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Snakeshead fritillaries - my favourite spring meadow plant

snakeshead fritillaries

This month our limited edition collection is based on the Snakeshead Fritillary - you can see the full range here.

The first time I saw a snakehead fritillary was in a watercolour drawing by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

I was 24 and had been appointed as an assistant curator at the Hunterian Art Gallery part of the University of Glasgow, home to an amazing collection of Mackintosh furniture, drawings and ephemera.

Amongst them are many of his flower drawings - snakehead fritillary amongst them.

Fritillaria Meleagris is probably the best known of Mackintosh's flower watercolours - painted in Walberswick in 1915 - he emphasised the angularity of the checkered petals.

To me it seemed like a fantasy flower, created to fit inside one of his checkered interiors.

When I discovered that I could actually grow such exotic plants in Scotland - that indeed they love the damp climate and will happily self seed - I began creating mini meadows of them.

I planted them in grass so that I could lie down in the midst of their flowers and see the sun shining through the patterned petals.

It is still one of my favourite things to do in the garden.

To create your own mini fritillary meadow

  • Chose a damp spot that will not completely dry out in summer. They are originally a water meadow plant. They don't mind summer shade.
  • The bulbs should be planted in autumn - as early as you can get them - they should be plump, not shrivelled.
  • Look at the bulb carefully, it is shaped like a tiny donut, and work out which is the top (tiny point) and which the bottom (should be remnants of tiny roots)
  • Put a tiny pinch of grit under the bulb when planting so it doesn't actually sit in water.
  • Leave the bulbs as long as possible after flowering to let the seeds form and scatter and the leaves completely die down. This may mean leaving your grass for a while before cutting it. Bear this in mind if you like a tidy lawn and create your mini fritillary meadow out of sight.
  • Snakeshead fritillaries also thrive in pots - I have some planted alongside wood anemones in a big pot by my front door and they are in their 4th year of flowering.

charles rennie mackintosh fritillarycopyright University of Glasgow.

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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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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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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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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.

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