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Journal

Growing and Drying Calendula

If I’m honest, one of the reasons I grow calendula is that it is easy. The name - calendula officinalis - refers to the way that in temperate climates it will bloom every month of the year. It doesn’t quite do that here but there are flowers more months than not. The seeds are large and irregularly shaped - easy for children to handle - and can be grown out in a flower bed or in large pots. Sow in either September to overwinter or March/April. Once you have an established patch you will probably find that it self sows happily. I would love to know how you get on growing calendula and making things from it, such as this balm. Please tag me @snapdragon.life on Instagram or use the hashtag #snapdragonlife.

  • Clear a patch of soil in your garden or pot and rake it level. Draw lines in the soil with a cane - about 15 cm apart. These can be straight or a spiral - the point is that you can see your calendula seedlings following the line and weed everything else out. As the plants grow you won’t see the lines at all.
  • If it is dry weather then carefully water along the lines and allow them to drain.

     

  • Sow 2 seeds every 5 cm along the lines. Smooth the soil gently back over the seeds and water.
  • Thin out the plants as they grow so you end up with one healthy calendula seedling every 10cm

OR...

  • Sow seeds, 2 to a small pot, and keep watering until you see the roots growing through the holes in the bottom. Then plant into a larger pot or out into the garden.
  • Deadhead regularly and they will keep flowering all summer. Or pick flowers for the house, it has the same effect, the more you pick, the more flowers will grow.

My favourite varieties of calendula

Snow Princess - a lovely mix of pale yellows, ranging from buttery cream to lemon.

A Touch of Red Buff - small apricot flowers with red backs to the petals.

Orange King - the classic strong orange marigold - massses of petals make it perfect when you want to make balms and oils.

Sherbet - another pale small flowered marigold that fits well into a more subtle garden.

Indian Prince - reddish orange petals and small flowers - this fits well with reds, purples and lime green in the classic bright and rich border.

How to dry calendula

  • It is easy to dry calendula as you can keep the heads intact. You can also use a dehydrator if you have one.
  • Choose a dry day so that there is no dew or rain on the petals.
  • Cut the flowers off the stems - as close to the head of the flower as possible.
  • Spread the flowers out on grids close together, but so they are not touching.
  • Put the grid somewhere warm - an airing cupboard is ideal.
  • Leave for 2-4 weeks until completely dry.
  • You can either leave as whole flowers of pull the petals off.
  • Store in a wide wide necked jar or use in recipes.

We have put together a beautiful box with everything you need to grow your own calendula and make your own calendula balm - you can find it here.

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Snapdragon social

Every year the sudden sink in light catches me by surprise. ⁠⁠
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Usually I first see it when I fail to take a photo. When I can't get my camera to capture what I want. When all the advances I've made in my photography get swamped by not knowing what to do to make a difference to something so ethereal.⁠⁠
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Yesterday - taking a photo of the Studio windowsill with its seed heads and berries - I hit a problem of grain.  All my images looked dull, in focus but somehow lacking light.  I randomly changed camera settings and lost half the morning peering at a screen foolishly trying to edit light back in.⁠⁠
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In the end I messaged my friend Rebecca @poshyarns - whose photos capture light in the most beautiful way. She called me back and talked me through, and even gave me the confidence to ditch my tripod. ⁠⁠
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And suddenly the light came back into my photos and the murk was gone. ⁠⁠
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If Rebecca ever decides to teach I will be right at the head of the queue.⁠
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#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
Kat @katgoldin took this photo of me a few weeks ago on a photoshoot that consisted of her telling me to 'just do the things you do and ignore me'.⁠⁠
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Despite having been friends for ages, she had never seen me embroider - the buzz and shimmy of the needle on fabric. ⁠⁠
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Sometimes seeing things through other people's eyes helps you see them anew yourself. Kat's joy in the emerging lines helped me see that what I've created here in the studio is a very special and precious thing.⁠⁠
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The doors to the Studio Club - which is basically a seasonal exploration of all that goes on here - open again in a few weeks time.  You can sign up to get a personal invite via my profile. ⁠⁠
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You can see how good I am at 'ignoring' - my face is quite clearly mid laughter.⁠⁠
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This is perhaps a bit of a downbeat photo for my 1000th post. messy faded daisies in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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But I think it pretty much sums up what I hold dear - imperfect, natural, wild.⁠⁠
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Today my elder daughter graduates from drama school (a year late), in two days time my younger daughter turns twenty one. ⁠⁠
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A weekend of reflection, celebration and joy lies ahead.
The last of the dahlias. They are declining with the light. ⁠⁠
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Though you can't see in the photo the doubles all have that mucky chicken bum at the back and the singles have dropped their petals.⁠⁠
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The best things in the garden at the moment are the sanguisorbas - bought from @quirkybirdgardener in the summer - and settling in so well that one is now as tall as me.⁠⁠
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They've always been one of my favourite cut flowers - these white ones remind me a little of of lambs tails.
Home⁠
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After an incredibly inspiring couple of weeks. ⁠
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We ended up our holiday at Camp Goodlife @thegoodlifesoc - where it seemed that every single person we spoke to was making a positive change in the world. From creating new ways of running restaurants to connecting people to the land to making beautiful clothes to teaching children about growing food. 
And for everyone, these changes were centred around joy. ⁠
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I loved our trip but I’m so excited about getting back into the Studio this morning. 

📷 @katgoldin
Thistledown is so beguiling. ⁠
The soft cream catching the light, waiting for goldfinches to alight. ⁠
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I’m heading to Hawarden today to join the lively people at @thegoodlifesoc and teach about foraged colour and dyeing socks with all kinds of plants. I’m hoping to be able to harvest some thistles as they give a particularly beautiful mustardy yellow.
Though I grew lots and lots of straw flowers for Christmas wreaths back when I had a proper commercial flower business,  it was only this year that I slowed down enough to really see them. ⁠
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I’d assumed that they wouldn’t be good for insects until fully out - flat dulled daisies, past the point of picking - but actually wasps seem to pollinate them when they are still tightly furled. ⁠
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This patch was wasp central for weeks. ⁠
A few butterflies flitted about, but mainly wasps⁠
I am somebody who needs distance to see a bigger picture. ⁠
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For the past couple of months I’ve been really struggling with where Snapdragon Life is, and how to get from here to where I want it to be. ⁠
I filled books and books with notes but was going round in circles - unable to commit to anything with the kind of conviction a small business needs. It was all too fuzzy somehow. ⁠
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Now I am away from the Studio. ⁠
Right in the middle of two weeks of walking and eating and photographing gardens and meeting friends and suddenly it is all much clearer. ⁠
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I now have 5 sentences written in my phone notes and a high clear soaring route to take. ⁠
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The multi talented @katgoldin took this photo of me in the Studio before I left - part of a photo shoot that took almost three years to actually schedule because I will do almost anything to avoid being in front of a camera.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I 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.

 

Learn more about why here

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