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