WHEN'S a bowling green not a bowling green? When it's an edible woodland, of course.

Eagle-eyed visitors to Museum Gardens may have spotted some strange goings-on behind St Mary's Abbey in the last few weeks.

The area has been fenced off to prevent casual visitors wandering through. But if you look carefully you might be able to see that new flower beds have been laid out in front of the old pavilion next to the disused bowling green nearest the Abbey ruins.

Something much more radical is happening to the second bowling green hidden from view from the Abbey behind a distant stone wall, however.

This bowling green has gone. In its place an arrangement of paths and gardens has been laid out - and in the last few days, gardeners have begun planting out thousands of young plants.

York Press:

Head gardener Alison Pringle planting the new edible garden

The garden being laid out here is to be no ordinary garden. This will be a garden that you can eat. Every one of the 2,600-odd plants in this 'edible woodland', as it is being called is, well ... edible.

There are herbs, berries, fruit trees, bamboo, even ornamental vegetables - every one of them selected to not only look good, but taste good too.

The idea was to create something completely different, admits Alison Pringle, the Museum Gardens' garden manager. And York's edible woodland promises to be just that.

As the names of the plants roll off Alison's tongue, they certainly sound good enough to eat. There are damsons, greengages and Japanese raisin trees. "They have tiny fruits that look like raisins, and are apparently incredibly sweet,"Alison says. There's Sichuan pepper bush, Japanese quince, ornamental onions (even the flowers are edible) and creeping dogwood, with small edible berries. There's sage, rosemary and thyme; Japanese wineberry, with berries that really are the colour of wine and leaves that are a beautiful silver colour underneath; and day lilies which have edible flowers - unlike ordinary lilies, which are poisonous, warns Alison.

Until recently, all these plants were being looked after at the Poppleton Community Railway Nursery until the area set aside for the edible woodland at Museum Gardens was ready for planting.

York Press:

Poppleton Community Railway Nursery Railway nursery trustee Gill Duxbury with plants destined for the edible woodland

But in the last couple of weeks, several van loads of plants have been brought from Poppleton ready for planting. And with the grand reopening of the art gallery on August 1 now just a couple of weeks away, that planting process is now in full swing...

Even when planting is complete, it will take a while for the new edible woodland to mature, Alison admits. But when it does, it promises to be something special. Gravelled paths will wind about in the midst of a new, multi-layered 'woodland'. There will be trees and bamboo to give shade, medium sized shrubs to fill in space, and smaller plants such as herbs and creeping dogwood to give ground cover. It will all be edible - and there won't, Alison promises, be a blade of grass in sight.

Perhaps best of all, the new garden will be accessed by a gateway cut through the stone wall which used to wall off this part of the Museum Gardens from view. So at long last visitors will be able to walk through the gardens to get to the art gallery from behind. The gallery really will be taking its rightful place as part of the Museum Gardens themselves, in other words.

Our photographs today try to capture the process of preparing the new edible woodland. They show plants being grown at the nursery in Poppleton and loaded onto trolleys; paths being laid out behind the art gallery in Museum Gardens; and, finally, Alison Pringle beginning planting.

By the time the art gallery opens on August 1 the new edible woodland should, weather permitting, be ready for public view. So you'll soon be able to see it all for yourselves...