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Serenity Project: Hyndford,ON: Encyclopedia of Perennial Plants for Zone 4b


In this post I will be listing alphabetically perennial plants suited for cultivation in Hyndford, or any other Zone 4b location. I will include only the most basic information on each plant, hardiness, expected growth, function(s) and placement in a typical food forest, clearing/meadow or wetland. I expect the list to continue to develop over time but hope to have the majority of my research completed by December 2015.

I am doing this so that I have a master list of plants: some I already have and will be transporting, those I definitely want and others I *might want*…This list will then be used in designing first, our potager or kitchen garden and, later, broadacre food forests with meadow clearings. The list will not be exhaustive. I will only be including plants I might be interested in using. I dunno if any of you have had this experience, but an awful lot of plant lists for cold temperate permaculture include plants that are not suited to my hardiness zone. I read the lists and plant descriptions (which often to not include specifics on hardiness), then get super excited about a plant…then I find out I would need a greenhouse to grow it. Shattering. We plan to eventually include greenhouses, but will prioritize their square footage for starting plants and for subtropicals we are addicted to: bananas and cinnamon, for example. Lovely thought to build 50 acres of underground greenhouses, but it is not going to happen.

Later, I will be making a list of Zone 5 plants I am really in love with. Eventually, as we develop the property and learn itès microclimates, we may give some of these a go. But none of them can be counted on and we need to start by focusing on plants proven to produce in Zone 4a.

From this primary, alphabetized list, I will then develop function-specific & placement-specific plant lists for Zone 4b. I am primarily conducting this research in preparation for our move to Hyndford, ON in late spring 2016 but hope others might also find it useful in food forest or garden planning for cool temperate climates.
Notes on my notes 

  • Each plant name will be connected to a descriptive internet link.
  • I have included brief notes on each plant’s potential functions: Food (for humans or domestic animals) WILD (known to be particularly beneficial as food or habitat to wild species) Mulch (potential mineral accumulation and/or fast growing for mulch) WOOD (lumber, tool handles, fencing, fuel uses)  Coppice (known to grow back after coppicing or pollarding) Greywater (good plants for purifying water) Hedge (usually thorny plants well suited to hedgerows) NF (nitrogen fixing) and/or Medicinal.
  • For design purposes, food forests are usually divided into 7 levels: Canopy, Under story, Shrub, Herbaceous, Ground cover, Tuber, and Vine. I have modified this for my own notes because I will be designing two different types of food forest: Zone 3 broad acre (taller and including pasture) and zone 1 kitchen garden (shorter and closer to home.)

My categories are:

1. Tall canopy (trees expected to grow taller than 50ft),

1/2. Medium (Canopy and/or Dwarf  trees I expect to use as canopy or in my home garden, these may also be used in the broadacre food forest as under story trees),

2. Understory: Shade loving trees suited for under story in the broadacre application, but not for canopy in the kitchen garden)

3. Edging Shrub: Woody shrubs suited to full sun/part sun in the kitchen garden or south facing applications in broadacre food forest clearings,

3.  Understory Shrub: Woody shrubs that are happiest in partial shade, likely best suited to broadacre food forestry.

4. Clearing/Edge Herb: Herbaceous plants that need more sun, suitable for the kitchen garden or southern exposure in food forests.

4. Understory Herbaceous: Herbaceous plants that prefer part shade, primarily suited to broadacre food forest applications.

5.Clearing/Edging Groundcover: Ground creeping plants that need more sun, suitable for the kitchen garden or southern exposure in food forests.

5. Under Story Groundcover: Short ground cover plants that want partial to full shade.

6. Edging Tuber: Tuberous or bulberous plants that need more sun, suitable for the kitchen garden or southern exposure in food forests.

6. Under Story Tuber: Tuberous or bulberous plants  that want partial to full shade. Useable in broad acre or kitchen garden.

7. Climbing Vine: When perennial vines are planted (at which stage of food forest maturity) is more important then where, as they are capable of climbing up trees to grab their share of sunlight. As a result they are grouped together, being suitable for virtually any placement, if succession is taken into account.

  • At the end of each plant description, I have made notes on whether this is a plant I have in my current garden (GOT), or am considering adding to my collection (?) or have decided I definitely would like to try growing (WANT).

Encyclopedia of Perennial Plants for Zone 4b, Alphabetized 

Angelica – Angelica archangelica BIENNIAL (Hardy Z.4 , 5′-6’T , Food, Medicine: Tall Layer 4 –  Herbaceous Edge or Clearing/Understory – Full-Part Sun) ?

