Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do


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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When I was at University it was the time of the Poll Tax, an unpopular tax made even more unpopular by being implemented in Scotland a year before the rest of the UK - 'Thatcher's guinea pigs'.⁠⠀
It was a time of demonstration and violence with 50,000 marching in Glasgow, 1 million Scots refusing to pay. ⁠⠀
It was a time Sheriff's Officers and poind sales of possessions. ⁠⠀
Coalition student groups were formed - Socialist and Feminist and Anarchist and so on - there were big meetings in the Union, debates about a name and a logo and a manifesto. I remember lots of young, middle class, white men talked at length.  I remember that very, very little got done - a bus was organised to take students to Glasgow for the protests. ⁠⠀
In the meantime, up the hill from the campus, three women (I thought of them as old at the time but I'm sure they were the age I am now) simply stood outside the auctions and asked nobody to attend.  They stood by the front doors, they explained their reasons, they prevailed.  They possibly looked randomly menacing in that way middle aged women can.⁠⠀
People calmly bought back their possessions for 50p and their debts were squared. Action, meaningful results, a recognition that the personal is political - all while the student groups still debated their slogans.⁠⠀
I've been thinking about those women a lot recently. If they were the age I think they were, they will be queuing up for their vaccines this month.
In my happy place.⁠⠀
In the winter months The Studio is the centre of my working life. ⁠⠀
This was yesterday.  Trimming pieces of vintage velvet fabric for the Studio Club shop; alpaca socks drying in the dispatch room behind me (we now have size 8-10 in stock too); a roll @scottishlinen seconds to experiment with hogging the cutting table.⁠⠀
Bright and light and inspiring.
Starting the week with a photo from last year (simply because I lost a lot of this weekend to fatigue, so didn't take a new photo.)⁠⠀
Budgie, my beautiful and psychotic cat, with a windowsill of white amaryllis. ⁠⠀
Worth a second outing.
The proposed airstream conversion is in for planning permission approval at the moment, so that we change change its use from (neglected) artist's workshop into beautiful holiday accommodation.⁠⠀
In my vision for this we get to use the paid holidaymaking element to subsidise some artist's residencies - painters, writers, musicians, makers coming here to soak up the landscape and be inspired.⁠⠀
At the moment though I'm still at the stage of answering environmental health questions about quite how loud I am in my Studio and how we will light the path to the compost loo.
Yesterday my elder daughter, who lives in London, messaged me to say that our local DPD driver Slav was being given an award by for his outstanding service. 

It was because of the hundreds of messages that they had been sent commenting on his helpfulness, incredible good cheer, and parcel based problem solving.⁠⠀

Slav has been an important part of my lockdown life here. ⁠⠀
When roads look like this, good delivery drivers are a vital (and hopefully appreciated) part of life.⁠⠀
As my younger daughter chimed in “Go Slav!
This photo is from last week - but I see through the gloom that it has snowed overnight .⁠⠀
This part of the garden is outside our bedroom, the beech hedge borders the road, it used to be a drive when our bedroom was a garage.⁠⠀
Now it has a birch tree (symbolic for me of my miscarried babies, as I had to leave their actual birch trees behind when we moved here) surrounded by lots of box grown from small plants and cuttings.⁠⠀
We buried Jasmine, my scruffy miniature schnauzer, here in the summer, so in some ways it is becoming a garden for sitting on the bench and remembering and watching the birds.  I shall ask my ever generous  friend Nadja for some snowdrops to plant in the grass.⁠⠀
In my mind, eventually, the box balls will become like the ones on the front of @arnemaynardgardendesign book Garden Design Details - but this year they remain unclipped. ⁠⠀
I suspect box blight in the back garden and @jekkamcvicar points out that unclipped box does not get blight.⁠⠀
I love old gates - particularly old gates that stand in the middle of old unused spaces, leading to nowhere, keeping nothing in.⁠⠀
A memory of another time.
Last year - while I was dyeing socks out on my Studio deck, I was also dyeing wool yarn. ⁠⠀
Wool dyed with docks and nettle, gorse and meadowsweet, onions and plum bark all from the garden and lane.⁠⠀
Over the winter I gathered the wool skeins together - all the soft bright colours - and knitted myself an oversized stripy jumper. ⁠⠀
@rhiannonconnelly described it as wearing 'a hug from my garden' and I think she was spot on. ⁠⠀
The pattern is the 'After the Rain' sweater by @heidikdesigns but with random stripes as I wasn't sure how much of each colour I had. #aftertherainsweater

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At Snapdragon Life I 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.


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