The polyamory of plants.

By Gabrielle Williams.

We brought with us from Yorkshire a motley mixture of plants in pots, numbering about 40, originally from our small back garden. These were herbs, such as oregano and mint, plus perennials including horseradish and ramsons, as well as small shrubs including Buddleia and currants. Also a few trees: rowan, apple, oak and yew. And Kim, our affectionately named pinus Koraiensis, which had served as our Yuletide decoration for 5 years. Between periods of active service, she lived in a large pot in the garden. The Korean pine puts on a new level of horizontal branch growth every year, making a delightful pyramid shape. It’s a productive edible nut variety, producing nuts after about 20-25 years. Handy!

For the last couple of years, Kim looked in desperate need to go into the ground, the upper branches becoming crowded and stunted. All together now: poor Kim! You’ll be relieved to know that one of the first things we did was to plant her into the wet and welcoming ground of Caithness. Sigh of relief all round. Even better, we’ve just introduced Kim to some new friends: the blueberries. In nature, a tree such as the pine will grow with an understory beneath it of other smaller plants which don’t compete with it for resources, such as light and food, forming a mutually beneficial relationship. Pine forests are naturally acidic, as is our field just now, and blueberries are acidophilic plants. In the future, we’ll also plant juniper under more Korean pine. A couple of years ago, during our walking holiday in the Cairngorms, we observed a natural polyculture of pine over juniper and raspberry. Why fight nature? I’d rather try to emulate an ecosystem that works.

Now Kim and friends are enjoying a peaceful retirement with a view of the loch and will become part of our view from the living room window and eventually provide us with nuts and fruit. Thanks, Kim.

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