Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.


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!

Snapdragon social

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. ⠀
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. ⠀
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. ⠀
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. ⠀
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.⁠⠀
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.⁠⠀
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. ⁠⠀
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.
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. ⁠⠀
This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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. ⠀
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. ⠀
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. ⠀
What are you looking forward to doing today?

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