Getting to know Shantree

For the 11 am session at the Forest Garden Convergence I chose the Forest Garden Walk-About with Shantree Kacera. He had a keen sense of time appreciation earlier in the morning which was juxtaposed nicely with his kind voice and flowing hair.

Shantree lead us through The Living Centre‘s herb garden explaining the changes that have happened on the site over the past 30 years. Both he and Lorenna stated  earlier in the morning that they grew soil on the land. That resonated with me as when we first moved to the house we rent in London’s Old North the soil was incredibly poor, hard packed clay in the back and front, gravel on the south side and a putrid smell came out of the 100% shade north side. I had decided to add mulch and compost and build the soil before trying to grow anything at all. 3 years in and most gardens are looking pretty lush.

As we moved from one garden to the next we passed fruit tree guilds and a 3 phase asparagus guild that students are experimenting with.

Throughout the tour of much of the eastern side of the land Shantree told stories about specific tree and how they demonstrated the softening of the elements, planting layers to create dappled shade, to disperse torrential rains, to buffer against the wind to make micro-climates.

I got to see so much in real life that I had only read about or seen photos of and the tactile experience was wonderful. A key insight he shared was that as we designed our gardens we needed to make room for succession, how the growing plants will change the environment making our first designs irrelevant.

I think that complexity and flux are partly why forest gardens are so interesting to me, you really never finish and it is never the same garden twice.