Augusta Creek Permaculture Forest Garden: May 3, 2016 Plant Walk

Spring is a truly lovely season in the forest garden. Today was an especially beautiful, sunny spring day here at the Augusta Creek Permaculture site. There’s lots popping up right now and so many things I’m excited about. Below are some of my favorite springtime features of our site.

Perennial Flowers

Perennial flowers are a great way to add so much beauty to your yard or garden with very little effort. You simply plant bulbs once and the flowers come back year after year. It’s magic. This past fall I planted tons of flower bulbs so this spring has been an especially colorful one. We had lots of snowdrops, then crocus and daffodils, but now those have died back and the tulips are stealing the show. They are all assorted colors – yellow, pink, red, purple, orange and many multi-color blooms – and are popping up all over the forest garden. It’s wonderful.

Asian pear blooms

Fruit Trees & Bushes

We incorporated many types of fruiting trees and bushes into the forest garden. Many of them are leafing out or flowering right now, including:

  • Honey berries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Wild black raspberries
  • Asian pears
  • Cherries
  • Persimmons
  • Plums
  • Paw Paws

The great thing about fruiting trees (besides the fruit) are their lovely flowers. I love the delicate blossoms on our Asian pears and cherries!

cherry blossoms
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honey berry blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hops

Herbs

As an herbalist, growing my own herbs is very important to me. It’s a great way to control quality and to ensure the herbs I’m using in my food, medicine, and Wild Blossom products are grown sustainably, organically, and with love. A few of the herbs that are coming up in the forest garden right now are:

  • Hops
  • Red clover
  • Dandelion
  • Cleaver
  • Chickweed
  • Plantain
  • Yellow dock
  • Burdock
  • Violets
  • Yarrow
  • Purple sage
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Catnip
  • Mint
  • Purple dead nettle
  • Comfrey
  • Mullein
a patch of chickweed, purple dead nettle, violets, cleavers, chives, and dandelions
cleavers

 

 

mullein

 

purple sage

 

 

 

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comfrey

 

 


 

garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Edibles

We have many other plants with edible berries, bulbs, roots, and leaves incorporated into the forest garden. Many of these plants are perennial and self-seeding, making for a low maintenance edible landscape.  While our perennial crops get well established (some things need to grow for a few years before they can be harvested or produce fruit), we are also incorporating some annuals for a more immediate food source. Some of the things coming up, leafing out, and blooming on site now are:

  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Strawberries
  • Horseradish
strawberry blooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ornamental Bushes/Trees 

These lovely bushes and trees provide beauty and diversity to the forest garden and are useful in many ways, including providing habitat for birds, insects, and other animals. I also enjoy using branches in unique bouquets. Some of my favorite ornamental trees/shrubs we have are a red bud – which has lovely pink blooms in the spring – and the red leafed maple that grows in front of our home (both are pictured below).

red bud

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Augusta Creek Permaculture site. If you are interested in a live tour or have questions about any of the plants we are growing and how we are growing them, feel free to contact us. We love talking about plants and are always glad to show people around the forest garden.

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maple

 

 For more information about forest gardens, check out what Martin Crawford and Sepp Holzer are doing at their sites.

Wild Crafting Violets

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Violets are one of the first plants to come up in the spring bringing a dash of cheery color to the forest floor. They are lovely little plants and have a variety of uses in food, medicine, and body products.

There are over 200 species in the Violet family that can be found growing abundantly in temperate and tropical areas all across the world. While they are herbaceous plants in North America, Europe, and Northern Asia, violet family plants native to tropical regions and South America are trees and shrubs. In North America, the violets start appearing in late February and generally bloom by the end of April. We are located in the Midwest United States, so the violets I’ll be talking about are a herbaceous variety.

Violets have heart shaped leaves and drooping flowers that are generally a deep purple. Light purple, blue, yellow, and white colored flowers are also common. The many different types of violets have similar properties and can be used the same way. The flowers and leaves of this plant are both wonderful food and medicine. They are rich in minerals and vitamins, like A and C. The flowers are sweet and a little astringent. They make a lovely garnish on salads or desserts. Their delicate flavor also lends nicely to infused liquors, vinegars, jellies, and springtime beverages.

There are many delicious ways to enjoy violets. Gin infused with violets has a very nice flavor and turns a lovely purple color when mixed with tonic water. Apple cider or rice vinegars infused with violets are wonderful in a light spring dressing. Violets can be added to tea, wine, and make a very pretty purple lemonade. They also can be used in making wild flower jelly.

Another simple, traditional way to enjoy violets by making violet syrup. In the 1930’s herbalist M. Grieve published this classic recipe in her book, A Modern Herbal. I have made a similar rendition of this recipe and it was quite delicious.

Violet Syrup: Infuse 1 lb of freshly picked violet flowers with 2 1/2 pints bowling water in a covered pot or glass jar for 24 hours. Then strain the flowers out, put the liquid in a pot, and add double the weight of the liquid in sugar. Simmer until liquid cooks down into a syrup. Do not let mixture boil. 

Violet infused water

Medicinally, violets are a diverse and potent remedy. They provide blood purifying action and help to eliminate waste in the body. They also help stimulate the lymphatic system. They can be helpful for swollen glands, congestion, coughs, and sore throats. They are a mucilaginous herb and thus, are good for soothing irritation and reducing inflammation. They are a good addition to skin care products are they are very healing and soothing for skin. This violet leaf soap from the Herbal Academy would be a perfect way to utilize the healing properties of violet leaf for sensitive or irritated skin. Click here for the recipe.

  Wild Crafting Violets

When wildcrafting any plant it is important to follow a couple basic guidelines.

  1. Only harvest plants from areas that have not been sprayed by chemicals or are near roadsides where there is pollution from cars.
  2. Do not over harvest plants. Make sure that you are leaving enough plants so that you are not harming the plant population and the supply for the animals and insects that also depend on wild plants.
  3. Always take general safety precautions. Wear orange if you are going to be in the forest during hunting season. Know whose land your are foraging on and be sure that they don’t mind. Just be smart.
  4. Make sure that you know exactly what plants you are foraging if you are going to be eating them or using them in body care products. Many plants are totally safe to consume, but there are a few that can be very poisonous. Don’t be discouraged. Plant ID can be pretty easy when you start learning about it. If you don’t know how to identify a plant you could invest in a field guide that is suited for your area, ask a friend who knows a bit about plants, or find an herbalist in your area who does seasonal plant walks. There are also many great herbalists online. Much can be learned by reading their blogs and websites. Some favorites are listed here.

Wild crafting is a very enjoyable experience. Once you are able to identify a few medicinal and edible plants its very exciting to see that food and medicine grow all around us. Foraging keeps us better connected to the natural world and is a great way to get inexpensive, unique, and potent herbs, flowers, fungi, berries, greens, and barks for use in foods and medicines. Enjoy your violet wild crafting adventure. I’d love to hear about any amazing violet concoctions you come up with.

 

References:

  • A Modern Herbal: Volume II. M. Grieves. “Violet, Sweet.” 834-840.
  • Violet.” Jessica Modino. www.susunweed.com.
  • Violet Herb.” jim mcdonald. www.herbalremediesadvice.org.