Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.

Journal

The productive garden

snapdragon studio garden

I stopped growing flowers 8 years ago, maybe 9. For a couple of years I was in denial about it, we grassed over one of the areas of flower beds and planted an orchard but the main space, directly behind the house, grew wild, abandoned.

Most of the time it looked terrible - as you would imagine. But sometimes, late in the evening as I sat on the deck with a glass of something, the low sun shone behind it, and the effect was amazing - poppies and grasses, salvias and self sown annuals lit up, glorious.

I spent the next two years begging friends to give homes to my plants, moving the remnants down to the perennial slope next to the workshop to see how they would fare growing with grasses.

Needing to do something, we covered the entire patch in landscape fabric and I began to plan.

The area isn't massive - though there are about 4 acres of land here, most of that is wood and boggy field. We actually properly garden about an acre of ground and much of that is orchard and the front gardens, the poly tunnel, the chicken run.

This bit is about 30 x 20 metres - big for a domestic garden, perhaps foolish for a single gardener, but not really what people think of when they hear about commercial flower growing. It is far from being a flower field.

I love the gardens of the new perennial movement. When I read Noel Kingsbury's book The New Perennial Garden back in 1996 I was stunned by the combinations, the colours and the way that the gardens ebbed and flowed with the seasons. In the previous decade I had been looking for varieties that would work in our soggier climate - more long lasting spires to replace the verbascum, more frost resistant alternatives to the red grasses.

I read and made notes and compiled Pinterest boards while everyone else in the family despaired of having a black plastic, rubbish strewn garden.

I went out of my way to visit gardens that had perennial meadow planting - Scampston in Yorkshire, The High Line in New York, the garden festival at Chaumont.

It was while I was talking to a friend about that amazing garden festival that I realised where I was going wrong.

I talked about how the show gardens have to be planted to develop over a whole season, I talked about the amazing displays in the permanent areas and I talked about how my favourite bit of all was the productive garden by the gate, with its mix of fruit and vegetables and flowers.

And as I talked I realised that all my favourite gardens are productive gardens - Kellie Castle, Perch Hill Farm, - just as you will always find me in the kitchen at parties, you will always find me in the kitchen garden in stately homes.

So I changed my plan - pivoted to creating a space of sweet pea arches and raised beds full of salad, espalier apples and rows of dahlias. Creating a space for pottering, not just for looking.

Interestingly, everything fell into place, it speeded up, there was no resistance, no delay - it felt flowing in a way that my more ambitious, academic plans never had.

We began in October, bringing in soil for raised beds, and already, 8 months later it is looking good. It makes me wonder what other things in life I delay and faff over when I simply need to change my goals.

The following photos show the garden in October (with the first of the raised beds being laid out), January, and now.

snapdragon garden October 2018

October 2018

snapdragon garden January 2019

January 2019

snapdragon garden May 2019

May 2019

The garden will be open as part of Forth Valley Art Beat's Open Studios 8-15th June 2019.

Tags: gardening

Comments: 1 (Add)

Helen on June 20 2019 at 12:46

I recall watching Alys Fowler and her garden sometime back. She changed my idea of gardening and now my kitchen garden has beetroot growing happily with lavender and sweet peas grow around lettuce beds... gardening this area is less time consuming than other parts of my garden x

Snapdragon social

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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