle (Paraná pine) overwintered in my cold cellar without lights at about 3-4C and bring it up as a Xmas tree for a couple of weeks 😊 See http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=15467
My monkey puzzle safari in Chile (old growth forest)
A visit with Andrew McMillion to Norway’s largest monkey puzzle tree: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=16922
Discussion on monkey puzzle on a Norwegian gardening forum in 2009: