Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and 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

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Words matter.  Words matter so much. ⁠⠀
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Yesterday I walked around a new local community garden that I am to be involved in.  I walked the site with Lauren @herbal_homestead (who looks after @katgoldin ‘s market garden at the Gartur Farm School) who is the permaculture consultant for the project.⁠⠀
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The words at the top of this post were the words that were tumbling about as we walked along the stream that edges the plot and discussed the contours and what the potential is for this new space.⁠⠀
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I have missed those words a lot.⁠⠀
Elderberry vinegar, a brilliant natural immunity booster and treatment for sore throats, is steeping in my cupboard at the moment - the colour is so vibrant it is obvious that it MUST be good for you.⁠⠀
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It is one of the things you learn to make in the Simple Herbal Apothecary course in the Studio Club. ⁠⠀
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It is really funny how having a Pay What You Can option for membership has made me feel that I can talk about what you get in the Studio Club without feeling all 'exclusive' (I hate that word because, when you think about it, it actually means that some people are excluded and that we are fine with that).⁠⠀
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The Pay What You Can option has been really popular - second only to the Full Membership - which makes me very happy. ⁠⠀
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I've had a lot of emails from people who had been looking at joining the Studio Club for a while but couldn't justify the cost - because unemployment or illness or caring for others restricts their budget - but who have now been able to join.  So if that sounds like you the details are all on the front page of the website - snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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Time.⁠⠀
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Yesterday I asked a question about luxury and the thing that came up again and again in answers was 'time'.⁠⠀
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Time to just be.  Time to do things for ourselves. Time to be creative or read. Time to focus.⁠⠀
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It made me think - that if we see time is our greatest luxury, why do we squander it so?  I know I do.  I scroll.  I dither. I catch myself almost deliberately doing nonsensical things that waste time to the point that it completely disappears.⁠⠀
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Give me an unexpectedly free evening and my natural tendency is to waste half of it deciding what I want to do MOST.⁠⠀
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(This is why I created the Plan your Dream Life workbook for myself - just so that I would have a list of things that I knew I had chosen to do when time appears - if you don't have this workbook already you can get it by signing up to my newsletter list Snapdragonlife.com.)⁠⠀
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What is your idea of luxury?⁠⠀
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I stumbled across a discussion about luxury on a post the other day. It was about whether you could crave luxury in your life if you were also set in “overthrowing the capitalist systems our world is based on”.⠀
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In some ways it was hilarious, and shows what a muddle we get into, but It really made me think about what I count as luxuries in my life  They certainly aren’t what the commenters on the original post defined as luxury - the fancy sports car, the designer brand names, expensive toiletries. ⁠⠀
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Rather, my idea of luxuries are things I want in my everyday life.  Proper coffee, clean sheets for the weekend, tomatoes still warm from the sun - perhaps most importantly, the luxury of time to do nothing more than stare upwards through bright leaves . . .⁠⠀
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What about you?⁠ what are your luxuries?⠀
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Messy edges.⁠⠀
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Pretty much everything in the House Garden and Studio Meadow will stand until Spring now.⁠ I will leave it alone. ⠀
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For in my head I'm not really growing teasels, I'm growing gold finches. 
Yesterday, as I headed down through the meadow to light the studio stove, were dozens feeeling atop the teasel heads.
It is the time of the year to embrace the beauty in decay.⁠⠀
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To look at the soil regenerating.⁠⠀
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The appreciate the beauty of a good compost heap -even when it is composting the cosmos that you had hoped would bloom for a couple of more weeks.
Yesterday the doors of the Studio Club opened up to new members again. ⠀
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If you want to engage more with the natural world, live a more seasonal life, learn how to grow things, make things and also hear good news about inspirational people making a positive difference to the world - then this is the Club for you! ⠀
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There are now three ways of becoming a member - a Full Membership which includes physical products, a Digital Membership and a Pay What You Can Membership. You can find out more about them by clicking though my profile or at Snapdragonlife.com. ⠀
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In less than 24 hours over half the Full Memberships sold out - so if you are thinking of signing up for one of those then I would do it sooner than later. ⠀
Nettles and docks and tansy and meadowsweet. ⁠⠀
Heather and willow and onion skins.⁠⠀
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The journey through plant colours this year is coming to fruition.  Out of frame is a striped jumper on my needles.⁠⠀
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I am hoping to have enough yarn to make something for a newly arrived baby - all the energy of the Scottish hills in something to wear.
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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.

 

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