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Free Plants! A Different Approach

Frank Bowman Ty Nant

Frank Bowman Greets us with Tea!

On Monday we went to Tyn Y Nant Forest Garden Centre at Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr which is according to Google about an hour and a half from us. It took us two hours but I don’t begrudge the time as our journey there took us through lush green farmland, desolate high moorlands and forest. The wonder of Wales!

Now this is different to a normal nursery. They’re developing 7 acres of forest to provide food and fuel for a start. That isn’t the big difference though, the big difference is that they give away the plants.

The Gift Economy

This isn’t a conventional business, there are no price lists and no till to be seen. They’re operating on the gift economy. The idea is simple, what they need people give them and they give what they produce to people.

Their aim is to have all the basics of life’s needs; land, warmth and shelter, water and food, totally free and gratis. A shared resource for a sharing economy. They are completely off-grid. Water comes from spring, stream and land drain, power from renewable sources of wind generators, solar panels and wood. Structures are made from reclaimed materials and sustainable materials gifted to them. All wastes are composted.

It’s a bit tricky to find them, although they did send us clear directions the last bit is basically a track across a field and we were a bit worried about some irate farmer coming up demanding to know what we were doing!

A Warm Welcome

When we got there we couldn’t have had a warmer welcome. Frank Bowman who works there greeted us and produced cups of tea. You don’t get that in a commercial nursery. We ended up chatting with Frank for quite some time, putting the world to rights as you do.

Frank feels a lot of people have been failed by the current system and are looking for something different. The concept of the gift economy is one answer. They supply plants to other Forest Gardens, Farms, Small holdings, Agroforestry Farms, Individuals, Households, Transition towns, Incredible Edible groups and Permaculture projects, Schools, and Councils wanting to source forest-garden edible and useful trees and plants for their projects.

Not only edibles! Forest Garden produce includes agro-forestry wood and plants for usual wood use, fibres, dyes, fuels and many other vital uses.

Frank says “We need to get community forest gardens large and small and hedgerows of edible and useful plants and trees growing everywhere. You wouldn’t believe the harvest of nuts from our Ruthin sweet chestnut trees. The harvest per acre from sweet chestnuts with the same food value is reckoned to be the same as from organic wheat.”

They have quite a list of available plants:

Sedum Teliphium

Sedum Teliphium, Perennial Salad Leaf

  • Sea Buckthorn
  • Sweet chestnuts – Ruthin Sweet Chestnuts fruit yearly.
  • Gooseberries – Lleyn Alwen Gooseberries
  • Josta berries – from Bangor Forest Garden.
  • Blackcurrants – original from Robert Harts garden
  • Rhubarb – Glaskins Perpetual
  • Sedum Teliphium – Succulent Edible salad leaf.
  • Mints: Moroccan, Apple mint and Chocolate mint.
  • Bocking 14 Comfrey – split root
  • Viminalis Bio fuel willow.
  • Structure Willow
  • Raspberries

I had six sweet chestnuts and a dozen sea buckthorn which I potted on in a mix of spent potting compost and soil when we got home. They should be about right to plant out in a couple of years. Frank warned me that the sweet chestnuts are a bit fragile in their first year so they’ll spend the winter in the polytunnel.

Frank also dug me up half a comfrey (Bocking 14) plant. I know I could have split one of mine but they are still getting established and I’d rather not disturb them to increase their number if I can avoid it this year.

I split the comfrey root into a number of crowns and root cuttings which I then potted up. One half of an established comfrey root made 30 cuttings! I could probably have improved on that but I’d rather have a good piece of root get the new plant going quickly than a small piece taking longer. From experience I know the failure rate with comfrey cuttings is next to nothing and 30 plants is plenty.

You can find out more about the Forest Garden Centre on their Facebook page.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Free Plants! A Different Approach
  1. Chris Hunt says:

    So what did you gift for your new plants?

    • John Harrison says:

      To be clear – Frank never even mentioned my giving or donating anything. No pressure. But he mentioned not knowing a lot about vegetable growing so I’ve just posted a copy of my book and some seeds to him.

  2. Frank Bowman says:

    Well what a surprise to see this. Thanks John, you’ve described what we are doing just right, we are the growers and you are the planters! All of us, one big group planting the best we can grow, in our gardens, schools countryside and farms and community growing projects, even councils, all kinds of edible and useful plants and trees, black currents, sweet chestnuts that actually fruit! and big hazels that shed buckets of nuts! and of local origin.
    So many thanks for your book and the free seeds of tomatoes and others. We are set up for next year now. I’m going to experiment with hot beds starting in February.

  3. Frank Bowman says:

    What you give for plants is you do the planting part. We do the growing you plant them.

    Your doing the hard work.

    Its a crafty way of getting you to work for us. hahahaha!

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