On 2nd April 2018, Matthias Brück who had invited me to Switzerland to take part in the Perennials for Resilience seminar in Stans asked me along on a trip through the Alps to the Piedmont area of NW Italy! This is the first of three blog posts about this trip to an area that I think one day Matthias and his good lady Katharina will have a big impact in this area! This is also written as a thank you to Centro d’Ompio’s founder Pius Leutenegger who invited us to stay at the centre, wined, cheesed and dined us and took us on a wonderful tour of gardens and nature in the Lago d’Orta / Lago Maggiore area! I hope to come back one day and repay your kindness in helping developing the Centre’s gardens and maybe holding a course to start the process!
My first day in Victoria and Vancouver Island, BC was a mixed one. As this was probably my only chance I decided to go to the Butchart Gardens, a one hour bus ride outside of Victoria, and rated by some as one of the finest gardens in the world. I didn’t have high expectations, but was disappointed that there were almost no plant labels (apart from the rose collection) and otherwise very few native plants as far as I could see…
The botanical highlight was walking back to my lovely Airbnb room along the 30 min long Songhees coastal path. A interpretive sign informed of the rare Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystem in which both camas (Camassia), an important Native American food plant, and Fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum) grew alongside Dodecatheon (shooting stars)! A couple of minutes later I saw many fawn lilies in the woods and one emerging flower stalk of Camassia (both leichtlinii and quamash grow here)!
Almost exactly a year ago, I was on the otherside of the Pacific witnessing the mass flowering of katakuri (Erythronium japonicum) in Japan: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=9121
This post documents my visit with Aiah Noack of Naturplanteskolen in Denmark to the historical town of Asuke in Aichi Prefecture near to Toyota, where we’d spent the night, on 28th March 2016. Asuke and the Korankei Gorge is a popular place to visit to see the autumn colours, with some 4,000 different maples planted here since a priest started beautifying the place in 1634 (see http://japan-highlightstravel.com/en/travel/nagoya/120029). Aiah had contacted an old plant breeding colleague, Teruo Takatomi, based in Toyota, who had kindly offered to show us around for a couple of days and this was the first day of the itinerary they had arranged for us visiting natural areas and farms growing sansai (wild mountain vegetables). Two of Teruo’s colleagues took us to Asuke to see the mass flowering of katakuri (Erythronium japonicum) on Mt. Iimoriyama right next to the town. However, there was much more than katakuri in the wood as the first album documents and at the end of the walk through the woods we stumbled on a wonderful small nursery specialising in wild and edible plants! The owner ran it as a hobby and kindly invited us back to his house for tea and to see his garden (second album below).
For edimental gardeners, katakuri is one of the most exclusive vegetables, requiring at least 7-8 years to flower from seed! Two plants I was given by Magnar Aspaker in April 2008 still only produce one flower a year and I’ve never seen a flower, but it’s growing in a less than optimal environment… It has survived the worst of the freezes here including the coldest winter since records began (frozen solid for 3-4 months)! Ian Young relates the same problem in his excellent e-book “Erythroniums in Cultivation” (available for free at http://files.srgc.net/general/ERYTHRONIUMS-IN-CULTIVATION%20-2016-IanYoung.pdf). He says that the bulbs divide slowly and seed is important to increase plants, but it takes time. On the other hand, individual plants can, according to a Japanese site, reach 50 years old with a new bulb every year! This seems to be his favourite Erythronium, easy to grow (although slowly increasing) with dramatic markings on the flowers.
As an edible plant, it was once an important source of an edible starch, katakuriko, but the plant was overharvested (also due to its popularity for the wild flower industry) and potato starch is used today, retaining the name! Both the leaves and flowers are used in Japan in various ways and I’ve given a few recipes roughly tranlated from various Japanese pages in the following document:
…or as in this picture from one of my Japanese foraging books:
The leaves are also fermented!
We also spent some time at Sanshu Asuke Yashiki, a working traditional crafts museum next to Mt. Iimori and had a gourmet lunch at the Kunputei restaurant overlooking the river gorge (third album below). This restaurant specialises on tofu dishes, handmade every morning and we ate konjac for the first time here (Amorphophallus konjac) (see this blog post for my experience with growing konjac: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=845)
Mass flowering of katakuri video!
In the afternoon, we were invited to the house of the nursery owner in the old traditional part of town. He also had a garden full of interesting plants!
Finally, a gallery of pictures from our visit to the traditional crafts museum, Sanshu Asuke Yashiki, and our gourmet lunch at the Kunputei restaurant within the museum grounds:
On the 2nd day of the Malvik permaveggies course, we walked the Homlastien (path along the mighty Homla river) from the waterfall down to the station at Hommelvik! As always it takes longer than expected and my estimated 4 hours became 6-7 hours with all the stops!
See the pictures here:
Almost exactly 6 years ago (is it really that long ago?) I was delighted to have a visit from BBC gardening presenter and Guardian writer Alys Fowler. After we finished photographing the garden I took her on a tour to Vennafjellet, the closest mountain to home and we also stopped at Nævrahølet, a local swimming “hole” under a small waterfall! It was a glorious hot day in “paradise”. It’s now known as Alys’ Pool and a picture of her swimming here features in her book the Thrifty Forager!
6 years on I did the same trip with the group of Danes who have been learning about permaveggies in my garden! It was a much colder day, but two of us did venture into the water. It wasn’t as bad as feared! One thing I hadn’t noticed on Alys’ visit was that there were several plants of Mountain Queen (Saxifraga cotyledon) hanging in full flower around the waterfall!
See the video of Ostrich Fern Island below:
On Sunday of the Danish Malvik permaveggies course, we drove to near the top of the closest mountain from home to see the views and the rich flora: Vennafjellet (Faseknippen) and walked over to Baklifjellet
Please feel free to add names to plants and people!
See the whole album here: http://www.edimentals.com/pictures/index.php?/category/114