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Edulis Nursery - Mid-Welsh Inspiration

Berkshire-based Edulis Nursery was set up by Landscape Architect Paul Barney in 1993. Much of the reasons and inspiration for setting up the nursery came from his time spent in Machynlleth, Powys. Paul started gardening very young and was infused with organic principles by his father. Growing vegetables started in The Walled Garden that now is home to Edulis. Following a B.Sc(Hons) in Biology & Geology at Oxford Polytechnic in the early 80s, Paul grew organic vegetables for local restaurants and private clients. In 1984, he was offered a post to research organic farming and horticulture at Aberystwyth University. There was a reluctance to accept Organic Principles within the Agriculture Dept so Paul moved to the Centre of Alternative Technology in 1985. Here, he found a number of like minded and enthusiastic practioners, that inspired Paul to develop his interest in Permaculture. He attended the first Permaculture Design course in the UK at Venton Mill, run by Andy Langford and Lea Harrison.

Permaculture principles inspired Paul in a large number of his landscape designs and forestry schemes that he undertook as Dyfi Landscapes. A number of these are maturing these days. Especially forestry planted in the 80s at Dynyn, Eglwys Fach, & Derwenlas. Also a forest garden at Abercegir, Nr. Machynlleth. The use of nitrogen-fixing nurse trees was key in creating shelter on exposed Mid-Welsh hillsides. Fast growing non-natives like Alnus incana and cordata provided the shelter necessary to establish Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) and Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

An unfulfilled dream was to establish Blueberry orchards on some of the wetter slopes at Dynyn. Further design principles were developed as part of a Masters Degree at Sheffield. This led to the design and implementation of a number reed-bed treatment systems with willow polishing beds. Also the planting of  a 22,000 tree community forest, based on Permaculture principles at Beale Park in Berkshire. In the early 90s, it was almost impossible to buy 'permaculture' plants except from the likes of Ken Fern at Plants for a Future. Ken supplied Paul with many of his original plants for Edulis. Particularly of interest, would be Chaenomeles cathayensis and Fagopyrum diobotrys (Perennial Buckwheat). Gradually, a large number of 'permaculture' plants were being grown in the Walled Garden in Pangbourne. In 2001, Paul started the design drawings for the RISC Roof Garden Garden, with construction co-ordinated by Jessica Witchell. The vast majority of the plants for the original planting at RISC were from Edulis. The Roof Garden has proved to a be a fine example of urban roof-space food production.

Gradually, interest in perennial edible plants has been increasing, and Edulis has increased its range accordingly. The concept that a plant can be beautiful as well as edible has encouraged gardeners to plant far more edibles amongst their flower & shrub borders. Shrubs like Amelanchier canadensis and Aronia 'Viking' are fine examples of these multi-functional plants, offering spring blossom, summer fruit and autumn colour. Also the range of perennial tuberous crops has increased. Named varieties of oca (Oxalis tuberosa) are appearing from America as well as different clones of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolia). Edulis has been selling these different tubers for a number of years with a degree of success at places like the well attended Seedy Sunday. Edulis aims to continue to introduce new perennial food crops, via trips to countries that use a far greater range of perennial plants in their diets than in the UK.

A recent trip to visit relatives in India, has yielded a robust Allium hookeri 'Zorami'. A hardy perennial onion with fleshy strap-like leaves that are used in many forms of cooking in India and China, yet had not been grown as food crop here. Recent books like "A Taste of the Unexpected' has raised the profile of the hardy Szechwan pepper. A very exciting shrub to grow that produces masses of peppercorns used in Chinese 5 Spice and other cooking. This hardy shrub can be grown across most of the UK in a sheltered position.

The list of exciting new plants that can grow in UK conditions continues to increase, and Edulis aims to stock the latest. There are so many worthwhile perennial edibles. Paul exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show this year for the first time, exhibiting predominantly edible perennials in a floral display. People were frequently surprised by the edible nature of the display, with white drifts of flowering Earth Chesnut (Bunium bulbocastaneum) and  architectural beauty of Japanese Asparagus ( Aralia cordata).

 

Edulis Nursery (www.edulis.co.uk) is open on tuesdays or by appointment.

P.B.

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