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The Perennial Meadow 2019

perennial meadow

Our land here is unusual - across the road is a shallow ridge of a hill - once the terminal moraine of Loch Lomond - the point where the ice came to 15,000 years ago.

That gave us boulders and silt and all kinds of debris under the field that became our garden. Then, in modern times, the last 150 years of farming had used the edge of the land to dump spoil and everything unwanted, letting it tumble down the hill to the valley - dug up tarmac, field stones, bits of rusted up machinery all appear in what should be virgin soil.

Soil testing gives us radically different results in patches 15 feet apart.

When we built the studio-workshop which is down in the dip, halfway between the flat orchard and the wooded valley - a great heap of spoil was created. This contained all the worst of our land - the gravelly patches, the rusted wheels, the old advertising hoardings and barbed wire and boulders. Too much to tackle at the time it was graded by the builders into a smooth hill and some of the top soil put back on top.

perennial meadow

This became the experimental perennial meadow - a mad mix of plants, moved from what was my original cutting garden - to see what would battle it out and thrive in the wild amongst the weeds.

To see also whether the soil made a difference - I am particularly interested in how plants choose their place.

The meadow is now in its 8th year - the maintenance is deliberately light - we weed out nettles, brambles, docks and broom seedlings but everything else is allowed to stay. Seedheads stay over winter - the teasels are particularly beautiful - and are cut down in early March.

This year the grass is perhaps too dominant for the first time - particularly in the centre, so we may pull some of that in the autumn and seed the patches with something else.

perennial meadow

What I love best about this area is the variety and also how so many wild flowers have moved in to join my garden plants. This year, for the first time we have a little colony of orange hawksbit flowering right at the top of the slope, next to the workshop path. The burnt orange flowers are a perfect contrast to the dominant greens and purples.

Garden flowers that are thriving throughout the slope

  • Allium purple sensation
  • Oriental Poppies
  • Aquilegia - all kinds
  • Astrantia - all kinds but astantia major is the strongest
  • Black leaved cow parsley
  • Cirsium
  • Sanguisorba

Garden flowers that are thriving at the edges

  • Peonies
  • Sweet Rocket
  • Mallow
  • Sweet William
  • Alchemilla

Wild flowers that arrived and are happy throughout

  • Teasels
  • 27 types of grass
  • Buttercups
  • Forget me nots
  • Welsh poppies
  • Cow parsley
  • Field poppies

Wild flowers that arrived and are happy at the edges

  • Orange hawkbit
  • Water avens
  • Meadow daisies
  • Speedwell
  • Cornflowers

I am going to try introducing Japanese anemones and geums in the autumn to see how they do - and perhaps some more varieties of alliums.

