Canada Geese

Apart from a small resting flock of 5 birds seen resting in the bay in early March 2017 I’ve never seen Canada Geese (Kanadagås) in the bay before this week when a flock of some 60 birds has been feeding on farmland, occasionally resting in the bay as in the video.

…and right past the house:

Nettle-leaved bellflower

Nettle-leaved bellflower (Campanula trachelium) has a more southwesterly distribution in Europe than my favourite giant bellflower C. latifolia and replaces the latter species in the south of England, France, Italy, Spain and North Africa and eastwards into West Asia. It has also widely naturalised in northeast North America. Like C. latifolia, it has edible sweetish tasting roots that contain the carbohydrate inulin like Jerusalem artichoke, good for diabetics, but can give flatulence. I suspect, however, that it takes several years to get to a usable size. I’ve been digging over an area of the garden into which Polygonum alpinum (Alpine knotweed) had invaded this week and there were also many self-seeded bellflowers with good sized roots, so I put them to one side to use in a delicious zucchini-bellflower curry which we ate last night!

Nettle-leaved bellflower has similar habitat requirements to the giant bellflower, inhabiting open woodlands and hedgerows and grows well in complete shade on the north side of my house amongst the Hostas. It has a preference for alkaline soils and grows well on clay. It is therefore an excellent plant for the forest garden, although given the choice I would prefer the giant bellflower as the spring leaves of trachelium are coarser and hairier and therefore less good in salads, but nevertheless fine finely chopped in mixed salads.  It has been used traditionally in Italy in mixed species spring soups such as minestrella (see page 59) and is one of the ingredients in pistic (boiled and fried, see page 59 of my book Around the World in 80 plants).

Campanula trachelium in the Jardin de Botanique, Paris at the best stage for harvesting tops and leaves
White flowered Campanula trachelium “Alba” has yellower spring leaves.
Campanula trachelium subsp aloha (in Kew Gardens)
Nettle-leaved bellflower thrives in shade together with Hostas

There are a number of ornamental forms available in the trade which you might like to try, including a single-flowered white form (var. alba), which has naturalized in my garden. The double white (‘Alba Flore Pleno’) form and “Snowball” (https://dorsetperennials.co.uk/product/campanula-trachelium-snowball) haven’t come true from seed for me. ‘Bernice’  is another deep purple-blue flowered cultivar.

Campanula trachelium in the background of emerging Allium wallichii flowers
Campanula trachelium flowers are edible and can be used to decorate salads
Naturalised blue and white forms in my garden
Nettle-leaved bellflower produces masses of seed

The mini-pond and marginal areas

My house was given the name Bergstua by the previous owners, literally meaning house on the rock, a rocky hillside overlooking the fjord. Not a natural place for a pond. I wanted to have a pond somewhere, initially mainly for wildlife, habitat for frogs, drinking water for birds etc. 
I eventually chose a small depression in the rock where the previous owners had presumably blasted a hole in order to erect a flagpole. Not being one for flags, I decided to convert this area into a pond and this involved removing both the metal support and concrete base and this took a couple of years of hard work as I also wanted to avoid machines. If it was feasible by hand I would do it by hand, even resisting an electric drill  for many years. I used to come home from work and spent half an hour every day hacking at the concrete with a metal digging bar and when that was eventually removed deepening the depression in the shale-like rock (phyllite).

The hedge you can see behind the pond was Cotoneaster lucidus which has non-edible berries that not even birds take until they are desperate. We bought a rubber liner for the pond in the UK on one of our trips to visit family. I initially filled the pond and the boggy marginal areas with wild plants and creatures like water boatmen and frog spawn from lakes in the area, but regretted a few of the introductions like Equisetum fluviatile (swamp horsetail). The frogs never really thrived but a few survived for a few years and one took up residence in our septic tank…
I later gradually converted the pond to an edible pond and the hedge behind was dug out and replaced by a diverse edible/bird friendly hedge including Morus alba, Crataegus, Viburnum edule, Sambucus nigra “Variegata”, Viburnum opulus, Amelanchier “Thiessen”, Rosa spp., Staphylea (bladder nut) and a few others. About 10 years ago, I overhauled the pond, digging out all the soil and replanting from scratch in order to remove all the horsetail and other aggressive plants. Below is a video of my little collection of water and bog plants this week and below the video is  list of plants we see:

