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The Perennial Meadow Experiment

meadow planting, snapdragon's gardenI've never been one for tidy gardens, regimented rows of bedding, miniature conifers. I'm probably too messy a person to try to attempt it.

Even when I grew cut flowers commercially there was a whiff of wildness about the place and, if a cultivated plant looks like it belongs in a meadow, then I love it more.

When I decided to start again with my main garden, and to put it to sleep for a few under layers of manure and black landscape fabric, I gave away most of the plants that were growing there to friends.

meadow in june

But the ones we had left over, we planted on a slope of building spoil that goes from the airstream down to the workshop.

It was to be a weird perennial meadow - a chance to see which plants thrive in competition.

It isn't a massive space, but it would be difficult to keep as grass, and it is a bizarre jumbled mix of rubble and subsoil with odd pockets of gravel and top class loam.

The whole of my garden has been moved and ploughed and middened over the centuries - right at the edge of the farm so perfect for both digging out and dumping.

meadow in june

The plants that were popped into the soil were an equally bizarre mix - rosemary, peonies, sweet williams, iris, columbines, alliums, astrantia

There was nothing to lose as they were homeless and unwanted.

Once all the garden plants were in we threw handfuls of perennial meadow seeds - from Wallis Seeds - over the whole site, raked it in and waited for the rain to water it all.

Over the past 3 years what has emerged has been amazing - a mad meadow where every week is different and where - possibly because of the patchy soil - there are clear communities of plants forming.

meadow in juneIt is here - looking up from the workshop path or looking down from the airstream - that I get most of the inspiration for my botanical designs.

Teasels, topped by butterflies, tower above the path down to the workshop, bright blowsy poppies are scattered right across the patch, daisies keep to the edges, astrantia prefer the high slopes.

It isn't 'no maintenance' but, compared to the rest of the garden, it is 'low maintenance'.

Fiona keeps the docks and the creeping buttercup from taking over and nettles aren't encouraged in this patch (they are in the completely naturalised part of the field where no-one goes).

The seed heads are left over winter for the birds and the chaff is only cleared in March - an overwintering habitat for insects and small creatures.

What we have learned is that plants with fine stems thrive here - astrantia, sanguisorba, poppies, daisies of all kinds. Fleshier plants like dicentra struggle more. Peonies are still alive but not very flowery, rosemary hangs on but not happily. Teasels feel it is the best place to grow in the entire world.

In time I shall try introducing new things - I would love to see if small pom pom dahlias thrive - swaying in the breeze among the grasses.

Having an area of the garden as an experiment has been really liberating - it doesn't matter if everything doesn't work - indeed that is kind of the point.

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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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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. ⠀
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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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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. ⠀
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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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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.

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