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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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This week’s Friday film is about a trip to London, a tour of the Chelsea Physic garden and filling my home with flowers when I got home. 
If you are interested you know where to find it 🎥
These snowdrops are temporarily holidaying in a cup on my bedroom windowsill - looking out at their rather battered friends outside. 
I’m planning a new part of the garden at the moment and these will be part of a spreading about of the spring bulbs.

There is a point when the sun slants in and all the dried seed heads which have decorated the house over winter suddenly look dusty and dull.
I have a visceral need to be surrounded by things that are growing and green.
There is a video over on YouTube about planting up winter aconites and spring bulbs - I have these on my desk at the moment and every now and again there is a wonderful waft of scent reaches me.
For Studio Clubbers there is now a whole module on planting up bulbs indoors in the Fire and Frost course.  What varieties are best, where to get them, how to treat them and answers to a whole load of questions.
When my daughters were tiny I made their clothes - bright colourwork jumpers, patchwork dungarees, layer upon layer of pattern. 
Then - ridiculously early it seemed to me - they wanted to choose their own outfits and quickly favoured whatever was fashionable, only available from mainstream shops and my needles were no longer needed. 
I’m now delighted that two decades on I’m back in action. This is the start of a mend - on my eldest daughter's denim jumpsuit.  The under arm seam was ripped so I'm transforming it with linen flowers.
You can see more of it in last week's Studio Vlog on YouTube . . 
I love the idea that the mending will make the jumpsuit into something completely different. That it is as bright and clashing as her toddler clothes. 
I’ve also been asked for mittens . . .
Today’s Friday letter is all about two steps I took last year which really helped with feelings of being overwhelmed. 
Today’s Friday film is about a walk by Loch Lomond and just sitting and taking it all in and how that helps manage symptoms of my autoimmune disease. 
If you want to know more about either (or both) you can find the details up in my link.

I’ve been in London for a couple of days - to see @thenotgodcomplex perform at The Vaults - now heading back North to see @marychapincarpenter and @karinepolwart at Celtic Connections. 💚
This photo is from last year - we are still a week or two away from full blooms.
But yesterday, lying on my front in the sodden grass and filming snowdrops, the soundtrack was birds in the birch tree above me.
I still have no water in the Studio. 

On Thursday when I walked up to the kitchen to make a coffee, the sun was streaming into the kitchen.
I can't properly express how happy that makes me. 
Beauty in the every day. 
Obviously I'm well past tidying up for photos.
I wonder if it is just when the light is least that I notice it most.  The shadow of birch leaves on our bed as I passed to top up the bird feeders.
Loch Lomond is high at the moment - the beaches gone, the stepping stones to cross burns under water. 
Sitting, well wrapped up, leaning against a tree on the top path - listening to the waves and watching a cormorant dive - it felt like the sea.


About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I help bring 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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