Food forests and gardens

The food forest gardening approach is the creation of systems which are productive and abundant yet which require very little maintenance. It is entirely possible to design and plant a forest which, within a relatively short period of time is productive and relatively self-maintaining.
By exploiting the premise of companion planting, trees, shrubs and herbs can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in a forest.
We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but at the same time grow food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer and medicine.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Kakabeak, Clianthus maximus, Clianthus puniceus or Kowhai Ngutu-kaka in Maori
is a woody legume shrub native to New Zealand's North Island
Both species have striking clusters of red flowers which resemble the beak of the Kaka, a New Zealand parrot. The plant is also known as Parrot's Beak, Parrot's Bill and Lobster Claw. There is also a variety with white to creamy coloured flowers.
Kakabeak grow to around two metres high, with spreading branches producing leaf stalks up to 15 cm long bearing several pairs of small leaflets. They usually flower from spring through to early summer, but can flower twice a year or even year round.
Kakabeak naturally grows in open, sunny, steep sites, often on rocky outcrops, slips, the bases of cliffs or edges of lakes and streams. It is a relatively short-lived plant, sometimes lasting 15-20 years. Kakabeak has a long-lived seed which may still be able to germinate 30 years after being produced, creating a ‘seed bank’ that holds many seeds ready to germinate when conditions suit. This enables it to grow in shrubland which is not permanently open but is frequently disturbed. The seeds wait for light gaps to appear, e.g. following a treefall or a slip, and then germinate in response.
Being a member of the pea family Kakabeak can fix nitrogen.
The seed pods are edible and the flowers attract bees and birds.
It grows as a sprawling shrub that can be trained as a standard weeping plant or pruned as an espalier or climber. Left to its own devices it will soon grow straggly and open and requires heavy pruning after flowering.
Propagation is by cuttings or sowing seed which should be scarified beforehand.

Here we have an excellent shrub with multiple functions, providing nectar for birds and bees, fixing nitrogen in the soil, providing protein/food for human or chickens etc. and mulch in autumn when pruned after flowering. And it's also a beautiful plant!

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