Featuring the following plants:
Gunnera tinctoria (G. chilensis) is one of the 80 in my book Around the World in 80 plants (ATW80)
Althaea officinalis (Marsh mallow/ legestokkrose)
Allium validum (Swamp onion, Pacific onion) which is also included in ATW80
Caltha leptosepala (Western marsh marigold, White marsh marigold / hvit soleihov)
Darmera peltata (Umbrella plant, indian rhubarb / skjoldsildre)
Lilium canadense ssp michiganense (Canada lily, Michigan lily / Canadalilje)
Saxifraga pensylvanica (Swamp saxifrage) is also in ATW80
Typha angustifolia (Reedmace, bulrush, cattails / smal dunkjevle)
Filipendula ulmaria “Variegata” (Meadowsweet / mjødurt)
Polygonum hydropiper (Water pepper / vasspepper)
Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp agrimony / hjortetrøst) (for insects and butterflies)
Zizania latifolia (Manchurian wild rice) – not very useful as it’s the swollen stems infected by a fungus which is used.
Lycopus spp.
Apium nodiflorum (
Fool’s watercress, European marshwort)
Oenanthe javanica (Water dropwort, seri)



Illinois Everbearing Mulberries

After a 15 year wait, I was finally able to harvest a few mulberries last year, see https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=23040 
In the winter I was sent 4 cuttings of the variety Illinois Everbearing which everyone raves about! I’m not much of a grafter and in fact I can now report my first success as all 4 are alive! I’d actually given up when I noticed green buds on 3 of them a few weeks ago and then last week I saw the 4th that I had missed that even had berries!
I’m wondering, what chance the ones in bud have in making it through the winter and I should maybe remove the fruit and flowers now appearing on another?

Buddleja Butterflies

By chance, the best two plants in the garden for pollinating insects in late summer are growing together in the garden. The Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard / tysk klematis) is in the foreground in the picture below and is popular with hoverflies, droneflies and bumblebees. Behind is my largest (of 3 Buddlejas, butterfly bush /sommerfuglbusk). We had one when we were growing up in the back garden, where my interest in insects and nature started. As the name suggests, it is most popular with butterflies (and moths), but bumble bees are also commonly seen on it. The Clematis reaches up to the balcony which allows me to study the insects at close hand. Clematis vitalba was planted in the garden as the cooked young shoots are commonly eaten in spring in Italy and is therefore one of the best edientomentals (edible/for the insects/ornamental) you can plant. Buddleja davidii is not edible and is in the entomental category.
Although the total number of butterflies is lower this year as last year we experienced a major invasion of painted lady (tistelsommerfugl) butterflies (only 2 observations in the last month in this part of Norway), there is a good diversity of species and you’ll find pictures and videos of the following species below:
Red admiral / admiral (up to 4)
Small tortoiseshell / neslesommerfugl (7)
Dark green fritillary / aglajaperlemorvinge (1)
Brimstone / sitronsommerfugl (colonising this area and my 3rd record this summer)
Comma / hvit C
Small white? / liten kålsommerfugl
Green-veined whites / rapssommerfugl have also been very common this year.
A possible small blue (dvergblåvinge) was also seen in the garden on Allium wallichii on 21st August.

Runner Bean harvest

As I wrote earlier, it looks like we may have a glut of runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) this year, the first time for many years. Runner beans are borderline here and last year we only managed to get a few beans before the first frosts. This year, we could have made a first harvest a week ago, but I wanted to keep the first beans for seed for the next couple of years. Yesterday we had bread dough ready and therefore made a pizza with runner beans and a mix of fungi picked in the woods (separate post). The dough was 100% coarse whole grain rye, spelt and emmer (sourdough)! Delicious as always!