Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.

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Drying honesty seedheads

preparing honesty

 

This week I have been harvesting honesty seed cases, cutting the stems and propping them somewhere warm and dry until it is possible to peel off the casings and reveal the bright mother of pearl of the inner casing.

I posted a picture on my Instagram and immediately my inbox filled with messages of memories - people who recalled sitting with mothers and grandmothers slipping the casing off, sweeping up the seeds at the end, a great pile of bright discs on the table.

I remember this too, both as daughter making great flower arrangements to brighten the dark corners of my parent's oak panelled hall, and as a mother, making the wreath in the photo with my younger daughter.

There are activities that keep the hands busy but the mind free to wander, simple repetitive activities that can be done together, activities that enter the fabric of our lives, fondly remembered, passing down generations.

It is, I believe, the attraction of the quilting bee, the podding of peas in June, the carving of crosses into the heels of brussels sprouts on Christmas Eve.

A companionableness, a chance to talk, conversations wandering about, intimacy.

It is a break in the frantic pace of life to just do something simple and soothing.

Growing Honesty

  • Honesty - lunaria annua - is originally from the Balkans. Its Latin name means 'moon shaped' and the name 'honesty' is C16th in origin and probably refers to the translucent membrane on the seed cases. In America it is called 'silver dollars', in South East Asia it is the 'money plant'. It has naturalised right through Europe and happily grows in the dappled dry shade of hedgerows and at the edge of meadows.
  • Honesty is sweetly scented, attractive to butterflies and is a traditional cottage garden plant and useful cut flower. I grow it with late tulips and it is especially beautiful with the voluptuous soft peach tulips like Belle Epoque.
  • It is a biennial - so most seeds sown now will make leaves all winter and then flower next June, some will make larger plants and not flower until the following year - thereafter you will probably always have some honesty as it gently self sows.
  • Most plants are purple - from a dark reddish purple through to a paler blue purple - but some are white and you can get seeds of the white sport commercially. It is a seed that germinates best fresh though.
  • Sow direct into the ground in short rows, about half a centimetre deep.
  • It is possible to tell which seedlings will be white and which purple by looking closely at the leaves, the purple ones will have a slight purple tinge in the middle of the leaves. I leave them to be a happy jumble.

Drying honesty

Honesty is the simplest plant to dry - its strong structure is already there, there is nothing that can shrivel or droop.

  • Cut on a dry day - damp seed heads may go mouldy
  • Cut the stems down a bit and stack somewhere dry and warm. If I am doing this just for myself I often just put the stems in a large vase.
  • Leave for a couple of weeks until it is easy to peel back the outer casings from the top.
  • Carefully remove both sides from the seed casing and brush off the seeds.

The plants that I have been harvesting this week are destined for members of Snapdragon Studio - especially for making honesty heart decorations. The produce from the garden is only one of the perks of being a member, if you want to know more about Studio Membership you can find out here or email me Jane@snapdragononline.co.uk.

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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

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