Reconnect to Nature with 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

I took my spring flowers out of the press to make way for summer ones.⁠⠀
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I intend to make ones for each season if I can and then frame them as a set - sweet peas and nasturtiums went in yesterday.⁠⠀
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To press flowers all you need is strong boards and absorbent paper - though you can use paper interleaved in heavy books the result is better if you are pressing down evenly rather than like a hinge. ⁠⠀
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I would therefore use the books either side of the paper, chopping boards work well (if you have any you aren't using).⁠⠀
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You can even put the sheets of paper with their interleaved flowers under a heavy rug. ⠀
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Celebrating the seasons. ⠀
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The garden and meadow are full of circles at the moment - beautiful flowering heads of teasels and globe thistles. ⁠⠀
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They are covered in bees which go round and round visiting each tiny flower, working steadily, following the rows.⁠⠀
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I love this season - the sun a little lower, the evenings a little warmer, the long shadows and sweet hum of the insects. ⁠⠀
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Poised before harvest. ⁠⠀
It is tansy time again.⁠⠀
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For me the wonderful thing about seasons is that they go round and around.  They may move onto something new but I always know that they will come around again.⁠⠀
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A lot of what I have been working on for the past few years is learning how to settle myself exactly where I am, in the place where I am, in the season I am in. ⁠⠀
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To resist looking backwards or hurrying forward - to just be where I am.⁠⠀
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And where I am at the moment is in tansy time.  It marks a year since I began experimenting with using natural dyes.  A time of bright yellow alpaca socks and bags and yarn.
Hattie's pincushion.⁠⠀
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I love the common names of plants. ⠀
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Astrantia grows so happily in amongst the grasses of the Studio Meadow - it has been flowering since May and seems full of intentions to carry on.⁠⠀
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It is probably not surprising really as it grows wild in the sloping meadows at the foot of mountains in Central Europe.⁠⠀
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The perfect plant for a textile obsessed person.
It is the time of year when you can pick sweet peas every day.⁠⠀
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I love my sweet peas best with light and space - like a flock of butterflies caught mid-air.⁠⠀
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These are 'Mrs Collier' - presumably a woman known to the breeders Dobie (or Dobbie) & Sons back in Edwardian Edinburgh. ⁠⠀
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You would think that having a popular sweet pea named after you would guarantee immortality, but seemingly not.  I couldn't find out who she was.⁠⠀
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So as these fill the studio with sweet perfume, I am imagining Mrs Collier into life.⁠⠀
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If anyone has hard facts on her please let me know!
Each month or so, as part of Snapdragon Studio Membership, I put together an e-course.  It is a different topic every time and the lessons go out each Tuesday.⁠⠀
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The idea is to encourage people to try new things.  This month's course is about decorative mending - and this week I am designing a project that will form the last couple of lessons.⁠⠀
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It is a pocket patch, embroidered and appliquéd from scraps of linen and cotton. ⁠⠀
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It has been a new thing for me to try too - a project to use all the precious scraps I have been squirrelling away, not quite sure how to use them.⁠⠀
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The base is a 1950s tray cloth with holes in it, the appliqués from a tattered nightdress, the bag that it will go onto is one I dyed with dock flowers.⁠⠀
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Membership is closed at the moment - but I shall be opening the doors back up for the last week of September. If you want to be the first to know sign up to my newsletter list.
Years ago, actually maybe just last year, I saw a display of ferns in glass laboratory bottles. ⁠⠀
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It may have been at Jupiter Art Land, it may have been somewhere else *. ⁠⠀
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This is my homage. ⁠⠀
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*I think my brain may be broken, so many things seem to have fallen out the side.⁠⠀
Boxes and boxes of A Seasonal Way magazine arrived yesterday and are sitting in the hall here. 
That means that it is the last day to get it at the pre-order price of £8. 

I had this all ready to go to the printers in the second week of March but pulled it - and have then worked for the past few months to make it better. 

It feels good that I can begin packing up Studio Members copies on the day that shielding stops in Scotland.
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About Snapdragon Life

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.

Through my communities, both free and paid for, through my writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted activity kits, and through my online and in-person workshops I aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

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