Black Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta  (Hardy Z.2, 2′-3’T , WILD- long blooming, late season pollinator food, Layer 4 -Herbaceous Edge or Clearing/Understory – Full-Part Sun) WANT-NATIVE!

Chives – Allium schoenoprasum (Hardy Z.3-10, 12″T x 12″W, Food, Garden Border Layer 4.Herbaceous Edge-Full Sun) GOT

ColumbineAquilegia (Hardy Z.3-9, 1′-8’T. depending on variety, mine are 1-2′ x 1′-2’W, WILD – esp. birds, Herbaceous Edge/Understory Part Sun-Part Shade) GOT

False IndigoBaptisia australis (Hardy Z.3, 3-5ftT x 2-3ftW, WILD-butterflies, Deep rooted dynamic accumulator, medicinal Layer 4-Clearing or Edge Herb-Full Sun) ?

Garlic ChivesAllium tuberosum (Hardy Z.3, 1-1.5ftT-potentially invasive, Pest Control Companion plant!, Food, Layer 5-Edge or Clearing Groundcover-Full Sun) GOT

Heirloom Chinese YamDioscorea batatas (Hardy Z.4? Grown in Montreal,  Tuber up to 3ft underground, Vine 9ftTall x 5ft wide, Food. Layer 7 Vine) WANT

Original Poet’s Daffodil – Narcissus spp.(Hardy Z.3a-9b 12″T & clumping, WILD: Early Spring Pollinator Plant!, Layer 6 Edging or Forest Tuber, Clearing-Part Shade to Full Sun) GOT

Rosa rugosa (Hardy to Z.2, 4′-6’T x 4′-6’W, Hedge, Food, Medicinal, Layer 3-Edging or Understory Bush) WANT

Valerian, Common – Valerian Officianalis (Hardy Z.2/Z.4-7, 3′-5’T x 2′-4’W, Medicine, Tall Layer 4 – Clearing or Edge Herb-Full Sun) WANT


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Serenity Project: Hyndford, Stage One: Basic Research

“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.” Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity.


Matty and I have committed to moving next year to a 98 acre property my mother owns in Hyndford, Ontario.(45N, 77W)

In this post I am collecting the basic data I have accumulated on the property. Probably boring as heck for most people, but interesting as heck for a permaculture geek like me. Primarily, I am writing this for my own reference, but it may be helpful for locals interested in understanding how scientists categorize our climate, soils, etc.

(By the way I collated a lot of this information using an excellent article written by Duane McCartney which explores in great detail Canada’s “Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profile”.)

Hyndford rests in a cold temperate climate, part of The Canadian Shield, in the Great Lakes/St.Lawrence Lowlands region. The land thereabouts is roughly 500 metres above sea level and the land has traditionally wanted to be Boreal Forest.

We are, therefore, determined to gradually reshape 40-50 of the 98 acres to a Boreal-inspired, food forest with meadow clearings, while leaving the rest to re-wild at it’s own pace. The land seems to now include about 10 acres of natural wetland that has developed and expanded over the last few decades.

(Hopefully we will add photos and details of our observations after our next visit.)

The land is rolling, humid ;landscape but rather flat with only a 15 m drop from the highest to the lowest points on the property. That said, the small Bonnechere River tributary that runs roughly North to South through the property seems to have carved a narrow and deeper path through the southern end of the property, past the second marsh. It may need to be bridged.

Agriculture Canada recently redrew it’s plant hardiness zone maps and Hyndford was “upgraded” to Zone 4B. Details from Renfrew of recent weather patterns indicate average yearly precipitation is 32 inches/118.5mm falling as either snow or rain relatively evenly throughout the seasons. Temperature swings rather steeply each year. Average in January is -12C and in July +19.7C. The yearly average temperature is a lowish 4.9C. In the past 100 years, temperature extremes have ranged from -42.5 to +38.3C.

IMO, we therefore need to plant & prepare ourselves and our animals for temperatures ranging from -45 to +45C as well as for flooding (from the nearby river & it’s tributary that runs through the property), deluge & drought.
The IPCC expects similar regions to dry out as climate change progresses. Indeed, Ottawa Valley and especially the Bonnechere River watershed (in which Hyndford rests) were hit by drought in 2012. Shallow wells in the area dried up, and river flows were severely impacted. (It is common practice to draw from wells no more than 18 feet deep. One local driller reported he was not finding water before the 123 ft mark during this drought.)

