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Snapdragon blog

Opening up the garden

snapdragon studio open day A couple of weeks ago we hosted a Snapdragon Studio Members Open Day. Members came and looked around the garden, ate cake, got to see the workshop and find out how we make things and took home flowers.

The sun shone, it was a beautiful day and I enjoyed meeting people and telling them about what we are doing here.

I loved it - I really loved connecting to people face to face.

But in the run up to it I had been really nervous - really, really nervous; on the point of cancelling nervous and I couldn't quite work out why.

And then I remembered another group of visitors - a group from long, long ago that I thought I had dismissed completely from my mind.

Back when I grew flowers commercially I was contacted by a Garden Society asking if they could come and see the garden. I said yes, I tidied up, I baked a cake, I got ready to welcome people and answer their questions. And on the day, the bus turned up and half the women decided not to even get off the bus, and with a couple of exceptions, the rest were sniffy and rude.

Instead of taking the chance to look around, to ask questions and take back some ideas for their own gardens they closed their minds and forgot their manners.

I was angry and hurt at the time but thought I had dismissed it all as stupid, snobbish. It was only now, when I began to wake up in the morning thinking 'what if everyone just drives away when they see we have weeds?' and 'maybe they will all just cancel their memberships' that I remembered those snooty women and I realised what I had been doing.

I had allowed my present day reactions to be effected by something that happened once, on a day many years ago.

I had been carrying a fear of showing anyone my garden and workshop just in case they were nasty. And, what is worse, I saw a pattern of my playing that out year after year after year - the pulling out of the Local Open Studios scheme, the saying no to garden photographers. The hiding things in case anyone laughed at something which is so precious to me.

open day garden scheme

As is often the case, identifying the root of my behaviour went to along way to cure it. I remembered sitting in a workshop run by Sarah Raven in Edinburgh with the pompous women next to me discussing how much couch grass Christopher Lloyd had in the borders at Great Dixter 'How he can call himself a gardener I don't know'.

I laughed at that at the time and found it ridiculous - and yet I had allowed similarly stupid comments to diminish my joy in my (much weedier) garden.

And that was the problem - not the unmannered visitors - but my reaction to them.

I can't control the actions and words of other people but I can control my reactions to them.

My garden is a work in progress, the workshop is a working space, put together from odds and ends on a budget. We have weeds, we have lots of weeds, we have plants collapsed because my staking is terrible and others pecked to pieces by chickens. We have plantings that just didn't quite work out as I imagined, we have broken things and lots and lots of areas still being made.

Personally I love to see behind the scenes in places that aren't perfect - the gardens when I have been shown round out of season mean so much more to me than ones buffed up and shiny.

I loved showing people round and chatting to them so much that I decided to do much more of that next year - we will have a members' day again in the Spring when the tulips are blooming and we are looking into ways of doing little informal workshops - perhaps through Air BnB experiences which is now available outside cities.

I have stopped hiding.

open day garden scheme

Comments: 2 (Add)

Theresa on September 14 2018 at 10:30

Funny you should say any of this as I am realising that I have been doing the same. You freeze up and stop doing things. If only these small minded and rude people could see the damage they do to themselves and others. When we are young looking ahead to this time of our lives I think we all believe that we will aquire a well of robust confidence, little knowing that we are quite vulnerable, but in a different way.

Carol Elaine Deys on September 14 2018 at 12:41

Your garden sounds familiar! With a couple of months of pneumonia this year, things got ahead of me.....but my garden also brought me some surprises as they worked it out all on their own. As a believer in garden fairies - Lavender is our key resident - I am thankful! Would love to come and visit, but am a long, long ways away. God bless you in your wonderful work. Love and peace to you, Carol Elaine

PS - As founding member of the Fingerlakes Tasha Tudor Society in NY State (USA) I know that although she loved to be attendant to her garden, she also realized the value of sometimes just letting some parts do their own thing. Take a look at some of her books. You would love them!

