OK, so I've read Patrick Whitefield's book (and a bit of Toby Hemenway's too) and I'm starting to plant up my garden with edible stuff.
It's not easy to find local suppliers of the plants, though... does anyone know of a list of suppliers/nurseries catering for these perennial species? (they're usually considered rather unorthodox - certainly not stocked in the local garden centre)
(And even good websites? Thus far I have discovered greenchronicle.co.uk which is very good for seeds for leafy plants like Fat Hen or Good King Henry)
Brogdale's does custom grafting of fruittrees on to a rootstock of your choice from any of the thousands of varieties they have in their archive orchards. I'd look into it for getting a range of different fruits (early, mid-season, late apples, apples for winter storage, cookers, apples for sauce etc...). I'll be ordering some trees on full sized rootstocks (pretty much impossible to get through conventional garden centres).
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
I did a posting on my blog Monday of a link that listed hundreds of organic and sustainable companies. I will repost the link here. Scroll down about 2/3 of the way and you will find 12 companies focused on the UK and Ireland. I haven't vetted them myself since I am living in the US, but everything I have vetted from the list is generally a good company and many of the ones in the US are the sort who offer perennials. It's worth a look. Hopefully at least one of them is offering the sorts of plants you are interested in.
You might want to look into Martin Crawford's book on forest gardening. He is in the UK and his book is both exceptionally well organized and helpful and I believe it includes some suggestions on where to get plants.
Thanks everyone, especially D.Logan for that very useful long list and henry stevenson for the supplier list from Crawford's book.
So far I have also found the following (which are not on D.Logan's list):
Perennials of Distinction, while probably not self-identifying as a permaculture supplier does have quite a few suitable species available. www.perennials-of-distinction.co.uk I spoke to a very helpful lady on the phone there.
Kore Wild Fruit Nursery is quite permie-oriented and has a decent range (and lots of pictures). www.korewildfruitnursery.co.uk
And Patrick Whitefield's book 'How to make a Forest Garden' has a list in the back (which I nincompoopishly did not notice when I made the original post), page 153.
My "thing" this year is to grow fruit from seeds and cuttings. It works best with locally grown fruit so you know they're adapted to your climate, but you can grow all kinds of perennial crops from the seeds in your food for FREE! And it lets you get enough that you can chop and drop any that don't have great flavor or aren't thriving in your conditions. You can even grow strawberries from the seeds on grocery store strawberries!
I think growing your own is far more sustainable than shipping plants with all the required packaging. Best yet is for those who have the extra plants to attend plant swaps and exchange them or share them with others in that fun and social way. Because once you plant mulberries, cane fruit or strawberries you get plenty to share, and anyone who has plants that readily root cuttings could make lots more for very little effort.
I've been on a plant-buying spree for the past few weeks and here's where I've found some really cheap things:
I have bought some plants and trees from ebay--you can get some really cheap.
My local Aldi: selling bare root fruit trees for £3.99--I bought 3!
My local B&Q: I go midweek, and search the entire garden area--they often have drastically reduced plants hidden in several different areas. Last time I got a big buddleia for £2 and a couple clematis for £1
My other local garden centres also generally have a shelf of reduced price things; I picked up a lavender for £1 and 20 snowdrops for £2
I also recently ordered several bare root shrubs and trees from botanicaplantnursery.co.uk--their customer service was a little lacking, but the plants arrived in good condition and were very cheap, even considering the cost of shipping
One more thing; if you live near a forest or park or an old hedgerow, you can take cuttings, or possibly appropriate some irish cuttings (aka saplings or suckers). I know from experience than hawthorn cuttings are pretty simple--no need for rooting hormone--as are willow and wild rose. And the native broom and gorse are both nitrogen fixing, as is alder. Just make sure you're not taking from private or protected land*.
Do you have a public botanical garden nearby? Our local university has one, and I've collected seed right off the trees I've been interested in. Digging up seedlings is another matter, but if it seems like a spot is overflowing with seedlings, and I don't disturb the sloope much, I wouldn't mind taking one or two.
One advantage of taking seed from estiblished trees, is that you're already guarrantied to have something that survives well in your area..