Apart from drought, both earthquakes and wildfires are anticipated hazards in this region.

There are at least three distinctive soil types on the property: loamy sand, sandy loam and clay loam. The clay loam is under the back 1/3-1/2 of the land. Loamy sand is directly south of it toward the road. The smallest soil patch, sandy loam, (perhaps 3 acres?) is to the front East side, in the front field, South of forest. This will have to be confirmed from the ground, but it’s possible there are two very small sand pits on the property, within the loamy sand section (makes some sense). With this mix of loamy soils we are well set up for planting and for natural building with cob and plasters. (Yeah!)

These are the basics as I have been able to lay them out prior to our first visit to the property. I haven’t walked it for at least 30 years. There are two buildings which will need to be carefully inspected. One is a post and beam barn (about 75 feet long) and the second is a classic Ottawa Valley log granary. We expect to renovate the latter as our first permanent home.

Classic Ottawa Valley log home or granary. This one has been renovated to become the Tourist Info centre in Eganville.

Classic Ottawa Valley log home or granary. This one has been renovated to become the Tourist Info centre in Eganville.


Permaculture in Ghana: Where Solomon Amuzu Heard His “Call To Nature”

12007164_900641449983436_1507675547_nI met Solomon Amuzu. Founder and Director of Call To Nature Permaculture, through our mutual work on Extinction Radio. The first thing that struck me, as I am sure it did everyone who listened to his very informative Permaculture Updates, was his competence, knowledge and his great enthusiasm for regenerative agriculture as an answer both to human food security and to environmental challenges in his hometown of Accra, Ghana. Recently, Solomon allowed me to interview him about his various projects and his hopes for the future.

The first question I asked Solomon was how he had heard of permaculture and what attracted him to it. “I learnt permaculture with Gregg Knibbs, an Australian teacher to Ghana.” He was inspired to take that course by an American Peace Corp volunteer named Kate Schachter, whom he describes as “a friend, a mother and a mentor .” Like so many of us, Solomon developed “new eyes” to see the world through permaculture,

“I got interested looking back and seeing how modern agriculture is causing harm to the land and the people through the use of poisonous chemicals.”

He became convinced that earth care, people care and fair share (the foundational ethical principles of permaculture) were a better answer. Solomon immediately took action to help out in his community. He identified three primary goals: grey water systems could improve water management for greater yields, school gardens would engage kids and ensure they had access to healthier, organic produce and more trees should be planted to fight climate change.

“I was able to raise about 10,000 trees and planted them in many schools in Ghana, even with no financial support.”

11998670_900641466650101_166528556_nThen Solomon lost all motivation. He told me, he became bored and that’s when his friend Kate stepped in again and facilitated his enrolment at Kumasi Institute Of Tropical Agriculture. He graduated in 2010 and went home to Accra. “i decided again to continue with the project i never wanted to do again and there came by the name Call to nature ( which really means i have been called to work with nature).”

I really like this part of Solomon’s story, and i relate to it. How many times have i started out with enthusiasm, then grown bored or frustrated and dropped a project, only to find, years later, life has somehow brought me back to it again, with renewed passion. I also love the way he felt “called” by Nature to care for Her. It’s a beautiful image and an apt name for the project he then formally founded with Samuel Badu Adotey
Rachael Yussif Ramatu. All of them are still under 30. Which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider what they have already accomplished.

Solomon and his friends have not only created gardens for schools, they also share their skills through permaculture education,especially by helping local farmers to incorporate more productive and ecologically sound design and techniques into their farming methods. They are actively restoring the marginal lands around their community, particularly those degraded through road building projects. They are planting trees, teaching and modelling methods beneficial to humans and nature through alley farming and tree planting.


Recently, Solomon shared with me his advice and information about how he is managing animals in the landscape. For example, he is currently training chickens to prefer a particularly destructive insect thats been infesting local crops. It’s impossible to talk to Solomon about his regenerative work without being impressed and deeply moved by his intelligence, knowledge and deep passion for people and the planet.

If you want to help Solomon, Rachael and Samuel with their Ghanian permaculture initiatives, you can donate through their fundraising campaign. http://www.gofundme.com/n894jw
To contact Solomon directly: Email: calltonature@mail.com, amuzu.solomon@yahol.com Skype: calltonature7035 Call: +233 (0) 204447035 +233 (0) 571325776 or just drop in on Facebook: Solomon Amuzu