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Snapdragon blog

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: garden

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How much do you want to know about small business owners?⠀
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It is something that I ponder about a lot. It’s a balance between oversharing and ‘just’ being a business on here. This Instagram account is officially a business one but there always seems to be a lot of me in it. ⠀
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There is also the effect on the actual business to think about. For I am not the whole of Snapdragon. ⠀
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For example - at the moment I’m on holiday for a few days, yesterday’s post made that clear and my Insta stories have been given over to Venetian scenes all weekend. ⠀
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But the business continues as normal - this embroidered herb cushion went into the shop, Valerie is packing up the final boxes of this quarter’s Studio Box subscription, Fiona is making and dispatching orders. ⠀
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When I went to Myanmar in February business went dead - with more orders and emails in the 24 hours after I got home than in the 3 weeks I was away. It is something I need to address. ⠀
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So do you like to see what business owners/makers/designers/writers get up to in their time off? Or would you prefer social media was temporarily abandoned or handed onto someone back at base? ⠀
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(As an aside this isn’t about working on holiday -as most business owners will recognise the integrated nature of a small business life means that stress doesn’t come from posting a photo with a coffee in the morning or making notes of a new idea or taking the time to read a great business book)
Today it is my 50th birthday. ⠀
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I’m celebrating it in Venice, feeling happy, loved, incredibly lucky and very, very much looking forward to whatever the next decades bring. ⠀
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Euan took this photo on the water bus  yesterday headed out to Torcello for lunch. ⠀
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It is a portrait of a woman anticipating good things. ⠀
What flowers have you seen bees on this year?⠀
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I spent half an hour a couple of days ago sitting watching bees work themselves around the cirsiums - this is one of the first non bulb perennials to flower in our garden so particularly precious for insects⠀
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There were also masses working in the wallflowers next to it - and in the broccoli that we left to flower. ⠀
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Next year we will hopefully be getting a couple of hives to put down in under the apple trees behind the cabin - a beautifully sheltered spot. ⠀
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I grew up with hives - taking them up to the heather in the car - and now that I don’t need to protect a crop of flowers from pollination (for once a flower is fertilised it fades so can’t be sold), we are finally able to get our own. ⠀
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I have 4 of these cloches. They were originally from the show stand that I made for the Country Living Fair In Glasgow in 2005. ⠀
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The event that really started my business in many ways and certainly changed the way I thought about what I’m capable of. ⠀
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The event that taught me that being small is an advantage, not a handicap. ⠀
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Now they are covered in moss- an effect that would have looked amazing on that original stand. ⠀
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It looks like another beautiful sunshiney day out there. I am getting ready to write my Friday newsletter which is all about designing the garden and not being too pretentious. X. If you aren’t on my list already you can sign up via my bio.
What do you take with you to pass the time on journeys?

I’m travelling a bit over the next few days so have been packing my handbag with things to do- knitting, kindle, phone, headphones, purse. 
What would be in yours?
”When the gorse is out of flower, kissing‘s out of fashion”

There are always a few flowers on the gorse, bright against the grey - but now is peak yellow in the hills. 
It is a plant that fascinates me. So prickly, so dense and yet its history is so domestic. 
The wood of choice for bakers’ ovens as it burns hot without making much ash. 
Planted next to Scotland’s West Coast crofts for drying linen - the barbs holding the sheets better than a washing line in the gales. 
And then there is the smell - which genetically I cannot discern - but which I am told is pure pina colada.
We bought this house because of bluebells. ⠀
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We spent a quarter of an hour in the house, small rooms, low ceilings, aluminium windows, swirly carpets. ⠀
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Then we spent an hour in the bluebell wood that slopes down to the burn, sun green through the alders, blue haze at our feet. ⠀
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A few years ago extremely heavy rain caused a land slip - the ground turned liquid and an acre of mature trees slid, along with the bluebells at their roots, down into the torrent and away. ⠀
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This year, finally, it is beginning to reestablish - new alder and willow saplings have their roots down, bluebells are forming a haze of blue. Still too fragile to walk in but getting there. I watch from the top of the slope.
Today marks a year since I began this Instagram account.⠀⠀
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I normally don't post a photo on a Saturday but read the papers instead, but I wanted to come on and say thank you to everyone who comes by and chats with me here.⠀⠀
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I also want to say a big thank you to Kayte @simpleandseason who encouraged me to give Instagram another go when I despaired of it.  You were right Kayte, there are real people here!⠀⠀
I started posting here of course because I run a business, and it’s important for me to find a non pushy way to talk about the things I sell, but the community I have found on Instagram is why I stay.⠀⠀
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What I'm interested in is real, everyday lives - and though people say to me that Instagram can feel really fake and salesy, that isn't how I find it at all. ⠀⠀
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I don't really follow any big 'influencers' because I find them a bit distant, instead I follow people who chat about what happens day to day, what they think, what they feel, how much they love their cat. ⠀⠀
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Instagram is my watercooler.  Thank you for meeting me here.⠀⠀
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This photo was taken by @katieannglen a year ago too.
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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.

Learn more about why here

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