These are all the plants I’ve given up on, for reasons of taste, productivity or invasiveness or simply because they haven’t coped with the Aberdeen climate. Some of them I haven’t grown myself but have observed in other gardens that they don’t produce food at this latitude. The list doesn’t include the many plants that I’ve failed to even get to germinate.
Main post: A History of Failure.
Actinidia chinensis – smooth kiwi
Didn’t fruit, even in a greenhouse.
Actinidia kolomikta – Manchurian gooseberry
Didn’t fruit, even in a greenhouse.
Agastache foeniculum – anise hyssop
A nice, minty taste, but not hardy in cold, wet winters (it does self seed, so it pops up randomly around the place every now and again).
Angelica archangelica – angelica
Grew massive and mugged my raspberries. It takes far too much room for what is essentially a herb, one that I don’t find very nice anyway. This was traditionally grown for candied stems, but from the descriptions I’ve read of the process it sounds like far more work than it is worth.
Angelica sylvestris – wild angelica, wood angelica
Wild angelica is an attractive native woodland plant, but in my opinion it isn’t productive enough for the forest garden. The leaves can be used sparingly as a herb but it takes up too much space to make this worth it. I have tried frying the young leaves as with its relatives sweet cicely and (native) hogweed, but found them too bitter.
Aquilegia vulgaris – columbine
Columbine grows well in the forest garden and if you find you like the taste then it would be well worth growing. Martin Crawford describes the young leaves as excellent and the flowers as great in salads. However all parts of columbine except the flowers are usually described as poisonous and the young leaves certainly taste that way to me. The flowers are okay but not enough of a crop to be worth bothering with.
Argentina anserina – silverweed, was Potentilla anserina
Small, fiddly roots which are difficult to harvest. The plant is an aggressive spreader. It does taste very nice though.
Asarum canadense – snake root, wild ginger
This never thrived and died out from two separate introductions. It is used as a ginger substitute (not that it tastes much like ginger) but there have now been health concerns raised about it.
Atriplex halimus – sea orache, saltbush
I love the salty-tasting leaves of this plant and so have tried introducing it several times. Unfortunately it always dies out during cold winters. Update: I may finally have succeeded. Winter wet seems to be saltbush’s biggest enemy, so a well-drained planting place gives it the best chance.
Campanula rapunculus – rampion
This is reported as having fleshy roots with a sweet taste reminiscent of chestnuts. I have only ever managed to get plants with very fine roots, which seems to be the general experience that other people who have actually grown it have had too.
Cochlearia officinalis – scurvy grass
Possibly the most revolting plant I have ever tasted. I would rather have scurvy. Update: I may have to eat (scurvy-grass-flavoured) humble pie on this one. Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods has this to say about scurvy grass. As is so often the case, it looks like it’s all in the preparation.
Cornus canadensis – creeping dogwood
Both times that I have managed to get plants of this they have died over winter. It grows well in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden though, so I would be interested in giving it another try. Update: I’ve managed to bring a seed-grown plant through two winters now, but still to see fruit.
Dioscorea batatas – Chinese yam
Eleagnus x ebbingei – elaeagnus
This is an excellent plant whose fruits I have enjoyed eating in a park in London. However in Aberdeen I have never seen it flower or fruit, despite its being widely used as a municipal shrub. The foliage tends to be damaged in harsh winters.
Gaultheria procumbens – wintergreen
Wintergreen has died out twice during cold winters. The berries have a very odd taste (like TCP, if anyone remembers that), so I’m not too sure why I grew it the second time anyway.
Geum urbanum – wood avens, herb bennet, cloveroot
A native wild plant whose root, dried and powdered, tastes like cloves. However, real cloves are so convenient that this really isn’t a priority for me. Wood avens is a little invasive and generally takes too much space and work for what it gives.
Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke
JA grows like mad and produces buckets of edible roots. Unfortunately, along with most of the daisy family, the roots contain inulin, a sugar that the human gut can’t break down, leading to terrible flatulence. I love my forest garden plants, but this is taking things too far.
Lonicera caerulea edulis – edible honeysuckle, honeyberry
This shrub thrives but never produces any fruit: others in the area have found the same. This may well be due to lack of a pollinator as it is not self fertile: I have two plants but they are from the same supplier and may be too closely related. Update: Even with three separate varieties I still haven’t had any fruit.
Lotus tetragobolonus – asparagus pea
Has a horribly stringy, scratchy texture, even when young – and the taste isn’t that good either.
Mespilus germanicus – medlar
Even in warmer parts of Britain, this fruit has to be bletted, or left on the tree until after the frosts, to make it soft enough to be palatable. Here, even this doesn’t do the trick. Fruits are produced, but they never get beyond being rock-solid and tasteless.
Plantago coronopus – buck’s horn plantain, misticanza
Doesn’t maintain itself in the garden, unlike some other plantains I could mention.
Prunus spinosa – blackthorn, sloe
Yield too low to be worth it; spreads by suckers so can be invasive. Better foraged.
Reichardia picroides – French scorzonera
I’ve tried this a few times from seed. It grows well but doesn’t successfully maintain itself by seeding – it’s not very productive either.
Rosa rugosa – ramanas rose
This is a useful shrub if you’re into rosehip teas, which I’m not. Even if you are, it’s so widely planted as a municipal shrub that it probably isn’t worth taking up space in your garden.
Rubus fruticosus agg – bramble, blackberry
Too spready for the forest garden, plus cultivated brambles never seem as nice as wild ones. Better foraged.
Rubus nepalensis – Nepalese raspberry
See ‘Four forest gardening myths’ for my general opinion on aggressive ‘ground cover’ plants like this.
Rubus parviflorus – thimbleberry
Grows and flowers well but no fruit. I only have one plant (genetically speaking), so perhaps it’s pining for a pollination partner? Update – this year (2013), after an unusually warm summer, I did get a little fruit from the thimbleberry. It was delicious but most flowers still failed to develop into fruits. (2014) Another warm summer and more fruit. I’ll be interested to see what happens in a cold summer – whether the plant just needed a long time to get established or whether it only fruits in warm summers here. (2017) No fruit since 2014.
Rubus spectabilis – salmonberry
I have never planted this, but have spent a lot of time cutting it down. Locally it is a very invasive plant which seems to particularly like taking over moist stream margins. The fruit is very popular with the birds which help to spread it around, but to my taste it is insipid. They are also smallish and not produced in great numbers compared to the very large size of the bush. It is often advertised in permaculture and unusual fruit catalogues but I would steer well clear.
Tilia platyphyllos – large-leaved lime
Leaves too hairy. I prefer small-leaved lime or some hybrid limes (which vary greatly in their hairiness).
Tropaeolum tuberosum – mashua
Mashua is an Andean tuber. It gave a poor yield and tasted horrible. It produced a few seeds but they weren’t viable. I wasn’t sad to see it go. Update: It seems that I am not the only one with this view of mashua, but William Whitson of Cultivariable reports that long, slow cooking can make mashua not just palatable but nice.