Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 25

Shipka Festival, Fig Cultivars and Late Pollenisers

It’s still super hot and dry here in Shipka, probably the driest summer I can remember. Fortunately the streams is still flowing and we are managing to keep everything well watered but we’re certainly looking forward to the autumn. 

Here in Shipka this weekend the second edition of the Shipka Fest was held. The Shipka Fest is an annual event organised by Open Mind Foundation, with three days of arts and crafts, held at the local ethnographic museum Chirpanliev House. There were some great authentic music performances, traditional songs and dance, craft demonstrations and artisans including local woodturners and blacksmiths, and a wonderful weekend of weather as summer very lazily melts into autumn.

There was a beautiful stall full of dried herbs and herbal treatments, and when I stopped to buy some Comfrey ointment, the lady and I got talking, and it turns out that she had bought some of our plants a few years ago that are growing well in her garden. It’s always a pleasure to hear news of how our ‘babies’ are doing :) The lady’s name is Nadezhda Maksimova, and she has been growing plants and studying herbalism for some years, now bringing some wonderful products to market.


The glut of figs continues in all the gardens where the fig trees grow! For a more in depth look at this incredible plant take a look at a previous blog post – Dig the Fig, but for now let’s have a look at how the fruits of some of the popular cultivars compare. Fig cultivars have many unique characteristics, such as compact to spreading growth habits, fruit colour, shape, taste and size and plant hardiness.

From left to right: Juglans regia ‘Black Danov’ – ‘Izmir’ – Michurinska 10′ and ‘Right Yellow Hardy’

Left to right ‘Izmir’ – ‘Michurinska 10’ – ‘Hardy Yellow ‘- ‘Black Danov’

We grow and offer from our bio nursery ‘Michurinska 10‘, one of our favourite cultivars. It’s possibly one of the hardiest figs in the world, grows vigorously and can reach 5m in height. It reliably produces an abundance of small and tasty fruits that take well to drying.


The ducks are absolutely thriving at the home garden, and making a fair bit of noise in the process!  You can see from this photo how much weight they are gaining, and the difference of 3 weeks between the oldest and the youngest are beginning to become more subtle.  Pretty soon though, the predators will be out and about, and they will need to return to the cage at night time.

Pears ripening in the forest garden. You can check out what cultivars we are offering this season here.

Sedem telephium – Orpine is such a joy in the gardens in early autumn. It produces a mass of pink flowers that are a welcome resource for pollinators this late in the season and is a pretty undemanding plant, being fairly drought tolerant once established. The flowers are quite long-lasting and even during the winter, the dead foliage and stalks add a striking interesting texture to the garden.

Paul Alfrey

Hi I'm Paul, Originally from the UK I moved over to Bulgaria with my family 12 years ago and set up the Balkan Ecology Project. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance Arborist in the UK for 15 years. Balkan Ecology Project is a family project run by myself, Sophie and our two boys Dylan and Archie, and supported by the amazing volunteers we have hosted here over the years. We aim to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity and work to achieve this by: - Researching, designing and implementing systems on the ground - Providing working examples of our designs at our sites open for the public to visit - Providing quality education and training to aspiring growers and landscapers - Providing consultancy and design for landowners and farmers across Europe - Practicing an open source policy, whereby we disseminate our results freely and share all aspects of our work - Growing, selling and promoting the use of plants and plant communities that have high ecological and nutritional value Our activities currently include: Biological Plant Nursery, Educational Courses, Local Land Stewardship, Polyculture Research, Market Gardening​, and Consultancy and Design.

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