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Did you have a good Easter break?  We went to Spain to visit our eldest daughter and came back late last night, possibly actually early this morning. ⠀
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The Tuesday after Easter is always an important date for me, for even though my baby birds have flown the nest, I still get the new term feeling. And the term between Easter and summer is always a busy one, so much to fit in! ⠀
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The start of a new week⠀
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The start of a new season. ⠀
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The start of a new planner, new journal. ⠀
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New plans, new pens, new garden to plant. ⠀
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These pheasants eye narcissi - with their perfect eye liner - are flowering under the plum trees in the orchard. The perfect morning commute.
On Sunday night Euan turned to me and said “I don’t think we have ever made as much difference to the garden in such a short time.”⠀
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⁣ He was right. In October we had brought in soil to make raised beds - turning the ground slick and slippery. All winter and Spring I looked at mud and worried about all the people that I had told that there would be a garden to see in May. ⠀
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But then - dry weather, fierce cold winds and suddenly on Friday afternoon we could barrow and build and by Sunday night . . . There are the beginnings of a new productive garden - a mix of vegetables and flowers for cutting. ⠀
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As usual Euan did all the heft and heavy stuff and I planted and staked and fluffed up mulch. ⠀
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If you are coming along to A Seasonal Day on 8th May I am pleased to say that there will be a garden! ⠀
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Sometimes projects come together really quickly - one of the best things about having a small making business is that you can go from idea to having something for sale in a single day. ⠀
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This was not one of those projects - I had the idea in our busy Christmas period, took away the samples to knit while travelling in Asia in February, and yet only put the kit up on the website yesterday. ⠀
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I don't normally post many direct product shots here - but this one is special to me. I wanted to make a beginners’ knitting kit that allows people to knit something practical and quick - in this instance beautiful cotton face cloths and exfoliating cleansing wipes - and which felt substantial yet not daunting. My aim with everything is to make it easy for people to give things a go. ⠀
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And I wanted it to look beautiful and be practical and all be packaged up in way that was part of the kit. ⠀
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Everything came together earlier this week and I’m so pleased with how it looks, the squidgy cotton balls of yarn, the instruction cards and needles all in their own specially printed drawstring project bag. ⠀
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I hope you like it too.
How do you like to learn? I used to be happiest just battering on by myself, making mistakes, googling. But increasingly I find I’m preferring to be shown things by someone who knows what they are doing, to have the space to ask questions, and then to go home and try everything on my own with the option to call if I get stuck. ⠀
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I find my mind opened so much more by talking to other people - rather than beginning a project from my own limited viewpoint. ⠀
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I had a great time yesterday learning E-magazine production with Eleanor from @creativecountryside and today I’m planning to practice everything by re-formatting the guide to getting the most from your cut flowers to send out with the next newsletter. ⠀
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I also met up with @bob_sy - all arranged on an Instagram whim - and had a wonderful evening discussing kindness, connection and creativity. ⠀
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Increasingly I love being able to move beyond typed words and have great rambling conversations. Is anyone else finding the same? ⠀
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GIVEAWAY - Today I am getting the train down to Lancaster to meet Eleanor from @creativecountryside.  She is going to be showing me the ins and outs of making a magazine.⁣⠀
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I have always loved the aesthetics of Creative Countryside magazine - the solidity of it, the surety - so when the chance came up to take a masterclass in how to put it together I jumped at the opportunity.⁣⠀
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I love putting together the e-magazines for Studio Members and A Seasonal Way, but I am very aware that I am simply joining together PDFs.  I want to create something more magical, more meant.⁣⠀
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My lesson is co-inciding with suddenly having fast WiFi at home - so uploading a magazine no longer requires a drive to Stirling to poach University WiFi.  This will change Everything!⁣⠀
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This magazine is the first bumper edition of Creative Countryside, as it turns from a quarterly into a biannual publication. ⁣⠀
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I am a contributor to this edition, as well as subscribing, so I have an extra copy which I would love to give away. ⁣⠀
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Just comment here - and make sure you are following me - and we will pick a name at random next Tuesday.⁣⠀
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(The knitting is the #comfortblanketkal by @louisetilbrookdesigns which shall be my train knitting)
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I knew this greenhouse as a child. It had a grapevine then, and a lead dipping trough that was home to motherless ducklings. ⠀
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There were long snakes of terracotta pots under the staging and I got to turn the cranks to open windows in the roof. ⠀
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When it was abandoned and began to fall down we asked if we could take it and give it a new home - and now  it stands in our drive, the oldest thing here. ⠀
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Euan rebuilt it all exactly - with a new base, but with everything else original.  It turned out to be a superior form of flat pack.⠀
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This weekend I stood in the greenhouse, mid watering the seedlings that are crammed in tiers onto the staging and floor, and tried to link it back to when I was seven. ⠀
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I couldn’t. Then is was an enormous space of dust and spiders and broken glass , of benches to climb on and a cold, dark trough of water we were to stay away from. ⠀
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Now it is my garden in waiting. Waiting for May. ⠀
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I did think I should maybe plant a grape vine though.
I photographed this heart of honeysuckle on the Isle of Bute last month - a random reminder that nature is at the heart of everything that I love.⁣⠀
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Also last month, I spent a wonderful evening with my friend @hazey107 - and she told the story of why she had crossed the school playground to make friends with me 16 years ago.⁣⠀
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Seemingly I was standing waiting for the P1s to come out, my toddler on my hip.  Her bright blonde hair was full of leaves and sticks, her bare feel black with soil.  Hazel immediately felt that, with such a feral looking child, I must be her kind of person.⁣⠀
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We would have been travelling back from the field where I grew my flowers at that time, we hadn't yet found this house.⁣ I was probably worried about being the only scruffy Mum at the school gate. ⠀I never felt I did school gates very well. ⁣⠀
But hearing Hazel’s story I was so glad that I never mastered that
We are promised a dry and sunny weekend here in Stirlingshire. I have 3 days completely clear of commitments. The greenhouse is full of seedlings, the ground is dry enough to work. I have 4 tonnes of mulch in the drive. 🌱

I can barely contain my excitement. 🌱🌱 I’ve been awake since 5 (though obviously still in bed!) 🌱🌱🌱 What do you have planned for the weekend?
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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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