There’s a curve of green up the road from me that I’ve come to think of a ‘Jostaberry Junction’. It’s actually a community garden called Priory Common Orchard, set just off a cross-roads, and I could equally think of it as ‘Currant Crescent’ which is another of its alliteratively named features.
Wandering about this place takes just a few minutes, but its creators have incorporated many interesting aspects. Each area has a chalkboard-style sign, informing the passer-by of activities and intentions. The ‘Raspberry Ripple’ board, for instance, tells us that these are autumn fruiting varieties, whose canes can be snipped down in February and the fresh growth will produce berries later in the same year. Over in the herb bed, visitors are encouraged to ‘enjoy a cup of local herbal tea’, be it bramble leaf, dandelion, evening primrose, hyssop, mint, or nettle, amongst quite a long list. A separate sign enthuses further about nettle, that it’s ‘fabulous’ for several things including food, fibre, pest-control, dye, and even … flagellation! I guess this is a reference to its rubefacient quality, useful for arthritis. Beyond human use, we’re reminded that nettles are also good as a habitat and food plant for wildlife.
Even failures and problems are communicated. Unfortunately, the jostaberries have been found to be lacking, and so will probably be replaced with currants which do well here. The lime tree (Tilia, not citrus) that spread its canopy over part of the garden had to be chopped down for fear it might flatten a nearby building. True to the regenerative powers of many trees, this stump re-sprouted, and so ‘Unperturbed, it continues to provide plentiful edible delicately flavoured salad leaves. They make great wraps too.’ Must try that, in the absence of vine leaves..
One of the things I really like about this garden is the experimentation that goes on here. Grafting is a dwindling skill but there are some examples here: greengage has been spliced to a blackthorn; and there is an apple tree with multiple grafts – Jackson’s Late, Prince Edward, Alan Morton’s, Twyford Late, Parkland, and an English apple popular in Victorian times, Brownlees Russet, all tagged with strips from beer cans, the names etched into the metal.
I’ve been visiting this place on and off for a year and a half. Last summer I harvested some purple-podded french beans, as there was a sign saying visitors could help themselves to what was ripe. I took one serving’s worth, but it felt really weird to be taking the fruits (or in this case, pods) of someone else’s endeavours, as if I was stealing! I haven’t harvested anything since!
The project is spreading. A triangle of green across the footpath is now being gardened, starting with saffron crocuses. I wonder what they’ll include in future.. amaranth, perhaps? Or maybe Tasmanian mountain pepper? Or even the odd-looking electric daisy? Who knows, but I’ll definitely be following its progress.