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The makeup of a Forest Garden is designed on the principles of a tropical jungle where the planting is natural and interacting with a large range of plants with different needs cohabiting in an informal way. Some need full sun, some partial shade and some adapt themselves to heavy shade.
The principle is then applied in the UK to growing more temperate species, selecting the best of what is available to suit the climate and the needs of the garden designer. No two Forest Gardens are the same as there is no set plant list that has to be followed (although there are some core plants which most garden creators would like to include, site permitting) and no two sites have exactly the same aspect, soil conditions or shelter.
The seven layered system is however universal in principle although the species selected will vary from garden to garden.
- Level 1: the top of the canopy trees will naturally be the tallest and some may well be the widest too. Quite often, species like Wallnuts and Chestnuts may be used.
- Level 2: is formed of Small trees – Apples- Pears –Medlars, plus plants like Bamboo.
- Level 3: is the shrub layer – Blue berries – Jostaberries – Japanese wine berries and Hibiscus.
- Level 4: is formed of ground cover plants – Vinca major – Rubus nepalensis and Rubus tricolor.
- Level 5: derived from herbaceous plants such as Comfrey – Lemon balm – Chives and Ferns.
- Level 6: consisting of climbing plants such as grape vines – Chocolate vine – Mashua and Kiwi fruit.
- Level 7: Root crops such as Yacon, Jerusalem artichokes and Sweet potato
The key is to decide your plant spacings in relation to the desired results for both you and the plants within your site.