Our shady area at Holt Wood, originally designed for mushroom-inoculated logs, is turning out to be an ideal sheltered spot for growing on cuttings and divided plants. By bringing in some extra aluminium stands there is suddenly more space to put pots. Having a bigger space for propagation of medicinal trees and shrubs is exciting!! It is time to think ahead, and I am working on some planting lists for seeds and cuttings.
At our courses in May and June this year at Holt Wood, we gave away some seeds gathered in the previous year, much to the delight of participants – varying from St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) to feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and vervain (Verbena officinalis). In addition to the seeds, we were quite surprised at how keen visitors were to buy some of our homegrown plants. We had already sold most of our seedlings of Virginian witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) at the Buckfast Abbey Fair in early June. But in a shady corner I had potted up some figwort (Scrophularia nodosa) and elecampane (Inula helenium) amongst others. Some course members went away clutching these alongside cuttings of violet willow (Salix daphnoides) and cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) to plant up, and I hope these have all succeeded.
Now, I have to anticipate next year’s interest in medicinal trees and shrubs and try to get a decent range of plants that will be of reasonable size and quality to go to new homes. I will be trying a few key plants from seed such as Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Many trees and shrubs like this need stratification, especially if the seed has been stored, and this involves plastic bags, moist sand/soil mixes, labels and a refrigerator for varying periods of time. This becomes something of a logistical nightmare to work out which bags need to be in the fridge when and for how long, most importantly when a bag has to be taken out of the fridge! Meanwhile, this is one of the best times of year to be taking cuttings, so I am going about with sharp secateurs and more plastic bags, spotting likely softwood stems. On my list is sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). This is a wonderful aromatic plant that I have written about in my forthcoming book on medicinal trees and shrubs, ‘The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook‘: hopefully it will be out next March 2020!