Each still image I capture in the garden represents a particular passing expression of the plant world in seasonal succession. And the static nature of the photo belies the true nature of the emergent forest garden which is in a state of perennial movement, forever shifting as plants come into blossom, maturity, death, and rebirth. I’m beginning an ongoing series where I’ll explore dynamic evolving interactions within the polyculture understory of our forest garden farm. If you enjoy it, please let me know and pass it on!
UNDERSTORY 001: Southeast Field Row 5 Early May 2018. Early in the season the understory is flush with cool season wild edibles that swell with each rain to fill in the empty space around them until no bare ground is visible; purple dead nettle, dandelion, pepper-cress, wild garlic, and wild brassicas. In the early years I would grow nervous as they arrived each start of spring; “the dead nettle is everywhere!” “the dandelion is taking over!” “what is this brassica, will it spread?!”. But the passing of time is a catalyst for intimacy, and loosening the grip of control opens up space for nuance and deeper understanding. Patterns emerge and a shared language takes shape. And so it becomes a familiar story… Each year the dead nettle arrives early in the space where last season’s dead plant material has decomposed and left a patch of unoccupied soil. Its presence impedes the progression of grass into the understory, and holds the space until it withers and all but disappears by early June. In its place, late spring herbs germinate and flush. And while the dandelion is visually striking this time year, it too will disappear and wither as the days progress. The flowers will take flight as seeds, and the leaves will grow thin just as the strawberries that snake around them begin to ripen. In the meantime I forgo early seed starts and instead forage from early vibrant wild edibles until I finally get around to planting the kitchen garden. Everything in good time.
Other plants pictured: European Elder, Violet, Blue Iris, Currant.