woodland wonder wander: Viveka Gardens’ big winter planting project

Woodland creation is one part of the bigger vision for Viveka Gardens.
The Woodland Trust has given a 60% grant for over a thousand trees and shrubs to create woodland and hedgerows here. The woodland will give retreatants a place for meditative walking and sitting, increase biodiversity, shelter future crops and link the current piece of woodland with older woodland beyond. And provide general JOY!

Three different levels
As with yoga, the planting works on three different levels: physical, mental and subtle. So on the physical level it’s about the body of the trees, the habitats and materials (coppice products and firewood) they provide, how we take care of them and how they interact with the environment. On a mental level it’s about the space they provide for recreation, the beauty and the inspiration they give. And on a subtle level it’s about the prana, or vital energy, we can share with them – have you noticed how being near trees makes you feel good – and about the relationship between the trees’ spirits and ours.

What’s involved?
The land has been prepared by ‘topping’, ie mowing the grass, and strimming down competing grass where the hedgerows will go. We have prepared a trench to heel in the plants so we can plant them as we have time. Heeling in is a temporary planting while the trees are dormant ‘til March. The trees are slit planted, staked and have guards put on them. We then put a square metre of woodchip around the base to suppress competing weeds. Planting with love and attention and careful inspection they will make a canopy even within five years. Tending with a loving gaze helps a lot as any gardener knows! Even while the trees are just little whips, contemplation is fulfilling.

The site is marked out with stakes to form planting sections, glades, and paths along naturalistic lines. The trees are planted at an average density of 2.5m apart. Glades and woodland border have shrubs at the edges to create graded woodland edge which encourages wildlife such as butterflies, bats and birds. Glades make habitats for flowers and wild grasses. Next year we will collect seed from friends’ land such as bluebell and orchid.

The choice of the plants and the layout takes some inspiration from the Celtic Ogham which is a lettering system based on native plants. The Woodland Trust supplies native or suitable trees to the conditions here, a slightly acidic loam with wet flushes. All are native except the Sweet Chestnut, originally a Mediterranean species introduced by the Romans and really useful for coppiced rods to make hurdles. Gorse (whin) seedlings brought in with a lorry full of woodchip, woodbine (vine), ivy and some other of the Ogham will supplement the planting.

Tree Species: Alder, Aspen, Crab Apple, Field Maple, Hornbeam, Small Lear Lime, Oak, Rowan, Scots Pine, Silver Birch, Sweet Chestnut, Wild Cherry

Shrub species form an under layer: Dog Rose, Elder, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, Spindle

The hedgerow is 50% hawthorn with Blackthorn, Crab Apple, Dogwood, Dog Rose, Field Maple, Hawthorn, Hazel and pedunculate Oak. We have 100m of hedgerow to plant. Any donation of damson, bullace or other edible hedge plants are welcome.

For more info on British trees have a look at the Woodland Trust’s website

Trees attract not only birds, insects, fungi and other plants to live on them, but also a wide diversity of soil life. Badgers, foxes, voles, hare and rabbits already have tracks across the field and are sure to enjoy this new woodland in due course. There is already abundant birdlife. Certain tree species support less common insect species; alder seeds support siskin redpoll and goldfinch, for instance. The field already has some quite good plant and insect diversity (as anyone who lay down in the buttercups or ladies smock this summer can remember, and great butterflies as the grass ripened) and the presence of so much buttercup shows the land has not been ‘improved’ for quite a while.

Compost tea
We will make a compost tea from ‘duff’ (top level soil and leaf litter) from the neighbouring woodland to inoculate the plants and their soil with mycelium, bacteria and other microorganisms, so building the web of life in the soil and joining the woodland either side at this level too. In this way the established woodland can support the new trees, and in turn Viveka Gardens’ parcel offer fresh support once it grows.

It’s a good thing to plant trees. A planting project like this supports the beginning stages of Viveka Gardens, and it is wonderful if you can be part of that. The land’s plant, animal and people ancestors seem to be with the change of this little but beautiful bright field. A mantra or prayer can be said as you plant your tree(s). You can bring your own or share a traditional yoga or other blessing. As I write on 2nd November 2017, All Souls Day, it is a time for remembering those that have passed on and the ancestors.

If you want to remember someone with your planting you are welcome and we can tag it if you like. We are also ancestors in the making so if you would like to remember some joy or sorrow, dream or wish as you plant, be it personal or for the world, you are welcome. With this planting we honour the geology of aeons past, the millennia of mixed farming human use and re-vision pasture, peaceful and whole.

An invitation to take part

the blessed and the blessing trees’ Wendell Berry

connect with the spirit of trees and the land

Work exchange:

  • plant a tree or several
  • learn about plants
  • connect with the land
  • make it contemplative
  • meet like-minded people
  • enjoy yummy vegan food
  • take a yoga class
  • auspiciousness scroll down

Join Fiona and the Wwoofers
Contact to RSVP and ask any questions

Karma Yoga Thursdays & Saturdays

Planting weekends
December 9 & 10, 28 – 31
through January – March

come for a day or two or extend your stay to benefit from ashram-style living, staying in comfortable cosy dorm accommodation with woodburners

this is one of the boundary oaks at VG. Lovely spirit and lovely in the autumn sun

Woods by Wendell Berry