Things that were not happy

  • Roses
  • Allium Christopher and multibulbosum
  • Gladioli

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This is my current work in progress.⁠⠀
It will eventually be a big cabled throw - the silk I'm using is pretty chunky so it should be a fairly quick knit. ⁠⠀
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The preparation will take longer though.  I wanted to make something for our home that is really connected to this place.  Something dyed with the plants that grow here.  Something slow.⁠⠀
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The yarns in the photo were dyed in early September with plants from the garden - the yellow is dahlia flowers, the greyish green is dahlia leaves with some iron, the paler blue grey is woad (next year I shall grow more to get deeper colours). The linen cloths were dyed with avocado.⁠⠀
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This afternoon I plan to cut some willow to soak for another hank.  I have 12 hanks and a wound ball in total.⁠⠀
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I found the silk in a giant yarn stash that lives at my Mum's house, I can't remember where we got it but it would have been bought in the late 1980s when we led each other astray in yarn buying sprees.⁠⠀
Do you ever find echoes of your childhood home in your current one?  If so, do you find it a bit like realising that you've begun to sound exactly like your Mum?⁠⠀
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I grew up in a house with a butler's pantry - it was a small corridor like room between the kitchen and the dining room.⁠⠀
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One side of the room was all cupboards, where plates and cutlery were stored, the other side was one of those amazing curved metal 1950s English Rose sinks.⁠⠀
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The butler was, of course, long gone. ⁠⠀
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Last month we redecorated our own 'pantry' - a small room between the open plan kitchen and the bedrooms.  It is really more of a large alcove than a proper room, there are no windows and only 3 walls.  It was a squalid mess 90% of the time as people dumped things.⁠⠀
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I decided that proper storage was the answer - we got the red dresser I posted last month, we relocated shelves and tables from elsewhere in the house and then we put up this antique glass fronted wall cabinet for the china and glass.⁠⠀
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As I walked past this morning I recognised the feel - I had made a little C19th butler's pantry in my 1980s bungalow! ⁠⠀
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I could, of course, do with the butler.
Small things that mean home.⁠⠀
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What is the first thing you do when you get home from holiday?⁠⠀
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On Sunday when we arrived back  from holiday I took my snips out to see what I could find in the frosted garden to put in a vase by the front door.⁠⠀
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It's nothing fancy - some starry bright common asters, deep pink persicaria, scabious and dill - all set off with blousy Japanese anemones. But for me it is a beautiful distraction from the piles of laundry and unpacked cases.⁠⠀
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The engraved glass plate is by @janeraven ⁠⠀
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It’s the last day of our holiday - by lunchtime we will be back in the air and headed for London to catch up with our girls over dinner. 
For the past two weeks we have been staying high in the mountains, about half an hour from Split in Croatia, an area of stunning beauty - It is the end of season, the verges are baked to straw, the trees full of olives and pomegranates, paths are lined with a white flowered thyme. 
For me the fortnight has been a game of magic eye, squinting against the sun, suddenly spotting drifts of ‘love in a mist’ seedheads, the remains of white scabious, sweet scented clematis a few flowers on their second bloom, delphiniums, euphorbia, lambs ears and great spikes of campanula growing from the rocks. All wild, all natural, all in just the right place. 
It has been a wonderful break - and now I’m looking forward to getting home and making plans and getting everything out of my head and onto paper.
Yesterday, taking advantage of my calm, clear, well holidayed head, I wrote down a 3 year goal along with the 3 things I need to do consistently for it to happen and I emailed it to some friends who I know will root for me, keep me on track and cheer each time I get a step nearer. ⠀
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Having lots of friends who I absolutely know will be happy for me when something goes well is a relatively new thing. In many ways I think friends for good times are more difficult to find than friends for bad. ⠀
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Who are your cheerleaders? ⠀
Back in my previous life as a flower grower and wedding florist, this time of year was the most stressful. Economically it was essential, but the borrowed time, watching the garden slow down, waiting for a night cold enough to turn everything black was tense. ⠀
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I rarely agreed to October weddings, but sometimes I was persuaded, because when they work they work so beautifully- the vulnerability of the flowers somehow glowing through. ⠀
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This mug - officially Autumn meadow - is ‘Christine’s mug’ in my head. A mix of teasels and echinacea rebloom, some startlingly tall blue forget me nots on second flowering, and damp fennel seed heads, put together to decorate a tiny stone church 12 years ago. ⠀
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The mug comes into the ‘we forgot to put it on the website’ category - that has been rectified now and you can get to it via the link in my profile.
Overwhelm 
It seems to be something that creeps up, tangling your feet, muddling your head- not all that noticeable until you begin to break through it. 
Or maybe it is visible there, as a shortness of breath, a tightening of shoulders, a fear of crowds. 
I am spending this weekend untangling my head by the sea in Croatia . Swimming and sitting still and decluttering my mind. 
And in the place of all the numbing fears and doubts, the undermining feelings that nothing makes a difference anyway, have slid in clear plans and steps and intentions. As if by magic. 
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  What do you do to shake it off?
These are the kinds of dahlias that I'm going to be planting more of next year. ⁠⠀
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They are described as blue (which is obviously not the case - oh those lying insta filters!), they are pretty useless as cut flowers, they get easily damaged in the rain.⁠⠀
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But, oh how the bees LOVE them.⁠⠀
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So, therefore, do I.⁠ ⠀
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We begin our beekeeping course next month - making sure we have some good basic knowledge before the bees themselves arrive in the spring. ⠀
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I’m very excited. Are you planning to learn anything new over the winter?
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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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